FAQ: All about Windows RT, the OS behind a Microsoft tablet

As branded tablet rumors flourish, we answer questions about Windows RT, Windows 8 and Metro

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Some analysts believe a Windows RT tablet backed by Microsoft's name could serve as a benchmark for other OEMs, or prod them into creating their own devices. It could be product "designed to get the industry excited" about the new operating system and the type of devices which can run Windows RT, Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group told Computerworld last week.

A corollary to that: It's possible that Microsoft is worried about the lack of interest by OEMs in Windows RT.

While several long-time computer-making partners of Microsoft have announced or hinted at plans to build mobile devices -- tablet as well as hybrid hardware that combines elements of both touch tablets and ultra-thin laptops -- using Windows 8, few have committed to working Windows RT into ARM-powered systems.

Or it may simply be that Microsoft has seen the Apple light, and decided that to be successful in the tablet space, it must mimic its rival's end-to-end control of the hardware and the software.

Isn't it risky for Microsoft to directly compete with its PC OEM partners? Definitely. Although Microsoft has a mixed track record with its branded hardware -- the Xbox has been spectacular, but it pulled the plug on its Zune music player -- it's never competed head-to-head with its OEMs in the PC or mobile markets.

That risks alienating the OEMs, who would be at a disadvantage because they must pay Microsoft licensing fees for Windows -- in the case of Windows RT, reports have pegged those fees as high as $85 per unit -- while Microsoft itself would simply be moving numbers around on its spreadsheets and financial statements.

Google faces the same conundrum with its acquisition of Motorola; Google-branded Android smartphones or tablets would conceivably tick off other handset makers who rely on Android.

That's why the expected debut of a Microsoft-branded tablet is such big news: In it's 37-year history, Microsoft has never gambled like this.

Where can I get more news of Windows RT and today's likely tablet announcement? Here.

The Microsoft press conference will start at 4 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET) today. Computerworld will be covering the event with a live-blog and with on-site and analytical stories at its conclusion.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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