Even The Tech Guy can't explain Windows tablets

One of the people commenting on my last blog (Which laptop to buy?) suggested that the person asking for computer-buying advice get a Surface 2 tablet with Windows RT. I purposely ignored Microsoft Surface tablets because I don't see a future for Microsoft in consumer devices. Likewise, when Harry McCracken wrote about buying his mother a new computer, he considered a Windows laptop, an iPad, a MacBook Air and a Chromebook, but not a Windows tablet.

Today, I was listening to Leo Laporte's Tech Guy radio show from Sunday Nov 24th (episode 1034) when he started to explain what the Nokia 2520 was. I say "started" because in the end he couldn't do it. There's no coherent framework with which to put the Nokia 2520 into context. Microsoft's consumer offerings are so convoluted that Leo got lost in the woods.

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I felt sorry for Laporte, the segment felt like Abbott and Costello's Who's on First, but it wasn't meant as a joke. Sadder still, is that Leo likes the Nokia 2520 and, I suspect, was going to say nice things about it -- just in time for the holidays. But first, he tried to explain what it was. In the end, he said to buy an iPad. You can't make this stuff up.

A transcript of the segment is below. If you prefer video, the show is online both at TechGuyLabs.com and at YouTube. Skip ahead to 54 minutes into the show. If you prefer audio, download the show and skip ahead 41 minutes. The segment is right after a commercial break.

Leo Laporte, in his own words:

I'm holding in my hot little hands the Nokia 2520. This is the ... there are two companies now, soon to be one, that make hardware based on Microsoft's Windows RT operating system. Microsoft, among other things, has really muddied the waters with three different operating systems all which look exactly the same.

In fact, if you look at the Microsoft ads or you go to a store and you look at the three units, they'll all have the TileWorld interface - that's what David Pogue, of Yahoo, calls it ... Microsoft used to call it the Metro UI ... until a company in Germany called Metro sued them. Then Microsoft said "it's not Metro, it's the Modern UI". But see, if I say, when you ... go the store and look at Windows machines they all have the Modern UI, that's not clear what that is. TileWorld is David's name, it's a little demeaning but I think it is actually accurate. The TileWorld interface.

But, despite the fact that all three devices … Windows Phone, Windows tablets and ... Big Boy Windows ... all look the same, they are, in fact, three different, completely incompatible operating systems. Software for one will only run on that one, it won't run on any of the others. The only one that your older Windows software will run on is Windows Pro, Windows Big Boy. It won't run on your Windows RT.

Microsoft doesn't even call it RT anymore. They're really messing with us. They don't want us to have a name for anything they do. They want it all to be called Windows. But that's not helpful to users because this is a very different product. This version of Windows, that used to be called RT, is designed for tablets, it runs on ARM architecture or ARM processors. That's one of the reasons it's incompatible, it uses a different micro-processor. It's also one of the reasons Microsoft has a hard time, cause they realize you can't tell people - well if you want the ARM version of Windows as opposed to the x86 version - then people are going to go "What are you talking about?"

This is the tablet version. So, to get back to the beginning ... this tablet I've got in my hot little hands is one of two tablets that run Windows RT, the ARM based, the true tablet form of Windows. This one is from Nokia, the 2520. Microsoft makes one as well called the Surface 2 ... that's distinct from the Surface 2 Pro which runs an Intel processor and runs Windows 8 Professional, not Windows RT -- which as no name -- its just Windows.

You know I don't even know why I try talking about this stuff. The Nokia 2520. It has some flavor of Windows on it and I like it. And, I do think this is the future from Microsoft's point of view. They may be wrong, but this is where they want to go, is with RT.

To further confuse things, RT does in fact have a desktop that looks pretty much exactly like the desktop on Windows Pro. But, it's not. And, it comes with desktop versions of Microsoft Office, but that's the only desktop application you can run.

You know what?

Forget it.

Buy an iPad.

Just forget I mentioned it ...

The day after this aired, fellow Computerworld blogger Preston Gralla wrote that Microsoft will kill of the version of Windows formerly known as RT.

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