At the Dell World conference in Austin last week, Dell’s vice-chairman and President of its PC business, Jeffrey Clarke, said that he strongly advised Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer not to include the name “Windows” with the new Windows RT OS, despite its similar look and feel.
The reason was that customers might be misled into thinking that native Windows applications could run on the new ARM-based tablets running Windows RT. Mr. Clarke’s revelation of his earlier warning strangely sounds very much like an “I told you so!’
Apparently that warning seems to have been prophetic in hindsight as Microsoft has had to relax its return policies to accommodate users returning heir Surface RT tablets because they do not run their favorite Windows applications.
Mr. Clarke said that Ballmer had responded that the Windows brand was too important a franchise to not be used with Windows RT.
Hopefully, this does not turn into a full-fledged public relations debacle for Microsoft as relaxed return policies are a clue that the return rate may be significant enough to require policy changes.
To make matters murkier, Intel will have a new low-power Atom processor that is legacy- or x86 compatible, giving new tablets built with it the ability to run native Windows applications. Thus there will effectively be 3 processor choices for Windows tablets – the ARM, the Atom, and traditional Intel chips e.g., Core i5 and i7.
Earlier, there were many reports that Microsoft has cut orders from its OEMs for Surface RTs, giving more indications of soft demand. In January, the picture will become clearer as to Surface RT sales. If it doesn’t, we should be even more concerned.
The implications are particularly important in the enterprise where Windows native capabilities matter to a lot of firms, even in the era of BYOD (“bring-your-own-device”). Lacking the ability to run native x86 Windows applications Surface RT has to get in the same line as other tablets with no special consideration given.