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

  • boozed - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Which I find to be a bit of a shame because I think the Surface Pro is a good product, it's just not where the tablet market is. Reply
  • kyuu - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Which is fine, looking at it from the point of view of a consumer (instead of being an armchair CEO like most commenters). Another upsized smartphone OS on a tablet wouldn't have been interesting. If the only choices were iOS, Android, or Windows RT, I'd choose Windows RT any day. With full Windows 8 tablets on the market, it's understandable that Windows RT really isn't getting any traction. Especially now that Intel and AMD silicon will provide superior performance to any ARM solution with comparable battery life. Reply
  • steven75 - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Even with the pitiful app selection? Even iOS has had a full touch-based office suite for 3 years now. Reply
  • jwcalla - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    I hear a lot of criticism about Windows RT failures but has the Surface Pro fared appreciably better? Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    One device vs one whole range of devices. Not quite a good comparison. Reply
  • chizow - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Surface Pro received a lot of criticism for it's high price, but it's utility and functionality is generally regarded as a success because it runs full x86/x64 Windows and all associated apps, and also opens some new usage patterns with the pen digitizer and tablet/typepad hybrid.

    RT on the other hand also has a high price (relative to Android), but the OS leaves it very limited in the apps and software it can run.
  • dolph0291 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    I don't know why Surface Pro proponents always point to the keyboard as something new, or a new way to use a tablet. ALL iPads and many Android tablets have keyboards available. The iPad in particular has many. So how is the ability to buy a keyboard to attach to a Surface Pro anything except old news? Besides, no one will ever convince me that a 10" screen is ideal for editing spreadsheets (the code phrase is "get real work done" or "be productive") or that tapping Windows File and other menus with a stylus on a 10" screen is anything but annoying and a waste of time. Reply
  • Impulses - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    A keyboard is more of a gimmick for an Android/iOS tablet... And I say that after living with an OG Transformer + dock for two years, I actually like the complete package and I'd buy it again if I were going back in time (got a good deal on it back then), but I wouldn't buy a similar package today. Sure it's useful to have a keyboard to answer emails etc... But at the end of the day if you need to get some work done or do any real amount of content creation then the ecosystem on iOS/Android just isn't conducive to it.

    OTOH you can definitely do anything you can do on a regular laptop on Surface Pro... I'm right there with you tho, I agree it's far from comfortable or ideal... But a lot of highly mobile consumers will take that tradeoff in order to carry one device instead of two. Plus you can always hook up Surface Pro to a real keyboard and a large display, very easily.

    Surface RT is flawed for the time being, whereas Surface Pro is simply more of a niche product and/or a tough value proposition for many, but also a perfect solution for some.
  • name99 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    "I agree it's far from comfortable or ideal... But a lot of highly mobile consumers will take that tradeoff in order to carry one device instead of two."

    There's an awful lot of dreaming and wishing in this claim.
    Mobile (and non-mobile) consumers ALREADY carry two devices --- a phone and a laptop. For your argument to work you have to show that either
    - the laptop is so extra heavy and large (even a good Ultrabook or MBA) that people would rather suffer the lower productivity of trying to do their work on a tablet OR
    - the tablety things they want to do (play games? watch movies?) don't work well on their phones. And remember as you play this game that, if a large screen on a phone matters to them, they can buy a phone with a variety of large screens.

    Heck even if you still believe there is some space in between the phone and the laptop (maybe you really like reading eBooks?), for most use cases that can be filled by one of the really light 7" tablets --- iPad mini or equivalents, or even a classic Kindle. Those things are cheap to cheap as dirt, and very small and light.

    This fantasy that people would prefer a single crappy device rather than three different devices which each do their job well JUST because, yay single device, is precisely the delusion that has destroyed Microsoft. It represents a complete misunderstanding of compute history, compute present, and human nature. (It's actually VERY similar to IBM imagining that PCs would not threaten mainframes but would act as terminals to them because, yay, single device...)
  • Impulses - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    I agree with you that the vast majority of people are better off with two (or three) discrete devices... But there IS a market for Surface Pro and several people even amongst these article's comments have voiced that. It might be a niche market but it does exist. Students, writers, and generally anyone that never stands still can benefit from carrying something like the Pro vs an Air and a small tablet... And it isn't even about the weight/space factor at times, more about having all your stuff in one place with a semi contiguous experience, or seamlessly go from reading to annotating or from taking notes to leisure, etc. Reply

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