Microsoft’s Corporate VP for Windows Julie Larson-Green was at WIRED’s Business Conference today, and she was put on the spot when asked by interviewer and WIRED Senior Editor Michael V. Copeland about the apparently sluggish start for Windows RT. RT’s failure is a consumer education problem, according to Larson-Green, since it’s very different from what’s come before.
Windows RT, for those unfamiliar or confused by the new familial breakdown of Windows following the introduction of version 8, is a lightweight version designed for ARM-powered devices (vs. x86, the architecture which full Windows OS runs on), which doesn’t offer access to the full suite of Windows software. According to our own Matt Burns, that has resulted in a big app gap, and made the Surface RT essentially a glorified web browsing tablet, which sounds like something different from a simple matter of properly framing the product.
“I think we have some work to do on explaining it to people because it’s different,” Larson-Green said. “They’re just so used to Windows meaning backward compatibility in all the programs that you use today. I use Surface RT as my main computing device, I connect to a corporate network using my virtual smart card and VPN when I need to, Office is already on there [...] it’s just a simpler experience and then the Surface Pro has the flexibility if you want to work on the details.”
“I love my Surface RT,” was a common refrain from Larson-Green even into the Q&A, who later characterized it as a device for casual consumption mostly, especially filling a niche for “weekend” use. Even the dual nature of her defense of the Microsoft tablet shows that it still needs work at Microsoft itself in terms of fleshing out its role in the consumer ecosystem, which probably isn’t helping the company properly explain its purpose to the buying public.
The Surface RT is estimated to have sold only around 1 million units total since its launch late in 2012, far under its reported initial estimates of 3 million or so. Other OEMs have balked at the RT line in the meantime, with Acer waiting on launching its RT slate until at least Q2 of this year.