Take the news today, for example. A new tablet from Microsoft cleared the FCC this week, and it is widely believed to be a new Surface tablet with LTE connectivity. Microsoft had announced last Fall that they were planning to release a Surface 2 tablet with LTE, and in the absence of any other product rumors it's pretty likely that we're looking at the Surface 2.
The Surface 2 tablet runs Windows RT on a 1.7GHz Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core CPU with 2GB RAM, either 32GB or 64 GB storage, and a mciroSD card slot. It has a 10.6" (1920 x 1080) screen, Wifi, Bluetooth, and a pair of cameras. The Wifi model retails for $449, and the LTE is probably going to sell for about $200 more.
If you look at the specs, you might be fooled into thinking that this isn't a bad tablet for the price. It's not a great value, but it has a reasonably powerful CPU, and it does run Windows, right?
Well, not exactly. The thing is, the Surface 2 runs Windows RT, which is probably the worst choice for a tablet OS at the moment. Do you want to know how I can tell it's a bad choice for an OS?
So far as I can tell, no other tablet maker besides Microsoft has a tablet running Windows RT.
Sure, there are any number of tablets running Windows 8, but at this point Microsoft appears to be the only tablet maker who has a Windows RT tablet on the market. Everyone else seems to have either discontinued an RT tablet, avoided a wide release, or never made one at all.
Dell, for example, released the XPS 10 tablet last year, and then cancelled it in September 2013. Samsung had the ATIV Tab, which was only released in the UK but not the US or anywhere else. And then there's Asus, which discontinued the VivoTab RT, citing poor sales.
I could go on, but I think we can see the pattern. (It's almost as if MS held a gun to their heads and forced the tablet makers to use Windows RT at least once.) Other than Microsoft, no one is making a Windows RT tablet for the simple reason that consumers don't want to buy one. And now that I own one myself, I can completely understand why.
Microsoft's $449 second-gen Windows RT tablet is competing against $300 and $400 Windows 8 tablets that not only run the same apps as on the Surface and cost less, they can also run apps which can't run on Windows RT.
The RT in Windows RT stands for Reduced Technology (it does not mean Really Terrible), which means that users are reduced to only using the tech which Microsoft allows. In this case, users can only install apps which were developed specifically for Windows RT - and not any earlier version of Windows.
Windows 8, on the other hand, doesn't have this limitation. You can install Windows 7 apps if you like.
With that in mind, is it any surprise that consumers are choosing to buy a Windows 8 tablet (or an Android tablet) and not a tablet running Windows RT?
I don't think so, but apparently MS thinks they will. How much do you want to bet they're wrong?
P.S. MS has a pattern of bullying their major partners into supporting every single one of Microsoft's bad ideas. Remember the many all-in-one desktop PCs released in 2012 and early 2013, or the UMPC? Those were a few of Microsoft's earlier brilliant ideas; how well did they work out?