Windows RT could be in trouble.
A mounting body of evidence suggests demand for Microsoft's ambitious tablet operating system is fading. Bloomberg News reported on Monday that the software giant is cutting the price on Windows RT for small-sized tablets. And just days earlier, HTC reportedly canceled Windows RT-based tablet.
There's more: Acer Chairman J.T. Wang told The Wall Street Journal this week that Windows RT won't be "influential" and said his company is still unsure about building products for the OS (currently there are only five Windows RT tablets available from major OEMs). And to top it off, market research firm IDC recently reported that only 200,000 Windows RT tablets were shipped worldwide in the first quarter.
[Related: 10 Windows 8 Tablet Apps For Business]
Microsoft isn't about to throw in the white towel, however. The company declined to provide Windows RT license sales and performance metrics, but said it's still committed to the OS as a key element for Microsoft's Windows business.
Along with the reported price cuts, Microsoft introduced a new offer for the month of June that will give free Surface keyboard covers with Windows RT-based Surface tablet purchases; the keyboard covers cost between $120 and $130. Meanwhile, Microsoft also released a new commercial that favorably compares the ASUS VivoTab RT to Apple's iPad.
Still, VARs aren't seeing the demand for Windows RT, and some would like to see Microsoft cut its losses with RT and rally around Windows 8. Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus of Minnetonka, Minn., said Windows RT has some promise but not enough to overcome a lack of apps and Windows RT's identity crisis.
"I've had some folks who've used Windows RT and loved it," Swank said. "But it's not really the Windows experience that people know, and that makes it an uphill battle. I think Microsoft is much better suited with focusing on Windows 8 for tablets."
But other solution providers feel Windows RT still has potential -- and may be the software giant's best shot at competing in the tablet space. Rob Robinson, president and owner of Computer Upgrade King in Midlothian, Va., said he doesn't do any business around Windows RT but believes the OS is a better fit for mobile devices than Windows 8.
"I think Windows RT was a good idea because Microsoft needed something that was lighter and smaller than Windows 8, which requires higher hardware specs and takes up a lot of space," Robinson said. "If Microsoft moves away from ARM and focuses on Windows 8, then that will boost the specs of the tablet and make it more expensive, so Microsoft will have trouble competing against lower-cost Android tablets running on ARM."
PUBLISHED ON JUNE 4, 2013