Windows RT is a dog. We’ve been saying that from the beginning. We weren’t alone. It’s very hard to find a positive review of Windows RT, and more specifically, the nine-month-old Microsoft Surface with RT. And now Microsoft, in its latest earnings report, finally revealed that we were right.
The company took a massive $900M writedown last quarter because of unsold Surface RT’s. Even more telling is that Microsoft actually revealed this loss. It’s that big. The company had to tell investors why it didn’t meet Wall Street’s expectations.
Sadly, the Surface RT hardware is not at fault here. The tablet itself is actually a beautiful machine: sleek, solid and downright stunning. It’s hard to pick one up and not be impressed. The Surface RT’s designers and engineers should be proud of their creation. It’s not their fault.
Windows RT should not exist as a consumer-facing product. It’s a reactionary move against the iPad and the multitude of Android tablets flooding the market. It’s Microsoft punching down where it should have just walked away from the fight. While Intel is quickly bringing most of the advantages of ARM chips to its x86 line, Microsoft decided it couldn’t wait and built a product that ignored Windows’ main advantages of legacy software. The Surface RT was sadly part of the ecosystem that is predictably failing.
The Surface product line was a big risk for Microsoft. The company went all-in on a PC for the very first time. And in a way, it was successful. The Surface RT and Pro brought a lot of attention to Windows 8 tablets — much more attention than HP, Dell, or Samsung could have provided. The striking product line put a lot of consumer electronic companies on notice, especially since Microsoft — historically a software-first outfit — took on the task of creating their own first-rate hardware. These tablets are the standard for Windows 8 tablets even if it’s clear after today’s news that they failed to live up to Microsoft’s expectations.
Without the Surface Pro and RT, the Windows 8 tablet world would be as stale and lifeless as Windows 8 laptops.
All signs point to a new Surface line being announced in the coming weeks. And even with today’s news, it’s entirely possible that Microsoft will release a second generation Surface RT with a starting price point much lower. If anything, Microsoft is a company that does whatever the hell it wants even if no one is buying the products.