Meet Windows RT

Microsoft’s first serious foray into tablets came just after the turn of the new millenium, with Bill Gates demonstrating the first tablet PC prototype onstage at Comdex in the autumn of 2000. From there, OEMs started releasing tablets based on Windows XP Tablet PC Edition in 2002, with a full range of pen-enabled slates and convertibles releasing over the next few years. In addition to oftentimes prohibitive cost, each had its own set of drawbacks. Convertibles tended to be quite bulky compared to their notebook counterparts (the ThinkPad X-series being a notable exception), while slates were rather difficult to use - a symptom of shoehorning a desktop operating system into a purely touch-centric form factor. 

Fast forward a decade, to the beginning of 2010. After a number of conceptual non-starters in the tablet PC space - building tablet PC support into all editions of Windows Vista and 7 (other than Basic/Home Starter), the entire Origami class of devices - Microsoft’s touchscreen devices were floundering. The iPad had been announced to mixed reaction but an extremely high level of anticipation. Microsoft and HP countered with the Slate 500, an Atom-based device shown off at CES 2010 with solid state storage and Windows 7 in roughly the same form factor as Apple’s iPhone OS-based ARM tablet. With speculation pointing to a pricetag of just $549, the Slate appeared to be the most viable hope Microsoft had in trying to make mainstream headway with the tablet PC concept. But shortly after the iPad shipped in April 2010, rumors of the Slate’s demise started to circulate, and after a six month delay, the Slate 500 started shipping as an enterprise-only product in December of that year for $799. HP’s acquisition of Palm (RIP) definitely played a role in the sidelining of the Slate, but more importantly, it essentially spelled the end for the tablet PC. This was news that was perhaps known already, but the Slate saga officially pulled the plug on Microsoft’s original idea of what a tablet was. 

The problem was two parts software, one part hardware. Microsoft had developed a very interesting touch-oriented user interface for its handhelds, so at least one part of the equation was relatively straightforward. The hardware issue came down to this: the iOS and Android tablets succeeding in the market ran off ARM system-on-chips, which resulted in slim, power-efficient tablets that had idle times stretching for days. At the time, there was just nothing in terms of x86 hardware that could compete with that in low-power device realm (Clover Trail and Haswell, of course, change this part of the story considerably). The other question? How to converge the touch-centric UI with the classic desktop environment that had been the corner of Windows dating all the way back to 95. 

Meet Windows RT. It’s Microsoft’s first major foray into the modern tablet market, the shipping version of Windows-on-ARM, and it’s one of Microsoft’s most important product launches ever. Windows 8 shares the same touch-friendly user interface, but the ARM silicon makes RT an almost entirely tablet-centric operating system, the first for Microsoft. Combined with the focus on premium hardware experiences, this is Redmond’s most serious push to be competitive with the iOS and Androids of the world. How does it fare? Keep reading.

User Interface, Gestures, and Multitasking
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  • steven75 - Friday, November 02, 2012 - link

    You are either truly delusional or have no idea the limitations of RT.

    -It can't join a domain.
    -Office is the student/home edition. No Macros, no plugins, etc.
    -95% of the fortune 500 has already deployed iPads.
    Reply
  • chavv - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    so, the only "real" browser will be IE10?
    And what about support for card readers/certificates?
    Can one use certificates to sign documents?
    Reply
  • thesavvymage - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    Really REALLY hope the folks over at VLC or many of the android video players get an app onto windows RT for mkv playback! Almost any anime is in this format with advanced subtitles, and itd be absolutely amazing to have this tablet on my daily university bus commute if it supported those video files :) Reply
  • Pressurge - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    that the review for the yearly refresh of iOS got a much greater, in-depth review than the first-ever version of Windows running on ARM, including the fact that it's on a Microsoft-designed/spec'd tablet. "Hey, let's do three pages worth of review just on the new Maps app, but nothing in Windows RT deserves that type of in-depth analysis at all!"

    There appears to be no end in sight to the massive time investment towards all things Apple on Anandtech while everything else gets filler articles/reviews at best...
    Reply
  • Che - Sunday, October 28, 2012 - link

    +1 Reply
  • hakime - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    "It’s unclear how big this convertible/hybrid market will grow, but I see real potential here."

    Keep dreaming.....

    "The iPad and iOS remain a very polished, very accessible platform that is really optimized for content consumption and light productivity. For anyone who wanted more however, there’s now an alternative: Windows RT."

    "The default inclusion of Office 2013 and the emphasis on physical keyboards makes Windows RT the first tablet platform to significantly address the question of productivity."

    Reading this review, it strikes me that people at Anandtech either are totally biased towards Windows (which wouldn't be new, see also the Surface review) or they've never used an iPad. I put my money on the first one. Because you can't possibly claim that the iPad is less productive than a tablet with Windows RT, you really can't unless your are out of your mind.

    There is nothing that makes Windows RT more productive than iOS because you seem to have missed that it's iOS which has the productive apps today. Windows RT has nothing, nothing, and it will stay like that for a long time. If you want to be productive with a tablet today, you get an iPad not a tablet with Windows RT, period. iOS has productive apps that cover everything from video, audio production to art, photo workflows and text editors, CAD, etc.. All of them are optimized for touch. With Windows RT, to be productive you just get Office that you really can't use freely because of the restricted license. Office forces you to use a keyboard attached to a tablet and because such keyboards are very limited, you can't really use it with an attached keyboard either. What a mess.....

    "Combined with the equally advanced task switching and multitasking built into the UI, and this becomes the first legitimately useful tablet operating system out there."

    Then you are really not making sense, it's amazing. The multitasking on Windows RT is nothing better than iOS, it actually works the same way. The only thing is that it allows to put a stripped down app besides another one but this feature is not very useful on tablet screens. And this feature only exists because Windows RT has a fundamental flaw that this review completely ignores. Windows RT forces you to use a tablet in landscape mode (hence more room for the Snap feature) but at the price of sacrificing tremendously the usability of the system when used as a tablet (a shame when the system is supposed to be for tablets) because it's difficult to use the tablet in this mode without any attached keyboard. And by itself, Windows RT is more designed for consumption than being useful for production because of the choice of this landscape mode as default mode and also because the "Metro" interface is designed to be eye candy and only makes sense for content consumption apps. The interface is actually rather limited and constraining when it comes to have freedom in building any type of apps. So claiming that Windows RT is the first legitimately useful tablet operating system out there is at the limit of being a total troll who is disconnected from the reality. In the real world today, Windows RT is the less useful tablet OS out there not only because it lacks apps, but also it's design does everything in order that this OS is limited to content consumption.

    "Every single Windows RT slate comes out of the box with Office and the ability to have multiple active application windows. It’s just a few steps ahead of competing tablet platforms at this point."

    Again Office is not very useful on Windows RT, its useless in touch mode, hard to use with those Type Covers or whatever else, so it's just bad... There is absolutely not advantage over competing platforms here, absolutely none...

    "From a conceptual standpoint, almost anything you can do with an iPad can be done equally well (or close) on a Windows RT tablet"

    No it can't because it lacks apps and polish. The metro interface is too confusing, too busy, actually too much eye candy in order to hide the reality of an OS which is technically behind. I am amazed to see that the authors did not really point out the incredible deficiencies of the built-in apps. Mail, Messaging, Calendar lacks basic features to the point of being useless, IE 10 is buggy like the rest of the OS which often feels sluggish and lacks stability. I mean a dude in the iPhone 5 review came up with some completely baseless, unreal theory of scuffs affecting the iPhone 5, describing in length a completely baseless theory of an iPhone 5 production that the author in fact had not idea of. Like often in Anandtech and when it's about Apple, the authors go in lengthy baseless analysis that they don't have the real competence to do, but they do it anyway just to appear smarter than they are in reality. So we've got an iPhone 5 review where we were still being told about the AntennaGate, something that never existed and now also about a new Scuffgate which also does not have any real existence besides being some minor manufacturing issues on some units. Today, we've got a flawed software from Microsoft, I mean Microsoft sells you a half featured Mail app and buggy software but no word on that from the authors, no words on whatever gate. The authors of Anandtech really lacks honesty, you've got to get your ch.. together guys, really!!

    "but the desktop-caliber office suite and versatile multitasking interface of Windows RT are impossible experiences to replicate on the iPad"

    Oh yes sure because the iPad is not trying to run a desktop app on a touch devise. Yes indeed!!! Did you really use Office on Windows RT, honestly, say the truth? Office is unusable with fingers, it requires an atached keyboard which also is crap and comes with a completely, insanely bad trackpad. Please explain how this is supposed to be an experience that the iPad should replicate? On the other hand, iWork on iPad is a desktop caliber suite which is designed to work with touch. Which one you use?

    You keep speaking about this multitasking thing like you are really trying hard to find something to like in Windows RT. The reality is that the multitasking on Windows RT works like iOS with extra poorly implemented features most of the time not very useful on a tablet screen and which forced a design decision that really messes up the ease of use of Windows RT as a tablet OS.

    "if you’re looking for a new tablet this fall, Windows RT deserves your consideration. "

    Yes sure, if you want a buggy OS, designed towards content consumption, with limited and buggy built-in apps and no apps to use besides them, sure go ahead....
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    I always find it funny that the same person (Anand) can be accused of being both an apple fanboy and a microsoft fanboy in different articles, and sometime in the same one. This just shows you that it's only commentators like you who are one.

    You're (extremely boring) reply has nothing of substance except personnal opinions and baseless attacks.

    i have owned every ipad (and still own the 3rd one), and i agree with the article in that productivity is limited on these tablets.
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    Oh there it is, check a few posts down and the user "milkod2001" calling Anand an apple fanboy... Reply
  • ludikraut - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    but which world are you living in? Seriously.

    "...Reading this review, it strikes me that people at Anandtech either are totally biased towards Windows (which wouldn't be new, see also the Surface review) or they've never used an iPad. I put my money on the first one. Because you can't possibly claim that the iPad is less productive than a tablet with Windows RT, you really can't unless your are out of your mind...."

    The only one out of their mind is you. Have you actually used Windows RT - or even Windows 8 - on a tablet? Didn't think so.

    "...There is nothing that makes Windows RT more productive than iOS because you seem to have missed that it's iOS which has the productive apps today..."

    I think you're confusing productivity with productive.

    "...Then you are really not making sense, it's amazing. The multitasking on Windows RT is nothing better than iOS, it actually works the same way. The only thing is that it allows to put a stripped down app besides another one but this feature is not very useful on tablet screens..."

    And here you manage to contradict yourself in the span of two sentences. I won't bother to pick apart the rest of the post, I'd be here all day. Next time ... think before posting and check your facts ... please?

    l8r)
    Reply
  • steven75 - Friday, November 02, 2012 - link

    Have you ever used an iPad? Have you used the iWorks apps on one? Do you realize a keyboard not only works with an iPad but is not a totally necessity unlike with Office on Windows RT?

    I am in complete agreement the reviewer doesn't have any experience with iPad productivity apps or is living a life completely shacked to Microsoft Office.
    Reply

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