In a move that’s likely to surprise…well, just about no one, the Wall Street Journal reports that ASUS will cease making Windows RT tablets. Windows RT is basically stuck in limbo between full Windows 8 (and 8.1) laptops and hybrid devices on the high-end and Android tablets on the low-end, and the market appears to be giving a clear thumbs down to the platform. Many critics have also noted the lack of compelling applications to compete with Android and iOS platforms, which is something we noted in our review of the VivoTab RT last year.

This morning, ASUS Chief Executive Jerry Shen stated, “It's not only our opinion, the industry sentiment is also that Windows RT has not been successful.” Citing weak sales and the need to take a write-down on its Windows RT tablets in the second quarter, ASUS will be focusing its energies on more productive devices. Specifically, Shen goes on to state that ASUS will only make Windows 8 devices using with Intel processors, thanks to the backwards compatibility that provides—and something Windows RT lacks.

It looks like many feel towards Windows RT similar to how they feel towards Windows Phone 8. As Vivek put it in our recent Nokia Lumia 521 review, “Microsoft cannot expect to gain back market share after this many years unless they’re willing to aggressively ramp their development cycle the way Google did with Android a few years ago—something they have thus far shown no indications of doing. They just haven’t iterated quickly enough, and I can’t think of a single time when I picked up a Windows Phone and thought it was feature competitive with Android and iOS. It’s not even because I use Google services; there are just a number of things that are legitimately missing from the platform.”

The situation with ASUS ditching Windows RT (at least for the near future) reminds me of what we saw with the netbook space several years ago. ASUS had some great initial success with the first Eee PC, and then just about every manufacturer came out with a similar netbook…and most of them failed. Couple that with a stagnating platform (Atom still isn’t much faster now than it was when it first appeared, though the next Silvermont version will likely address this), and most of the netbook manufacturers have moved on to greener pastures. Specifically, we’re talking about Android tablets, and while most companies didn’t stop making Android products to try out Windows RT devices, we will likely see fewer next-gen Windows RT devices and more next-gen Android tablets in the next year or two. With Haswell showing potential to compete head-to-head with tablets for battery life, more lucrative Haswell-based tablets running full copies of Windows 8.1 look far more promising than RT.

Of course, long-term the story for Windows RT is far from over. Microsoft needs Windows RT or they are locked out of a huge market. They can't expect to compete with $300-$400 tablets that use ARM processors ($10-$35 per SoC, give or take) and run an OS that's basically free with tablets that need Core i3 or faster chips ($100+) and a full copy of Windows 8.1. Right now they're losing this battle, with fewer quality applications and far fewer hardware options. ASUS might not be carrying the flag for Windows RT, but if no one else will then Microsoft will have to carry the torch on their own. The next Windows Surfact RT will try to do just that, whenever it turns up, and certainly Silvermont will help provide a better x86 alternative to the current Atom processors.

Source: Wall Street Journal



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  • JPForums - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Interesting. You state it took 7 years to design Haswell. In 2006 Apple had less than 5% of the PC market:
    I thought the typical processor design cycle was about 5 years, but even then Apple wasn't fairing much better. Do you really think such a light weight in the industry at that point in time could drive the direction of the design cycle of Intel. While it is true that significant change can be introduced in the midst of a design cycle, the further in, the fewer things can change. Despite what a very vocal minority would have you believe, It is unlikely that such change would come as a result of the demands of a company that could offer so little return on investment (Apple even today is below 15% PC market share). Most likely it was the demands of the server market that drove Haswell's design. Power consumption and performance per watt is a huge deal here. Though minor changes that fell in line with this goal could certainly have been accommodated (I.E. the Mac specific processor package for the Air).

    In any case, IF Windows RT was meant to drive Intel's design, it wasn't the large chips that they were targeting. They would have been looking for cheaper, lower power designs (Hence Atom). In 2008, Android didn't have any real influence on Intel. Intel wasn't feasible in phones and Android didn't have any appreciable tablet market share until Honeycomb launched in 2011. It is possible that their success here had some influence on Intel. Apple, however, had zero influence on Intel in this sector as they opted to use their own in house designs. There was no realistic expectation that anything Intel did would get them any money out of Apple.

    Now consider that Intel assuredly knew about WinRT long before we did. Work on WinRT/Win8 started even before Win7 launched in 2009. Also, at this point in time, Intel had no reason to believe that WinRT would flop or that Microsoft wouldn't retain their >80% market share. There is every reason to believe that Intel would have acted to keep ARM manufacturers locked out. I think it is safe to conclude that WinRT did have some effect on Intel's Atom line, though I'd suggest that Androids post-Honeycomb success probably helped more than a little as well. Silvermont and across the board cheaper Atom processors are the current results of this influence. Most likely, Broadwell/Airmont will be the first designs fully under this influence, though as Sivermont was probably already in the early stages of development.

    Now, was Microsoft's reason for making Windows RT simply to give Intel a warning? I doubt it. They've stated multiple times that they are committed to WinRT. They are also putting out another one, even though the suggested goal has already been accomplished. No, I think Microsoft wanted the option to use ARM chips. If ARM makes headway into the server market, Microsoft would be foolish not to have an OS ready for the platform. From that standpoint, it makes some sense that Microsoft would want to continue with WinRT.
  • Krysto - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    No, it lost about a billion dollars, too. Reply
  • nerd1 - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    RT is a joke - atom tablets are as light, as cheap and way more capable and why bother with winRT at all? Reply
  • chizow - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    MS wanted to break their reliance on x86 chips from Intel and also wanted to hedge their bets by breaking into the ARM market. It was a good strategic decision imo, just poorly executed. They made way too many Surface RTs and the price was too high, on both the Pro and RT, imo. Reply
  • fteoath64 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Yeah. this is where MS blew it with RT mainly becuase it was a crippled feature product compared to Pro. It is also locked down so much so that app development is not conducive on it. Many said it was the incompatibility with x86 that was the problem but I think that was just an excuse to point out the key weaknesses RT has feature wise. Performance wise, it does not have much of an issue, price wise it does have an issue due to heavy Android tablet competition. iPad is NOT a competitor as that is a specialized tablet and way better built compared to Surface RT.
    MS has a chance to make RT open and full featured but they had to "protect" the legacy which always fails in the market. There is no focus on what RT wants to be!. Just a junior version of Pro is not a segment people want to be in especially with the variety of Android tablets with JellyBean OS. This would be the crowd who COULD consider an RT tablet. iPad users will buy it no matter what because it is Apple. MS is no Apple by a long long short.
  • Impulses - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    I don't know that an IPad is really way better built... I think RT's design was great, I wouldn't have bought one at launch even if it debuted at $350 with the keyboard included tho... Most people wouldn't unless or until MS lured enough developers, and I'm not sure that was ever really their intent.Honestly, other than some pricing/stock issues, they probably executed the whole RT strategy pretty well...

    It might've made more sense to keep it as a one off than to lure partners like ASUS in, but then it would've been taken even less seriously. The crucial decision will be whether to keep pushing it or know when to give up on the experiment and go full on with x86. Either way they still need more people developing for Metro, but it might be a whole lot simpler if they decide to kill RT sooner rather than later.

    The whole concept of writing an app once for phone/tablet/laptop seems nice, but ultimately few things actually need (or benefit from) that level of inter-operability... And a lot more is shared between tablet and phone than either and laptop/PCs. WP probably needs to gain a whole lot more traction before their tablet strategy will. Otherwise people will just keep looking at convertibles as an oddity... Which would be a shame, since Silvermount convertibles could do a lot to keep ARM tablet pricing in check in the long run.
  • Krysto - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Atom is also a joke for the full Windows. It's a low-end chip that gets frustrating when used with the full blown/bloated Windows. Reply
  • MartinT - Friday, August 09, 2013 - link

    I'm almost certain that this era will soon be a textbook example of how to hasten one's demise in a declining market by screwing one's partners, screwing one's customers, and generally over-estimating and over-playing their perceived lock-in.

    Can't help but wonder if Microsoft could've gracefully ridden this wave down, while still trying to gain a foothold in the maturing mobile and tablet markets. Clearly, they didn't think they could.
  • Impulses - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Ehh, I wouldn't count them out just yet... It'll take a much bigger screw up for this to cease being a three way race. If they push ahead with a second Surface RT and basically repeat their mistakes for a second year (now that there's nothing to gain from developing RT) and somehow Intel doesn't deliver with Silvermount, then that could be the first nail. Acting like this was a complete fiasco is a bit much IMO. Reply
  • steven75 - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Sales show that Surface Pro and Surface RT have both been flops. Tablets are expected to overtake PC sales *this year*.

    What is your definition of "complete fiasco"?

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