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Windows RT faces the axe, Microsoft exec suggests

Surface 2

By Barry Collins

Posted on 25 Nov 2013 at 13:31

Microsoft says it will reduce its range of consumer operating systems, with Windows RT almost certainly facing the chop.

In a wide-ranging discussion at the UBS Global Technology Conference, devices chief Julie Larson-Green - who was until recently in charge of the Windows division - indicated that Microsoft has too many operating systems on the client side. And, unless the company is hatching dramatic plans to axe Windows or Windows Phone, it seems the little loved ARM version of Windows is the one being prepared for the guillotine.

"We have the Windows Phone OS, we have Windows RT and we have full Windows," Larson-Green told the conference. "We're not going to have three."

Larson-Green said Microsoft had made mistakes with the positioning and marketing of Windows RT, echoing previous Microsoft statements that the OS had confused consumers.

"The goal was to deliver two kinds of experiences into the market: the full power of your Windows PC, and the simplicity of a tablet experience that can also be productive," said Larson-Green.

"I think we didn't explain that super-well. I think we didn't differentiate the devices well enough. They looked similar. Using them is similar. It [Windows RT] just didn't do everything that you expected Windows to do. So there's been a lot of talk about it should have been a rebranding. We should not have called it Windows. How should we have made it more differentiated? I think over time you'll see us continue to differentiate it more."

There has been much speculation that Microsoft is driving towards a future where a single version of Windows covers the whole gamut of devices, from smartphones to desktop PC.

However, Larson-Green made it plain that the company still thinks there's a place for mobile-oriented OSes.

"We do think there's a world where there is a more mobile operating system that doesn't have the risks to battery life, or the risks to security," she said. "But, it also comes at the cost of flexibility. So we believe in that vision and that direction and we're continuing down that path."

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User comments

Can't they just axe Metro?

And the moron that tried to force-implement a touch interface of a keyboard/mouse platform? Please.

By cheysuli on 25 Nov 2013

Metro is here to stay....

....get over it!

By everton2004 on 25 Nov 2013

@cheysuli @everton2004

I have to agree with both of you.

Axe the moron that came up with the [sarcasm on] brilliant [/sarcasm off] touch interface for a keyboard/mouse based platform; and the fact that, regrettably, Metro is here to stay.

I have no issue with Metro per se, as long as it is on a touch based device.

Just my humble opinion. Your mileage might vary. :)

By jontym123 on 25 Nov 2013

Merge?

Could it be that RT and Phone will continue to merge into a single product?

Although I'd like to see Windows Phone and Windows 8 merge into one, in that I'd love to be able to slap a SIM in my 10" tablet and use it as a phone as well - with headset, obviously.

Then I'd just need to carry around a tablet, not a phone and tablet - given that I use about 2 minutes talk time a month on average.

By big_D on 25 Nov 2013

Sorry which vision Julie?

The one with the risks and the flexibility, or the one with the mobility?

Seems to me that there are the following separate issues:
1. ARM and/or Intel.
2. Overlapping or tiled windows.
3. Touch or Pointer.
4. Managed or Native code.
5. Mobile or ... (or what exactly Julie?)

5 answers itself. 4 - managed of course, to facilitate, 1 - both of course. 3 - direct screens up to a certain size, then separate touch pads (maybe with auxiliary screens behind them). And, most controversially, 2 - tiled windows. The overlapping model is past its sell-by date. But the 'modern' model still requires some work.

By JohnAHind on 25 Nov 2013

Merge RT and Phone

well the obvious move would be to allow WinPhone to grow up to include 10" tablets. WinPhone has recently been updated to allow 6" phablets so not too much of a stretch to see it on 7" tablets soon.

Truth is MS got it wrong; Apple and Google got it right. A tablet needs a mobile OS, and a desktop PC needs a desktop OS. You'll note that OSX doesn't have pointless touchy crap in it...

By stuarthamlin on 25 Nov 2013

Here's what I think MS should do:

1) Merge WP and RT
2) Allow 'Metro' apps to be cross platform similar to Android or iOS.
3) Make 'metro' optional, especially on non-touch systems.
4) improve minor updates like 8.1 e.g. allow clean install from iso using older key and accept some people will disable secureboot.

This would solve a whole load of issues, only reason I'm on windows 8 is because of classic shell, reason I'm not on 8.1 is because of secureboot and driver issues which really needs a clean install but it's not as easy as before.

By tech3475 on 25 Nov 2013

ARM or Intel / Overlapping or tiled windows

Can't agree that the overlapping window model is past its sell-by-date. Not while web-designers (and other UI-designers) consider themselves too important to put all the information into the size of window as it actually is. Such as the "GMail" Contacts window which, at half size on my desktop, loses the right hand items. It even hides the r/h scroll bar! I can live with it overlapping the other half slightly.

On the other hand, @JohnAHind, you are absolutely right that Windows of some form should run on both Intel and ARM. The user should not need to be aware what's underneath. Windows-ARM should have looked and behaved exactly like Windows-Intel (user-interface hardware permitting) and it should have been in the same box so that the user just bought Windows.

Considerations about the UI (touch or mouse, etc.) should be UTTERLY separate from what processor it runs on.

By AdrianB on 25 Nov 2013

How are developers supposed to support fully a platform when its creator keeps changing direction all of the time?

By John_Greythorne on 25 Nov 2013

@John_Greythorne

Exactly, so they don't. Most people suspect MS are biding their time until smartphones become powerful enough to run full fat windows... thats the day the OS will get full support from the developer community. Everyone (apart from nickallison) knows that window phone and rt are dying ducks. Modern smartphones are processors are already at Intel Atom levels of power... give it a couple of years when they are at Core i3 levels and MS will dump those ducks on the barbecue.

By wyson on 26 Nov 2013

Windows RT is a 16GB joke!

They should also axe the brains who designed 16GB OS for a MOBILE device! That's why there is no 16GB RT device!

By HopeLESS on 26 Nov 2013

@ stuarthamlin

"Truth is MS got it wrong; Apple and Google got it right. A tablet needs a mobile OS, and a desktop PC needs a desktop OS. You'll note that OSX doesn't have pointless touchy crap in it..."

Exactly!!

Microsoft should have expanded Windows Phone to cover tablets, focused on adding increased interoperability between Phone and desktop, and never bothered with the awful Metro interface on Windows 8 for proper PCs.

Instead, you've got 3 different OSs that don't play ball well between them, and an ill-suited interface on the desktop PC.

Apple and Google got it right by taking their mobile OS and expanding it upwards to cater for these devices. MS in comparison took PC Windows and dumbed it down for tablets - thus crippling it on normal PCs in the process.

By Trippynet on 26 Nov 2013

@wyson

Microsoft actually have an industry leading development platform which is very under-reported (why did PC Pro not cover the excellent launch event for Visual Studio 2014?). Trouble is, in Yahoo's memorable phrase, they do not "eat their own dogfood". .NET managed code and the fully rendered WPF technology have been available for years yet most MS applications are still stuck in their Intel dependency with resolution scaling issues due to bitmap interface resources.

Here's hoping that when mobile chips are powerful enough to run "full fat Windows", Windows and Office have evolved into proper multi-platform applications. If Microsoft cop out and revert to their Intel comfort zone they are doomed. It is not Intel's rapidly closing mips per watt gap over ARM that's the problem. The longer term problem is their closed business model and what that means for manufacturing economics and innovation.

By JohnAHind on 26 Nov 2013

An answer of sorts

Windows 9 should have 1 installer.
1) It will detect if you are trying to load it on x86 or ARM and install either versions.
2) it would then ask if you want a conventional desktop or touch interface and load either or!
3) It would then detect the size of screen it's trying to load onto and adjust itself accordingly..job done.
1 program to take care of all devices out there.

By Jaberwocky on 26 Nov 2013

Long time coming

They started this move back in the early 90s with Windows NT, it was supposed to be cross platform and the UI would be interchangeable, you could have whatever GUI you wanted on top of the NT Kernel.

They had versions for Alpha, MIPS, PowerPC, Itanic, among others. But they never really took off, because the tools to cross-develop weren't as sophisticated as they are now, so commercial software was only available on Intel x86, apart from Office and bespoke applications, and the RISC based workstations were too expensive for general use and the software catalogue too restrictive under Windows, so UNIX won out on those platforms and MS quietly dropped one processor architecture after another.

Now they are going back into the cross-platform world and the tools make it easier to create apps for all platforms (not easy peasy, but easier). If they keep this up, then Windows 8/RT/Phone will become Windows running with WinRT libraries, as the "Modern" part of Windows 8/RT/Phone is now and the Intel platform only "needed" if you need to run legacy software that needs Win32.

For users, the difference between an ARM based Windows machine and an Intel based Windows machine will be the computing power available.

You'll have ARM and Atom for budget tablets and simple, low usage servers and you'll have Intel Core processors for those that need the extra oomph of larger, power hungry applications, such as video editing, photo editing, compiling code - although some of that, such as compiling could be outsourced to Azure, for example.

With WinRT (as opposed to Windows RT) and the Modern UI getting more functionality and more power with each new release, it will at some point be at the stage, where it is a complete replacement for the current desktop, for users that don't need any more legacy software.

Then it just comes down to form factor. Do you just need 1 or 2 windows open for viewing content on the move (in which case a tablet will be fine)? Do you need to edit work in one window, whilst having a reference window open (in which case a notebook will probably suffice)? Or do you need a large, high resolution display with lots of windows open for editing large documents, source code, large diagrams etc.? in which case a desktop or powerful laptop with multiple external monitors will be the order of the day.

And all your business logic for bespoke applications can be lifted out of the client and put on the host. We are back to a client/server model, but where the client is more flexible and where the client can do more processing, when it isn't connected to the hive mind.

This is something Forté tried to do in the 90s and was only partially successful.

By big_D on 26 Nov 2013

@Trippynet, stuarthamlin

I'm glad that Windows 8 goes from tablet to desktop.

I use a Windows 8 tablet on the move, with mainly mobile apps, but when I am in the office, I plug it into a dock and have keyboard, mouse and dual screens running a mixture of desktop and app software.

It makes the perfect all-in-one device for on the move or at my desk. I don't have to worry about cloud syncing, learning 2 different interfaces, not having the apps I need, when I need them. Everything in one self-contained package.

By big_D on 26 Nov 2013

@big_D

You're describing the benefit of a dockable Windows 8 tablet. I have a Windows 8 tablet and don't use ANY of the metro apps - I'm always in desktop mode. Do you have any indispensable metro apps?
I'm happy to be described as Neanderthal if I've missed some exceptional benefit.

By milliganp on 26 Nov 2013

@milliganp

OneNote - I use the app version in tablet mode most of the time and desktop mode for writing my handwritten notes up afterwards - the WACOM digitizer and pen make a big difference.

IE in tablet mode, it is excellent and much faster than Chrome or Firefox - Firefox grinds the Atom based tablet to a halt, whilst IE gives Safari on my Core i7 iMac a run for its money!

Freshpaint - great fun

Audible
Kindle
Kino (great app for all the new films coming out and up-to-date information about what is on (and when) at all the cinemas in the area.

Skype - I use the tablet mode for making calls and for chat on the move, I use the desktop version when docked.

tagesschau - German equivalent of News Night on the BBC.

Photos(?) is actually very good.

500 the app to the photo sight.

Contacts - I have Outlook on the tablet as well, but I tend to use Contacts on the move. As both are linked to the same account, both are always in sync. Links directly to Skype to SkypeOut to any contact.

Mail - likewise I tend to use this on the move and Outlook when at my desk.

By big_D on 26 Nov 2013

@big_D

I'm going to get my arms extended to make it easier to drag my knuckles on the ground.

On a less silly note, I'll give some of them a more serious try.

By milliganp on 26 Nov 2013

I like the Modern UI

I use Windows 8.1 at home. I use Windows 7 at work (but only recently, after using XP for years). After using 8.1, 7 is boring. I keep wanting my Modern UI apps.

My main home machine is a standard 15.6-inch laptop, almost 6 years old. And that's why so few laptops are being sold today -- it's because the old ones are still going strong -- because 8.1 runs more efficiently than even 7 did, and 7 was a big improvement on Vista, which was what my main home machine originally ran.

I also have a 10-inch touch-screen tablet with keyboard dock. I have the same apps installed, by setting the option to do that. All my settings sync between the machines. All my files sync via Dropbox and SkyDrive. All my emails, contacts and calendar entries sync too. Saves endless hassle, but few ever give credit for this.

I am happy that there are users who do not want to use Modern UI apps, but I am not one of them. Those who don't use them will never come to appreciate them. They are turning away before looking.

I use the Mail app. I also have Outlook 2013, which I use for backing stuff off to a PST archive. But from day to day I use the Mail app. It is surprisingly good.

I use Reading List, which is Microsoft's answer to Pocket and Latermark. Recently it got an update that allows bookmarks to be assigned categories. Click on a bookmark and it opens in Modern UI Internet Explorer alongside. Brilliant conception.

On my tablet I use the Modern UI apps almost exclusively. However if I am away from home I can use it to run Classic (ie desktop) apps too, of which I have several that I cannot dispense with, one of them being Money Sunset Deluxe, a brilliant program, now free in perpetuity.

I am shocked at the negativity that people express towards things new. Where is their curiosity? Where is their sense of excitement? The impression I get is that some of those with negative attitudes would, in an earlier time, complain about telephones, saying they stop people learning to read and write letters. And yet ironically they will likely have the latest mobile phone in their pocket. Why is curiosity enabled while looking at iOS and disabled when looking at Windows?

As for Julie L-G's statements about RT, she did not say it would be withdrawn, she said it could have done with different branding. To quote:

"We should not have called it Windows. How should we have made it more differentiated? I think over time you'll see us continue to differentiate it more."

I find that comment hard to square with the assertion that RT faces the axe. She says that 3 OSes is too many, and I agree. But logically Phone and RT should be merged. They both run on ARM, and they cover overlapping territory.

My guess is that Phone and RT will indeed be merged, and that it is taking longer than Microsoft would have liked. Key to this though is dumping the desktop, which will cut out a lot of the bloat. No one will want the desktop on a phone. All it provides is Office Home & Student. As soon as Modern UI versions appear, the desktop on RT will go.

Once that happens, it paves the way for a bloat-reduced merger of Phone and RT that hopefully will be installable on current RT hardware and high-end Phone hardware.

The rumours of Phone apps appearing in the Windows store then begin to make sense.

By fogtax on 28 Nov 2013

Microsoft need a tablet

The simple fact is that Microsoft saw the need for a Windows tablet. Without the tablet, there could be no viable Windows phone. Without a tablet, they could not claim to be keeping up with Apple.
Apple run three distinct consumer product ranges, so I do not see why Microsoft cannot. The problem appears to be that they called the mid-size one RT rather than Tablet, and failed to produce a modern cut-down version of office.
The desktop computer is the future niche market. The market to aim for is a portable device with easy-to-use apps on a Windows8 start screen, and greater power available for when tethered to a power supply and large screen.
If Microsoft can return to its roots and produce an OS which makes the hardware invisible to the consumer software (i.e., apps will run on any Windows device, whatever the processor), then it will be successful.

By nigel_nicholson on 28 Nov 2013

Windows RT to Stay

Look, the Windows RT effort has been great. The touch interface, for those of us that actually have and use it, love it. So what, it's different than what you are used to. But Microsoft has made great progress with the Metro design and the user interface.

As for what has been said by Microsoft executives, have any of you considered that the Win Mobile will transition to the RT? Consider the facts, the Mobile platform is very limited and cannot support a tablet device. On the other hand, the RT side can handle the mobile functionality and is a very great OS. If you think otherwise you are sadly mistaken. Add to this the fact that the Windows Surface and Surface Pro sales have begun to really take off. Why? Because, despite the falsehoods and mean spirited attacks on Win 8, people have realized that the Surface design and OS is really great, the Win 8 design is not anything like the anti-Microsoft people have made it out to be, there are plenty of great applications for either system, and you can actually do work on them. Can you say that about your Android device...no. How about the I-Pad? There are some useful apps sure, but it is basically a glorified reader, video screen, and MP3 player that allows you to play games. But to say that Android and Apple got it right is pure rubbish. They failed to flow through and stopped short. Microsoft came in and is finishing the job they started back in the 90's when the technology would not let them get there.

Look, my opinion is that people got angry when Microsoft put such a drastic new system out. They wanted it to be Vista all over again and it just wasn't. Add to this the fact that they required RT users to purchase through their store. I think this was brilliant since they can mitigate the hacker and cracker code. The result, a mug more secure user experience.

In summary, say what you want about Microsoft and the Win 8 platform. The fact is that Microsoft and the millions of customers, yes millions and growing by the day, have too much invested in Win RT for it to be purged from the Microsoft lineup. Meanwhile, I will purchase my second RT device and enjoy it and us it as much as my first one. Why? Because they work and are worth the money.

Anyone that soya otherwise does not own or use one of these wonderful devices or Win 8 as a touch interface.

By boomer on 6 Dec 2013

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