Microsoft & partners ramp Windows 8 tablet releases; RT stays limited

by David Needle

February 4 2013

Panasonic VP Jan Ruderman shows off a Windows 8 Pro ToughPad at CES last month.
Panasonic VP Jan Ruderman shows off a Windows 8 Pro ToughPad at CES last month.

Microsoft and partners are finally ready to deliver on the wider range of Windows 8 tablets promised at its launch event back in October.

A limited number of Intel-based Windows 8 tablets have been available and Microsoft’s own Surface RT, based on an ARM processor design, was released following the October event.

The official debut of Surface Pro is February 9, but is already showing up in some retail locations. Other partners, including HP, Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Asus, either have or plan to release Windows 8 tablets over the next month or two. These include Lenovo’s ThinkPad Tablet 2 aimed at business customers that goes on sales this month for $699.

"I don't have concerns about awareness, and I don't have concerns about interest," Tami Reller, CFO for Microsoft's Windows unit, told Bloomberg. "Now I feel increasingly good about mapping that interest to having those customers find the device they want on the shelf."

Microsoft has run a multi-million ad blitz for Surface, but sales have reportedly been below what the software giant had hoped. A key partner, HP, said last month that Windows 8‘s initial sales have been slower than many expected.

But the growing volume of Windows 8 devices may be a more formidable threat to iPad and Android alternatives. Reller said Microsoft now has 2,000 devices certified for use with the new OS, double the number from when Windows 8 was first released.

Restrictions on Windows RT

Microsoft has limited the number of manufacturers it licensed to make Windows RT tablets to a handful and some, like Acer and HP, didn’t pursue the opportunity.

"The fact that there were only a handful of manufacturers that were allowed to participate, definitely in my mind held down the competition on form factors and everything that I would have liked to have seen," Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, told Bloomberg.

Qualcomm makes ARM chips for Windows RT tablets.

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