Major retailers mis-selling Windows RT as Windows 8

4 Apr 2013

There are only five Windows RT tablets or hybrids on store shelves and they're not selling well, as one analyst has pointed out this week.

There's many reasons devices such as the Asus VivoTab RT TF600T and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 haven't challenged the iPad's dominance -- high prices, poor availability, failure to invest in marketing, dislike of Windows RT, incredibly silly names -- but I can add one further excuse to the list: confusion among retailers.

The Samsung Ativ Tab RT, for example, is listed over on Argos' website. It won't be tough for PC Pro readers to name what's wrong with this picture:

This particular device, despite the title on that page, doesn't run Windows 8. It runs Windows RT. There's no clarification in the specs listing. The only mention of operating systems on the page is in the Question and Answer tool, where customers have had to ask if it runs Windows RT or Windows 8; an Argos "Helper" promised to alter the page, but that was back in mid-February and the error remains.

The page is even more misleading, as it recommends Norton Mobile Security as an add-on, despite that product only working on Android and iOS.

Dell's XPS 10 faces a similar fate. It's described as a Windows 8 device, and only in the Questions and Answers function is the truth revealed -- our thanks to Keith M, from Warwick, for setting Argos straight.

Tesco sells the Asus VivoTab (via a third-party called Cleverboxes), and manages to describe the OS as Microsoft Windows 8 RT, which is closer, but still wrong and misleading. It fails to clarify the OS issue despite taking the time to scream about the webcam and integrated graphics at the top of the page, and even lets us know that the name is "taken from the Latin verb 'to live'."

Few of the general retailers I've visited offer any explanation of the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT to consumers. John Lewis is the exception that proves the rule, offering at least two lines of explanation: "Windows RT is a new version of Microsoft Windows that's built to run on ARM-based tablets and PCs. It works exclusively with apps available in the Windows Store."

More often than not, online retailers simply use copy supplied by the manufacturers -- if you've ever paid close attention while shopping for a specific item across multiple retailers, you'll have noticed there seems to be plenty of cutting and pasting going on. Take Asus. Here's the copy it clearly supplied to Debenhams (which apparently sells tablets these days -- who knew?):

"Asus VivoTab RT, Asus' first Windows RT tablet that offers users the new Windows experience in a portable, yet powerful device. Featuring the award winning Transformer Pad design, the VivoTab brings the popular Windows platform to the tablet world that transforms to full notebook productivity when attached to the Mobile Dock."  There's no mention of Windows 8, but it hardly explains what RT is and isn't, either.

There wasn't really a very clear positioning of what Windows RT meant in the marketplace, what it stood for relative to Windows 8

PC World is little better. Its Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 page says: "The new system allows you to customise the Start screen, build your important applications to your liking. You can swipe, pinch and touch your way though the new features and stunning interface. Built around applications the Windows RT operating system makes work and play easier, productive, social and completely reliable."  You'd have thought PC World might at least mention that your existing Windows software won't work with it.

Samsung has complained that Microsoft hasn't done enough to help with marketing, with senior vice president Mike Abary telling CNet: "There wasn't really a very clear positioning of what Windows RT meant in the marketplace, what it stood for relative to Windows 8."

However, Samsung and other manufacturers could have helped their own cause by clearly explaining what Windows RT is and isn't to retailers and would-be consumers. Certainly, anyone who bought the "Samsung Ativ Windows 8" from Argos is in for a bit of a surprise.

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