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



View All Comments

  • MonkeyPaw - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Vivo RT came with Office 2013. It was largely the same guts as Surface, but different shells and keyboards. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, August 11, 2013 - link

    I've read the rumors that ASUS is going to make the Nexus 10, but unless you have an official confirmation they're just that: rumors. We'll have to wait and see, but if they do make the Nexus 10 it's certainly a sign of where ASUS thinks things are heading. Nexus 10 couldn't possibly be less of a success than the VivoTab at least.... Reply
  • jwcalla - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Let's also not forget that the overarching strategy for Microsoft here is to get people out of the freedom of the desktop and into their app store. They recognize that app stores are the cash cow that they need to get a piece of and that's why they followed the Apple model (locked down walled garden, etc.). We see this clearly in the design of Windows 8, even the desktop version which placed an emphasis on the Modern UI, a kind of synonym for "get your stuff from our app store". Clearly they can't cut off the desktop cold turkey, but they would love to if they could. In that sense, RT isn't necessarily irrelevant as it's their ideal goal (all apps come from the app store only). Reply
  • name99 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    "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. "

    This is not true. MS COULD try to save the situation by moving Win Phone 8 up, rather than trying to move Win 8 down. Of course this would mean admitting that Apple had the right idea all along, which will be a bitter pill for MS to swallow internally, but easy enough to spin externally: "Customers have told us they love Win Phone 8 so much they would like to experience it on a larger screen..."

    Doing this also helps Win8 by increasing the pool of target devices for developers.

    Of course this IS Microsoft we're talking about, so rather than move forward on a plan like this, with results due this year, we'll get a year of internal fighting over it, then a year of dithering after the decision has been made, and by the time anything ships the world will have moved on and no-one will care anyway.
  • Impulses - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Even tho we may disagree on the value of Surface Pro and whether RT should've happened, I can completely agree with that. They need to make a decision on RT quickly and not drag it out... x86 convertibles could still carve out a market after Silvermount, and there'll always be space at the high end for something like Pro even if it's a niche... But both of those as well as their WP strategy depends on attracting developers, and RT muddles matters a lot.

    If they can absorb a blow like Vista surely they can shuffle RT away in a somewhat timely manner... WP8 tablets don't even need to happen overnight, just don't keeppromoting RT and alienating more customers.
  • kyuu - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    What the hell is the difference between an upscaled Windows Phone and Windows RT? The Win8 start screen basically *is* Windows Phone upscaled. You just also get the benefit of inheriting things from desktop Windows like proper multitasking, a file browser, a device manager, support for lots of USB peripherals and USB thumb drives and so on. The price is a little bloat on the size the OS. Big whoop, especially with USB thumb drive support, microSD, and the progress of storage technology in general.

    We didn't need or want another feature-crippled, upsized smartphone OS. iOS and Android have that covered.
  • name99 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    "The price is a little bloat on the size the OS. Big whoop, especially with USB thumb drive support, microSD, and the progress of storage technology in general."

    You (and the five people who actually bought a Surface RT tablet) might consider that "price" a reasonable tradeoff. The rest of the world does not.
    This is the thing about selling products --- you have to design them based on what the BUYERS consider important, not what YOU consider important.
  • domboy - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    "You (and the five people who actually bought a Surface RT tablet) might consider that "price" a reasonable tradeoff. The rest of the world does not."

    I guess I'm one of those five people, sort of. I also don't want Windows convertible tablets to run a mobile OS... I bought a Surface RT because it was very much like a full desktop OS... though I will admit I wouldn't have if it weren't for the jailbreak. I want to make use of the desktop on RT as well. I would never have given it any consideration if it had been running Windows Phone OS.

    While it is sad that Asus is canceling this product... I don't like where Microsoft is going with Windows RT... i.e. a locked down modern UI only OS. I had hoped that they would open it up more, but it isn't looking good with the 8.1 RT preview. So far that reason, I think Asus is headed in the right direction.
  • Impulses - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    What's the desktop useful for beyond Office tho? Everything else kyuu mentioned is doable on a mobile OS, they don't need full blown Windows on ARM for that... Android already has file managers, USB storage/device support, etc. Multi-tasking on RT is nice but I don't see why that too couldn't work on WP (there's OEM/user takes in the concept on Android...). Blowing away a few GB on the OS is a pretty high price IMO, and RT was headed in that locked seen direction from the start. Reply
  • steven75 - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    The things you keep mentioning simply aren't important to consumers in 2013. Reply

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