Microsoft's two-pronged OS push into tablets -- Windows RT and Windows 8 -- confuses customers, and the company should focus on the more robust Windows 8, an IDC analyst said today.
Tom Mainelli, IDC's research director for tablets, said Microsoft's decision to pitch both operating systems as tablet-ready has not worked. "Two OSes for tablets has resulted in confusion on the consumer side," said Mainelli in an interview. "Microsoft has had a difficult time spelling out why consumers would choose Windows RT over iOS or Android."
Mainelli isn't the first analyst to call out Microsoft for its decision to split its tablet attack -- similar criticisms were leveled from the start -- but IDC's estimates of future sales adds extra weight to his take.
According to IDC's forecast, Windows RT tablets will end 2013 with only a 1.9% share of the year's shipments, or 3.6 million devices out of total of 190.4 million. That's not much more than Apple sold in three days after the iPad Mini launch last fall.
In comparison, 93.2 million Android tablets and 87.8 million iOS-powered iPads will ship this year, as Google's mobile operating system takes the top spot for the first time.
Rather than devote time and energy to Windows RT, Microsoft should put its tablet bet on Windows 8, the full-featured OS. "People may not love Windows 8, but it's compatible with the software they've always run," Mainelli said. "RT may look like Windows, but in fact it's not."
Windows RT devices can run only Windows Store apps, those written for the WinRT API (application programming interface), and cannot run so-called "legacy" software, the kind that users are familiar with and that work in Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.
Microsoft allows its own Office and Internet Explorer to run on restricted "desktop" on Windows RT, but bars others from doing the same.
Windows 8 tablets will capture 2.8% of the market by the end of 2013, IDC estimated, representing 5.3 million units. But by 2017, when Windows RT still sports a flagging share of 2.7% -- 9.5 million of the projected 350 million tablets for the year -- Windows 8 will have more than doubled its share of the market, climbing to 7.4%, or 25.9 million devices.
In 2017, IDC forecast shipments of 161 million Android tablets and 152.3 million iPads.