Windows RT: It's about the Tablet, Not the Operating System

By Doug Mohney November 01, 2012

Among certain media wonk circles, Windows RT isn't as "good" as full blown Windows 8 because you don't get the backwards binary compatibility with the gazillion apps that run on Windows PCs. This thread is just overblown, given where the Microsoft Surface tablet and other pure RT tablets are going and what they need to do. It’s all about the tablet and affordability

All tablets -- be they Apple's iPad, the many, many sizes of Android tablets or Microsoft's Surface -- are designed for ease of use and mobility. You pick them up, you tap them on, you entertain yourself or you do some light work: word processing, basic spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, etc. While you could write the next Great American Novel, edit a two-hour move, and/or do some accounting work on a stand-alone tablet, it's not the best tool for those jobs. Bigger viewing real estate and heftier processing and storage come into play.

For many tasks, Windows RT on a tablet is just fine. A lot of those Windows (Intel) legacy apps either A) come with a ton of data that isn't going to get wedged down onto a tablet B) Work better on screens larger than 10 inches and/or C) need a mouse/keyboard combination for faster editing. Porting them over to Windows RT would be just wrong. 

Maybe AutoCAD could be beaten into submission to run on RT, but I don't think we're quite there with processor power or solid-state storage on the current tablets. In theory, if developers really want to, code is written properly, and there is a demand, a Windows-Intel application could be ported over to Windows RT, but I suspect those cases will be few and far between.

The other concept to keep in mind is that tablets are designed to work with cloud-based apps and more applications are moving into the cloud. You can even run Windows apps from a remote desktop connection using a Web browser, and having touchpad and mouse support on Windows RT kicks Apple in the teeth when it comes to the enterprise market. So, if you really, really need that legacy application, you can access it either via a LAN or WAN.

Conversely, Windows RT has the potential to appear on netbooks, lower-cost PCs, and LAN storage, especially when it comes to providing local terabyte-class storage for pictures and movies, plus archival storage of documents and data that aren't used on a daily basis. Some users already have large music and video archives of both home-created and commercial entertainment that won't fit into the 64/128/256 GB solid state storage of a tablet. Tablets will need more cloud storage and local storage will be more affordable and quicker access than cloud services for the near-term. Maybe when we all get 1GB home connections and see a TB-class core network deployed we can talk about everything being "in the cloud," but until that time, local storage is still necessary.

Contributing Editor

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