Asus kills its RT tablet but Microsoft moves full speed ahead on next-generation Surface RT

Asus has pulled the plug on its RT tablet, but that doesn't appear to worry Microsoft because it appears to be moving full speed ahead on the next generation of RT tablets. Is Microsoft suffering from hubris, or does it know something the rest of the world doesn't?

To no one's surprise, Asus confirmed that it will stop making Windows RT tablets. CEO Jerry Shen explained to the Wall Street Journal:

"It's not only our opinion; the industry sentiment is also that Windows RT has not been successful."

He's right about that. IDC's most recent figures say that a mere 200,000 RT tablets sold in the most recent quarter, for a lowly 0.5% market share. And Microsoft recently wrote off $900 million because of unsold Surface RT inventory. The company has also slashed RT Surface prices by $150 in the hopes of moving some of that inventory.

Asus isn't alone in shunning RT tablets. Nearly all of Microsoft's partners have said they won't make RT tablets, or are backing away from them.

Microsoft, though, insists RT is here to stay. Brian Hall, the General Manager of Surface Marketing has said:

"Microsoft is 100 percent committed to Surface RT and Windows RT going forward and has no plans to drop work on either product."

That's not just bluster; it appears to be true. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang told CNET that his company is hard at work on helping Microsoft develop the next-generation Surface RT. And Huang offered a fairly strange rationale for why the next generation Surface RT will succeed: Because it will include Outlook. Huang said:

"It [Outlook] is the killer app for Windows. Now we're going to bring it with the second-generation Surface. We're working really hard on it, and we hope that it's going to be a big success."

Outlook the killer app for Windows? That's news to almost everyone in the world. One can only hope that Microsoft isn't betting that Outlook is going to save RT, because that's not going to happen.

At this point, it's hard to imagine what will save the struggling RT. It's a platform in search of a reason to exist. New Intel Haswell chips will allow Windows 8 tablets to use much less power than they do now, so RT won't offer much extra battery life. And why buy a high-priced RT tablet that does less than tablets that cost a similar amount?

My guess is that Microsoft will continue to build Surface RT tablets and support RT for the next several years, in order to save face. But after that I expect it to suffer the same fate of some other ill-fated Microsoft hardware, including the Zune and the Kin.

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