Will you choose Windows 8 or Windows RT for your next Windows device?

While it was nice to hear all of their future Windows message in one place, the keynote left me thinking about different scenarios for Windows 8 on x86 versus Windows RT on ARM devices.

Windows 8 was the focus of the Microsoft TechEd keynote yesterday. While it was nice to hear all of their future Windows message in one place, the keynote left me thinking about different scenarios for Windows 8 on x86 versus Windows RT on ARM devices. Since by now you’ve probably already read dozens of articles about both of those and all their features, for now I’m just going to concentrate on what does and doesn’t matter when comparing the two.

Things that don’t matter

First off: form factor. There are tons of x86 Windows 8 devices that don’t have keyboards and feel like sleek tablets. And there also (though fewer) Windows RT devices that have keyboards and mice and feel like laptops. The messaging from TechEd was that the wide network of OEMs will ensure that Windows devices will be any type of hardware you can imagine. It’s true that Windows RT ARM devices will tend towards the my tablet-like end of the spectrum, but there are enough small and light Windows 8 x86 tablets to make this a moot point. (All this, by the way, is great for people who want the line between tablet and notebook to be blurry—and since there were no touch-enabled MacBooks or new types iPads at the Apple World Wide Developer Conference this week, Windows is going to be the only way to blur that line for the time being.)

What about energy consumption and processing power? Traditionally the commonly-held knowledge stated x86 devices were more powerful but had shorter battery life and that ARM devices were the opposite. Now, however, there are plenty of long-life x86 Windows 8 devices out there, so this isn’t too much of an issue anymore.

Things that do matter

So what questions do matter? First, do you want to run Windows 7 apps? If so, the answer of course is Windows 8 on x86. But when you remember that there’s going to be a version of Office for Windows RT, that leaves a much smaller pool of devices that would need to be able to run Windows 7 applications.

The final question comes down to management. Windows RT devices will be managed similar to the way that mobile devices will are managed, while x86 Windows 8 devices will be managed like traditional Windows desktops. The result is that how these new Windows devices are managed has nothing to do with their form factor. And that means that—aside from any need for Windows 7 applications—the determining factor for whether you choose Windows 8 or Windows RT will be how you want to manage the device. This also means that users who want touch-based devices and IT admins that want to manage them like traditional PCs will both be happy.

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Neither.  I will cling to Windows 7 until Microsoft fixes their gross Win8 lapses in judgement or until a suitable replacement comes from another vendor that delivers a better experience than Win7 can provide.  If Windows XP's product lifecycle is any indication, I have another 14 years to wait before I HAVE to make a decision...


@Dave, It is interesting, I've been playing with using Windows 8 and I've found that it is actually working quite well for me, but not in the way that I expected. Frankly, using a mouse with the Windows 8 Start Screen sucks, but it turns out that the keyboard works quite well. There's a bit of a learning curve, but here's my tips for a usable experience:

- Make sure you pin your commonly-used applications to the task bar. This provides a nice convenient way to launch them without going to the start screen.

- If you want to launch an application that isn't pinned then press the Windows key and start typing the application name. If multiple applications match then you can choose between them with the arrow keys. Windows 8 will reorder the search results so that your commonly-launched applications are listed first so for example to launch Outlook I can type something like Win, O, U, T, Enter. You could use the same method of Windows 7, but the search was slower - on Windows 8 it is instant which makes this a very effective way of launching apps, especially if you are already using the keyboard.

- Also remember some of the shortcut keys, particularly Win+D which will take you directly back to the desktop from wherever you are.

I'm still just trying it out, but so far it seems like if you can get used to doing things that way then it might actually be a very effective system. It also is far from obvious that that's an effective way to use the system - it would be very easy to just use the mouse to go to the start screen and choose your applications to launch and get very frustrated by how it doesn't work as well as Windows 7.

It will be interesting to see how thing whole thing pans out for Microsoft and what changes they make with the RTM version. One thing that currently annoys me is that the metro-style apps don't work well with a mouse any keyboard at the moment. Hopefully they make some improvements there like how they make the start screen work better with a mouse between the consumer preview and the release preview. I can see how it could be a huge failure or a huge success for them and I wouldn't want to try to call it at this point.

On the other question of Windows RT vs Windows 8, unless Windows RT devices are cheap enough for people to have a Windows RT tablet plus a Windows 8 laptop I can't see a big market for them. The lack of support for traditional Windows applications is too limiting for a primary device for all but a small niche and the rumors about pricing suggest that for many people they won't be cheap enough to justify as a secondary device.

To say that the way they are managed will be the determining factor doesn't seem right to me. Very few if any organizations could standardize on Windows RT - the choice is either to support Windows 8 and Windows RT or to just support Windows 8.


Windows RT - is that the new "Windows Really Terrible" version?


A dockable, tranformable Windows 8 RT device running Citrix could be the go to replace laptop trying to be a thin client and thinclient ont he desk for reduced device count and better portability without all the non business appery of the iPad and android devices and better management as well.


Definitely not an RT tablet for me, as I need something domain connected (compliance regulations and all).  I am really hoping for a dockable tablet that's like a larger version of my brother's ASUS transformer prime.  I'd like to be able to dock to my large monitors/keyboard/mouse when I'm at my desk, but then undock and take it to meetings to replace my paper notebook.  I'm okay with the company paying a little more, because then I wouldn't need a laptop + iPad like we're doing for a lot of employees.  Why carry extra devices?


it comes down to price point, we'll see what's announced today!