Microsoft should kill failing Windows RT, and focus instead on full Windows tablets, says IDC report

Microsoft's Windows RT tablets are doomed to fail and are hurting Microsoft's chances of succeeding in the tablet market. So says an IDC report, which adds that Microsoft should kill Windows RT, and focus instead on improving Windows 8 in an attempt to make inroads with tablets.

The report estimates that Windows RT will have only 1.9% of tablet market share in 2013, and by 2017 will only grow to 2.7% of the market. Full-blown Windows tablets, which now include Windows 7 and Windows 8, will grow from a 2.8% market share in 2013 to 7.4% in 2017.

Tom Mainelli, Research Director, Tablets for IDC, says that Microsoft would be much better off if it abandoned the failing Windows RT platform and put its muscle behind full-blown Windows tablets:

"Microsoft's decision to push two different tablet operating systems, Windows 8 and Windows RT, has yielded poor results in the market so far. Consumers aren't buying Windows RT's value proposition, and long term we think Microsoft and its partners would be better served by focusing their attention on improving Windows 8. Such a focus could drive better share growth in the tablet category down the road."

IDC's findings about RT mirror what other market researchers, analysts, and Microsoft's own partners are saying. Just recently, for example, Pacific Crest analyst Brendan Barnicle slashed his estimates for how many Surface RT tablets will sell, and says that will cut into Microsoft's bottom line. Microsoft will sell only 600,00 of the in the quarter, he says, compared to a previous estimate of 1.4 million.

A new Canalysis report also says that RT is selling poorly. Tim Coulling, Canalys Senior Analyst said had this to say about RT:

"The outlook for Windows RT appears bleak. Hardware OEMs are ignoring it due, in part, to a pricing strategy that does not align with the economics of the pad market. We expect Microsoft to rethink its pricing strategy for RT in the coming weeks. Dropping the price by 60% should get OEMs back onside."

It's not just analysts warning that Windows RT is failing. Microsoft's partners seem to agree as well. Acer has yet to release a Windows RT tablet, and indications are that it won't. And Samsung has canceled plans to sell an RT tablet in the U.S.

Mike Abary, Samsung senior vice president in charge of the PC and tablet businesses in the United States told CNet that consumers are confused about what RT is, and that this confusion is leading to little demand for RT tablets:

"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."

The IDC report, meanwhile, finds that Android and iOS will dominate the tablet market for years to come. Android will have a 48.8% market share in 2013 and 46% market share in 2017, while iOS will have a 46% market share in 2013 and a 43.5% market share in 2017.

I think that IDC is right: Windows RT is hurting Microsoft's chances in the tablet market. People don't realize that it's not full-blown Windows, incapable of running the full desktop as well as the Windows 8 native interface. And they don't realize that Windows RT tablets can't run apps built for Windows 8, which need to be redone for RT. Those who buy Windows RT tablets expecting full-blown Windows won't be pleased, and they'll likely make their next tablet purchase an iOS or Android one.

Developing and marketing two tablet operating systems  makes it more difficult for Microsoft to spend its resources in an efficient, integrated way. If the company wants to succeed with tablets, it should follow IDC's advice and drop RT.

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