Asus retreats from Windows RT, pounds one more nail in its coffin

Asus, one of the few companies to build Windows RT-based tablets, now says it's pulling back on that troubled platform, and will instead spend its time and money on full-powered Windows 8 devices running Intel chips. Given RT's many problems, this is just one more nail in its coffin.

Asus Chairman Jonney Shih said of the company's foray into RT tablets that "The result is not very promising." That's what he told AllThingsD, and added that Asus is now focusing on Windows 8 devices running Intel chips. Although he didn't absolutely say that Asus wouldn't make any more Windows RT products, it certainly sounds like the company won't.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Asus is pulling back on RT. The company's ASUS VivoTab RT clearly hasn't sold well. As I write this, it's down at number 41 on Amazon's list of top-selling tablets, behind even various Blackberry Playbook tablets, and well behind Asus's many Android-based tablets and Windows 8 tablets.

Of course, Asus isn't the only company whose RT tablets aren't selling. Computerworld reports that IDC says only 200,000 RT tablets were sold in the first quarter of 2013. Microsoft recently wrote off $900 million because of unsold RT-based Surface inventory. One estimate says that based on that writeoff, Microsoft likely has 6 million of the unsold tablets in inventory. And Steve Ballmer recently half-heartedly admitted that Microsoft built too many RT-based Surface tablets.

Given all that, it's not at all clear that Windows RT will survive. For the short term, Microsoft will keep working on RT, if only to save face. But the platform is a long-term loser. Most consumers don't understand the difference between Windows RT and Windows 8. Having to devote energies to one more platform takes Microsoft's focus away from Windows 8 itself. Given Intel's newest generation of power-saving Haswell chips that can power full Windows 8, what's the point of an RT tablet? And if Asus, one of the few hardware makers willing to build RT tablets is now pulling back, who else will build the things?

Eventually Microsoft will likely give up on RT. The company has little to gain from the platform, but plenty to lose -- well over $900 million to date (if you include development and marketing time and costs as well as the writeoff) and counting.

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