New devices with the latest chips and updated Windows 8.1 software are coming this holiday season and they just might be the final nail in the coffin of Windows RT. The timing is terrible for Microsoft, which is holding an event later this month to reportedly introduce Surface 2, a follow-up to the Surface RT tablet that cost the company $900 million in an inventory write-off.
Noted Windows watcher Paul Thurrott has details on the lineup of upcoming Windows tablets and laptops. All of them are expected to compete well with Windows RT devices in terms of battery life and performance and some start at under $300. A key difference? All of the Windows 8.1 devices can run any nearly Windows software title. Windows RT devices such as Surface RT and Surface 2 are limited to apps rewritten for the touch-friendly Metro user interface.
Here are some of the product details Thurrott shared on Thursday:
Dell’s Venue, an 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet powered by next-gen Intel Atom with 1280 x 800 touchscreen and stylus. A 10 hour battery life and expected cost of $299.
The Asus Tranformer Book T100 — which we noted earlier this morning — a 10.1-inch Windows 8.1 tablet with docking keyboard, Intel Atom chip, 1366 x 768 display, USB 3.0 port and 11 hour battery life. The 32 GB model will cost $349 while a 64 GB version will add $50 to the price.
An unnamed Dell product with the codename of “midland”. Thurrott says this is a 10.8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet with 1920 x 1080 resolution; rare for an Intel Atom powered-device. The $399 includes a pen and there will be integrated LTE options as well as a desktop dock and travel keyboard offered. Battery life is expected to be 9 hours with the travel keyboard adding another 10 hours of runtime.
Thurrott also notes some upcoming Lenovo and Acer devices in the mix, but you get the idea. How can a Surface 2 or other Windows RT device compete with these?
Simply put, they can’t unless Microsoft were to sell its hardware at below cost to reduce prices to $249 or less. As it is, last year’s Surface RT launched at $499 without a keyboard and I can’t see Microsoft getting the price of Surface 2 down to $349 at launch, let alone get it even lower. And don’t expect Nokia to be a huge help here if Thurrott’s information on the company’s Windows RT tablet is correct: He says Nokia will price its tablet at $499.
I had high hopes when Windows for ARM was announced but those hopes were initially dashed when PC makers aggressively moved into the low-end Windows 8 market using Intel’s Atom chip. Now that Atom is getting a performance and battery life boost, combined with legacy Windows app support, there’s just no reason for Windows RT to exist. At least not at the current device prices.