Dell mistakenly sees hope in Windows RT where others don’t

Dell XPS 10 Windows RT tablet

Despite a slow uptake of Microsoft Windows RT, Dell appears committed to the platform. The company has “future generations” of its Dell XPS 10 tablet in the works, according to┬áNeil Hand, vice president at Dell. Speaking to Computerworld, Hand says the new slates will be both lighter and faster, alluding to improved ARM-based chips that can run Windows RT.

That’s a nice vote of confidence from Dell; particularly as other Microsoft hardware partners don’t seem sold on Windows RT. Samsung, for example, decided not to offer its Windows RT slate in the U.S. and recently pulled the device from Germany, citing weak demand. Even Nvidia, which has a chip that powers Windows RT, has expressed disappointment in Windows RT sales. So why is Dell staying the course?

Dell StreakI suspect this another Dell attempt at relevancy in the mobile market. And it’s not the first. Dell had a line of Axim PDAs, offered smartphones and was actually developed a precursor to the big-screened phone with its 5-inch Dell Streak handset running Android.

But each of these products has come and gone, without Dell becoming a big player in mobile. And at this point, where else can Dell turn to maintain relevancy? It could offer another Android device but that’s a crowded market. It’s easier to take a bet on Windows RT becoming a success and standing out from today’s crowd.

Unfortunately, that’s not a smart bet. While I like the Windows RT hardware and experience in general, the same can be had with an Intel Atom tablet with similar weight and battery life. Plus, at roughly the same price point, users gain the full Windows 8 platform with legacy app support. Think of these as Windows 8 in a Windows RT form factor and price. Where’s the value add of Windows RT, given the situation?

Even worse: Intel suggests that future Windows 8 tablets could cost as little as $200, or about 40 percent of what they cost now. If Intel’s new Bay Trail chips help that happen, Windows RT won’t stand a chance unless devices that support it drop in price; as much as if not more than Windows 8 tablets. It’s always fun — and potentially profitable — to place a high-odds bet, but this time, I think Dell is backing the wrong horse.

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