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Analysts challenge Microsoft's commitment to Windows RT

Minus major changes in Redmond's strategy, including slashing the price of licenses to OEMs, experts doubt Windows RT's survival

May 10, 2013 02:00 PM ET

Computerworld - One of Microsoft's top Windows executives this week said the company remains bullish about Windows RT and has no intention of dumping the limited-feature, touch-enabled tablet operating system.

Analysts accepted that at face value, but remain suspicious of Windows RT's chances unless Microsoft makes dramatic changes, including dropping the price of the licenses it sells to OEMs.

"Microsoft's strategy to portray Windows RT as for both work and play is not working," said Carolina Milanesi in an interview. "They need to change their tactics to position RT as the OS for consumption devices, to make the hardware a companion to the full Windows experience, not a replacement for it."

On Tuesday, Tami Reller, CFO of the Windows division, went on a mini-PR spree, granting interviews to several media outlets to tout Windows 8 license sales, talk vaguely of changes it will institute in the Windows "Blue" update slated for release later this year, and in some cases, offer mea culpas for mistakes the company made with both Windows 8 and Windows RT.

In one of those interviews, Reller defended Windows RT, the operating system designed to run on ARM processors. "We are very committed to the ARM platform," she told the Geekwire technology blog. "We certainly know that's a question in the marketplace. We want to leave no doubt about our commitment to ARM."

Although some analysts have questioned Microsoft's commitment to Windows RT -- largely based on the tepid reaction it's received from OEMs -- others have said it would be too big a blow to the company to yank the OS so quickly, and that it would press on.

Reller signaled that Microsoft will do the latter.

"They will stick with RT for now," said Milanesi, who nevertheless argued that without major changes in its strategy, Microsoft faces huge problems making Windows RT a successful alternative to Google's Android and Apple's iOS. "They were hoping that Office on Windows RT would be enough," she said of Microsoft's bundling Office RT, a scaled-down version of the suite, with the OS. "But it wasn't enough. Not that many people want to run Excel on a tablet."

In the enterprise, tablets like the iPad have made inroads, Milanesi acknowledged, but their role is generally not as a replacement for a personal computer. Rather they act as a companion device, one with specific functions in many cases.

From her perspective, that's why Microsoft should give up on the idea that Windows RT is suitable for both content consumption and creation, and focus on the former.

Even then, Microsoft's operating system is at a disadvantage when pitted against either Android or iOS, since Microsoft's business model as a software seller -- even though it's trumpeted a switch to services and devices -- means that it must charge OEMs for a Windows RT license.

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