Nvidia sees good Windows RT future, even as analysts see platform's demise

RT dying 'slow death,' analyst says

Even as the market for Surface RT and other Windows RT tablets grows more dire by the day, chip supplier Nvidia said it remains bullish to the platform and is committed for the long term.

Nvidia's commitment to Surface RT and Windows RT "remains at a high level and hasn't changed," said Rene Haas, vice president of computing products at Nvidia, in an interview.

Microsoft Surface RT
The Surface RT (credit: Microsoft). .

"Surface RT is the very beginning of a long process and it's the first shot in a changing landscape," Haas said. "Microsoft is moving the entire Windows platform to something really mobile."

Nvidia makes the Tegra 3 chip used in Surface RT and Lenovo's Yoga 11 convertible with Windows RT. Haas said in May that next-generation Tegra 4 chips will be used on multiple RT tablets, but said Wednesday he couldn't divulge when or what types of future RT products will appear.

Haas put a positive spin on Microsoft's decision earlier this week to slash the price of Surface RT tablets by up to 30%, dropping the original $499 price for a 32GB tablet to $349. The 64GB version sells for $449, down from the original $599.

"We're very encouraged and excited by the new price point and hope it inspires new sales," Haas said. When Surface RT first appeared on the market in November, analysts had said the original price was too high when compared to other tablets on the market.

On Wednesday, after Haas spoke with Computerworld, it was reported that Lenovo dropped online sales of the Yoga 11. Haas didn't respond to a request to comment on that move.

Haas said Nvidia employees are using Surface RT tablets running Windows 8.1 for RT, which includes Microsoft Outlook and offers VPN improvements. "Outlook in 8.1 is a big, big deal for us, and it's not a baby version of Outlook or somehow stripped down," he said. "We can use it to book meetings and other ways and it's completely productive and a big item for us." He said other organizations will find 8.1 valuable.

Haas said Nvidia is also encouraged that Microsoft has made organization changes, putting the Surface development under Microsoft long-timer Julie Larson-Green. "Think about Microsoft essentially owning hardware as well as Amazon and Google. Over time, that's exciting," he said.

Analysts have generally been concerned for months about Windows RT and Surface RT sales since first quarter sales reach just 200,000 Windows RT tablets, including Surface RT -- just 0.4% of the 49.2 million tablets shipped overall, according to IDC. Microsoft reports its quarterly earnings today when more insights on Surface RT may be forthcoming.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said that Nvidia is "blowing smoke" about the future potential for Windows RT and Surface RT "since that's what marketing people do....They don't want to spook the market and say RT sucks and won't sell."

The Tegra line of processors will still be important to Nvidia, but not because of Windows RT and Surface RT, Gold said. Qualcomm also makes ARM-based chips used in two Windows RT tablets, but Gold said that part of Qualcomm's business is miniscule.

Gold said he doubts any tablet maker will produce a future Windows RT tablet. "RT is dying over night," he said. "RT is going to die a slow death."

At least one analyst still sees a future for Windows RT. "Windows RT is performing poorly commercially today, but this is a long-term Microsoft commitment," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "Microsoft won't pull the plug even if they're the only OEM using it. The bigger question is if chip vendors like Nvidia and Qualcomm will keep developing for it."

This article, Nvidia sees good Windows RT future, even as analysts see platform's demise, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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