Windows chief: We're with ARM and RT for the long haul; Haswell-based tablets will be ready this fall

Windows RT tablets may have underwhelming sales, and some people believe RT is on a death watch, but a top Windows executive said today that Microsoft won't abandon RT-based tablets and the ARM platform on which they run. That being said, she pointed to this fall as the rollout time for full Windows 8 tablets based on Intel's low-power Haswell chips.

Tami Reller, CFO of Microsoft's Windows division, said today at the JP Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom Conference that "We need the flexibility of ARM," according to Neowin, and that the RT-based Surface was meeting Microsoft's expectations.

If that's true, Microsoft must have had pretty low expectations for the RT Surface. The most recent figures from IDC about tablet sales show that the RT-based Surface made up a mere 0.4% of all tablet sales, with only 200,000 shipped in the most recent quarter. Overall, the RT has sunk like a stone.

It's not only consumers who are staying away from the ARM-based Surface tablet. So are Microsoft's hardware partners, such as Samsung, Asus, and Acer. Mike Abary, Samsung senior vice president in charge of the PC and tablet businesses in the United States, is extremely unhappy about what Microsoft has done with RT:

"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."

Many analysts expect Microsoft to eventually dump Windows RT, after supporting it for enough time to save face. Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, for example, told Computerworld:

"I've been concerned about Windows RT from the beginning. I don't see a long-term viability for Windows RT as a value-driven strategy."

Meanwhile, full-blown Windows 8 tablet sales have done surprisingly well. When you combine full-blown Windows 8 tablet sales with the dismal sales of RT tablets, Windows tablets accounted for 7.5% of the market in the first quarter of 2013, according to Strategic Analytics. That's a surprisingly high number, and bodes well for Windows 8 tablet sales in the future.

During her talk, Reller said that Microsoft's relationship with Intel hasn't been harmed by the use of ARM chips for RT tablets, saying that its "relationship, and work we're doing with Intel, has never been stronger."

She noted that full-blown Windows 8 tablets running on Intel's low-power Haswell chipset will be ready by the fall, in time for back-to-school shopping. That's a lot more important for Microsoft  than ARM. Over time, the market will decide which technology is better, full-blown Windows tablets on low-power Intel chips, or RT tablets on ARM chips. Eventually full-blown Windows will win, and RT will be an afterthought at best.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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