Despite a near billion-dollar writeoff for the Surface, Microsoft shows no signs of abandoning Windows RT. But the company appears to be alone. When it comes to Windows RT, Microsoft may well be the last man standing.
Windows RT's woes are by now well-documented, notably a recent $900 million writeoff because of unsold Surface inventory. Based on the size of that writeoff, one estimate says that Microsoft has 6 million of the unsold tablets in inventory. Even And Steve Ballmer recently heartedly admitted that Microsoft built too many of the tablets.
But don't expect Microsoft to abandon RT because of that. Brian Hall, the General Manager of Surface Marketing, recently told Mary Jo Foley that in her words, "Microsoft is 100 percent committed to Surface RT and Windows RT going forward and has no plans to drop work on either product." There's certainly no wiggle room there. Hall also believes that the recent Surface price cut to $350 will juice demand for RT tablets, and said, "We know we need a lot of Surface users to start the fly wheel of people recommending it."
Microsoft may well end up being alone in its support of Windows RT. Asus Chairman Jonney Shih recently said of his company's foray into producing RT tablets, "The result is not very promising." Asus isn't the only company to find that out. IDC recently released an estimate that only 200,000 RT tablets were sold in the first quarter of 2013.
Acer hasn't released an RT-based tablet, and based on what company president Jim Wong says, it's not likely the company ever will. And last month, Lenovo halted Web sales of the RT-based Yoga 11 convertible.
Samsung had originally plannned to release an RT tablet in the U.S., but ended up abandoning it. Mike Abary, Samsung senior vice president in charge of the PC and tablet businesses in the United States, explained the decision this way:
"There wasn't really a very clear positioning of what Windows RT meant in the marketplace, what it stood for relative to Windows 8, that was being done in an effective manner to the consumer. When we did some tests and studies on how we could go to market with a Windows RT device, we determined there was a lot of heavy lifting we still needed to do to educate the customer on what Windows RT was. And that heavy lifting was going to require pretty heavy investment. When we added those two things up, the investments necessary to educate the consumer on the difference between RT and Windows 8, plus the modest feedback that we got regarding how successful could this be at retail from our retail partners, we decided maybe we ought to wait."
Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy bluntly told Computerworld:
"Windows RT is challenged. OEM's are not interested in Windows RT."
Tom Mainelli, an analyst at IDC, warns that Windows 8.1 will make it tougher, not easier for Microsoft to sell RT tablets. RT "continues to be a very hard sell to consumers," he told Computerworld, and then added:
"The upcoming 8.1 update and resulting name change is likely to confuse people even more, since they're calling it Windows RT 8.1."
So if you want an RT tablet, expect that you'll be buying it from Microsoft. When it comes to RT, the company appears to be an army of one.