Microsoft's Surface 2 shows why Windows RT will die

If you're looking for evidence why Windows RT won't be around for the long haul, just take a look at Microsoft's new Surface 2 tablet. It highlights everything wrong with RT, and points the way towards the operating system's eventual demise.

The Windows RT-based Surface 2 offers modest improvements over the original Surface, including a Tegra 4 1.7 gigahertz quad-core ARM chip that Microsoft says makes it 60% faster than the Surface RT's processor. There's also an improved screen, Dolby Digital sound, better cameras, and a better kickstand.

That's well and good. But the Surface 2 is still stuck not being able to run Desktop applications, because it's based on Windows RT, not Windows 8.1. So Surface 2 owners are limited to Microsoft's still-limited Windows 8 and Windows RT app ecosystm.

Windows RT was originally developed at least in part so that tablets based on it would have greater battery life than full-blown Windows 8 tablets. But the Surface Pro 2 uses Intel's power-sipping Haswell chip, which offers very nice battery life. So that benefit has gone away.

The Surface 2's least expensive version sells for $449, only $50 less than the newest generation iPad. At Wal Mart, you can pick up the newest iPad for $449.

How many people will opt for a Surface 2 over a similarly priced iPad, with the iPad's massive app ecosystem? Not many, as the first generation of Surface showed. There's nothing about the Surface 2 that will change consumers' minds to buy an iPad rather than an iPad -- the $50 price differential simply isn't enough.

The real problem with the Surface 2 is that it's based on Windows RT, an operating system with no great reason to exist. It's not really a productivity-oriented operating system, because it won't run Desktop apps. And it doesn't have the massive entertainment and games ecosystem of the iPad, so it's not that well suited for that, either.

Microsoft has tried to convince people to buy the Surface 2 by including a version of Office, and adding free services such as additional SkyDrive storage. But analysts haven't been convinced that will work. IDC analyst Tom Mainelli sums up the problem with the Surface 2 and underlying Windows RT when he told Computerworld:

"I understand Microsoft thinks they are making Surface 2 more valuable with Office RT and other interesting services, but they are in a market competing with $200 Android tablets and even the $329 iPad mini."

Windows 8 tablets, by contrast, are still alive and kicking, and I expect them to gain market share, to primarily be used as notebooks and ultrabooks. But eventually, the market will decide about RT, and it will likely go away.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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