Should Microsoft Give Up on Windows RT?

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Microsoft’s double-barreled tablet OS strategy is confusing customers and causing people to take a pass, and the company should focus on making Windows 8 into a winner, says an IDC analyst.

Microsoft WindowsIn his most-recent Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker report, Tom Mainelli, research director for tablets, said Microsoft’s decision to pitch two tablet operating systems is not working. It’s causing confusion, something you don’t want to do with a pricey product, which also hurts RT.

“The problem with RT so far has been one of pricing and consumers aren’t sure what to make of it,” he said. “Traditionally when you think about Windows, Windows is that OS that is backwards compatible with the software you’ve always run and Windows RT is not that. There are technical reasons to like RT, but Microsoft has not made a compelling reason to buy that product.”

At a $500 starting price, Windows RT tablets are competing head-on with the Apple iPad. Good luck with that under the best of circumstances, and Microsoft is not in the best of circumstances. It had promised 100,000 apps within the first 90 days of the Surface tablets shipping. Almost five months later, there’s around 50,000 apps.

“The lack of apps will continue to be a problem. People presumed if they are running Windows they can run what they are used to, like iTunes, and I think it’s safe to say we will never see iTunes running on Windows RT,” said Mainelli.

Microsoft declined to comment for this article.

According to IDC’s forecast, Windows RT tablets will end 2013 with just 1.9% share of the year’s shipments, coming out to about 3.6 million devices out of total of 190.4 million. Android will account for 93.2 million tablets and iPad will take an 87.8 million share.

And he sees no momentum. By 2017, Windows/Surface Pro and Windows RT tablets will account for 7.4% and 2.7%, respectively. Mainelli said the pessimistic forecast is based on what the company has seen so far

Focus on Windows 8

“Microsoft is better served with focusing on Windows 8. Microsoft can say apps will run on both with a recompile, but part of the problem is they are trying to support three operating systems in the market right now. That is spreading developers thin, even those optimistic or want to support Windows have to pick their battles,” he said.

But Microsoft is a tenacious company. It does not give up easily. It will take big losses in the early days of a product for the sake of gaining market share. Its online efforts, for example, have cost the company billions. And Mainelli thinks Microsoft will stick with RT for a little while longer.

“What they do in 2013 will determine if this is an Xbox story or a Zune story. But I feel like Microsoft feels like the world has changed dramatically since it launched Zune and they are operating from a different playbook these days,” he said.



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