There’s really only one reason to consider Windows RT over Windows 8

Microsoft Surface RT

A strange thing happened recently and I have no idea how or why it did: I’m starting to like the new touch version of Microsoft Windows. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent so much time lately with the Acer W510 Windows 8 tablet. I explain why in this video overview.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to excommunicate myself from either the Church of Android or the Loyal Order of iOS. I do, however, like to keep an eye on all of the mobile platforms and device types on the market in order to maintain perspective. You know, the kind of perspective that doesn’t come cheaply: I bought an HP TouchPad, Palm Pre and, about five or six years ago, three different UMPCs. (Those were 7-inch tablets with crappy touch screens and a terrible Windows XP experience.)

What are the choices?

surface proSo I started shopping around for a new Windows 8 tablet. I really don’t need the performance of the new Surface Pro or any other similar tablet/laptop combo using an Intel Core i5 chip. There’s little point to spending upwards of $900 or more for one of these, as a result. That leaves me with two main paths: a Windows RT device using an ARM processor or a Windows 8 unit with an Intel Atom chip.

And that brings me back to something I wrote last month, which my experience with the Acer W510 only solidified. The only reason I can think of to purchase a Windows RT device is the price difference. That same thought was alluded to on Twitter by Steve Paine — a long-time friend from my old UMPC days — who runs a great set of sites devoted to tablets and ultrabooks.

Aside from the slightly lower cost of entry, what other reason is there to pick Windows RT? I wish there more reasons, but I’m not seeing them. And that’s disappointing because when Microsoft announced it would be working with partners for Windows on ARM, I was among those who were thrilled. (Of course, I bought a TouchPad, so what do I know?)

The app store may be more important than the device price

I do know that the application situation for Windows RT isn’t much better now than it was a month or two ago. I also know that I can get roughly the same battery life on an Intel Atom powered Windows 8 device as I can with a Windows RT tablet. I also get my choice of browser and the ability to run full Windows apps with the Intel device. Here’s a summary of the decision process from my post last month; I’ve already ruled out option No. 3 for reasons stated above:

It’s a simple scenario, really. Consumers have three choices when it comes to Windows tablets. They can buy

  1. ARM-based: A Windows RT tablet for around $500 that has acceptable performance, a Desktop limited to Microsoft Office use, no support for legacy software and a device that runs for about 10 hours on a charge.
  2. Intel Atom-based: A Windows 8 tablet for around $500 that has slightly better performance, no desktop or software installation limitations and runs for 8 to 10 hours on a charge.
  3. Intel Core-based: A windows 8 tablet for around $900 that offers the best performance, has no desktop or software installation limitations and runs for 4 to 5 hours on a charge.

See the problem? For roughly the same price, consumers can choose between options 1 and 2. Any benefits of running Windows on an ARM processor — at current device prices — simply isn’t there.

As I was shopping around online to check out what’s available, I did stumble upon one deal that had my finger hovering on the “buy” button: Amazon has the Asus VivoTab RT and docking keyboard –with included secondary battery — for $481.

Acer Iconia W510That’s a steep discount from a few months ago when Asus launched the device. And it’s less than the $709 a 64 GB Acer W510 with similar keyboard goes for on Amazon. But the app situation for Windows RT was a good reality check and I passed on the deal. It’s just too limiting for what I want and price was the only reason I might have gone for it.

Too many limitations for Windows RT for me right now

Ironically, an earlier story from today adds a little more clarity to the issue. Bluestacks launched a Windows 8 optimized solution that runs Android apps. With it, I’d have access to more than 750,000 Android apps.

The only problem? Bluestacks runs on Intel chips, so Windows RT devices can’t benefit from it. That’s almost ironic considering nearly all of the Android ecosystem is designed to run on ARM chips such as those used for Windows RT.

So the dilemma is this: Is it worth saving a few bucks to go with the limitations of Windows RT? After coming to my senses and passing on the VivoTab deal, I don’t think so.

The only benefit to buying the device would be the lower price than competing, fuller-featured Windows 8 devices. Unless the application situation changes soon, I don’t see how Windows RT can ever be a success at any price, save maybe $199 or less. For the moment, at least for me, the excitement I once felt for Windows RT’s potential is eroding faster than the demise of Palm.

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