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What Windows 8 RT tablets need to do to succeed

by Ben Bajarin

October 7 2012

Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Practice at Creative Strategies, Inc., a strategy consulting firm in Silicon Valley. His TabTimes column is published every other week on Sunday.


When it comes to Windows 8 tablets, RT devices will represent a quality experience in both mobility and productivity. But I’ll be honest; right now I’m a bit worried about them.

I believe these devices have a ton of potential but I fear it may take them a while to fully reach it.

Because these devices are ARM based, I expect them to have very good battery life, most likely better than x86 tablets (for the time being), and also get to very thin and light form factors.

The pairing of these products with keyboards and a number of other accessories designed for productivity should help them appeal to the most mobile of professionals.

But my concern is that these RT tablets will need the right software necessary to help them reach their potential.

The Software Challenge

It’s no secret that many business large and small still need to run some degree of Windows software. In fact I came across data last month that surveyed several thousand business and over 70% of them indicated the need to run some Windows software for critical elements of their business.

This is the one sticky point when it comes to the iPad. While many businesses are creating custom applications for mission critical business data to run on iPad, not all of them have this luxury.

Windows RT does not solve this problem for many businesses since it will not run legacy Windows software running today in many environments. Like the iPad, Windows 8 RT tablets require new software.

And not just new software, very different software built to run in the new UI mode rather than desktop mode. These new challenges amount to an interesting problem if you are a Windows software developer. It will be those software developers who will make or break Windows RT.

The fact is that developers face an economic problem. The simple truth is that there will be more potential sales of desktop mode software than modern UI mode due to the larger existing installed base of Windows customers. Software developers are simply more interested in creating desktop mode software for Windows 8 due to the backward compatibility and a larger installed base.

So developers have to look both at what the low hanging fruit is as well as where the future will be. From what I am hearing they will focus first on the low hanging fruit. This gives me some sense that we may not see accelerated growth in Modern UI mode applications right off the bat.

New Software, Not Just the Same Old Thing

When Windows 8 launches, I expect both the x86 tablets and the RT tablets to both have sufficient applications available, most likely in the thousands. But they will be many of the same apps available on other platforms, with perhaps the exception of Office.

Outside of Office, what applications will exist that will draw me to Windows 8 that I can’t find anywhere else? I call these platform-driving apps.

A great example: what Halo did for the first XBOX. Many gamers bought the first XBOX simply because of Halo. Which then sucked them into the platform and kept them loyal. I’m not saying Windows 8 and RT in particular need a dedicated game but rather software that is compelling and cannot be found anywhere else.

Software developers looking to the future of Windows need to embrace this philosophy. Earlier in the year I wrote a column here at TabTimes outlining how tablets are changing how we work and think about producing content. This concept is one that needs to be embraced by software developers to take advantage of the no-compromise mobility and no-compromise productivity offered by Windows RT tablets.

If Microsoft and developers can begin to uniquely take advantage of Windows 8 tablets then I will begin to be more optimistic about their adoption into the marketplace. The key resides in new software. Not more of the same.

Windows 8 is a new frontier for the market, developers, and hardware companies; let’s hope they don’t make a wrong turn.

Ben Bajarin is the Director of Consumer Technology Practice at Creative Strategies, Inc., a strategy consulting firm in Silicon Valley. His TabTimes column is published every other week on Sunday.

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