Six things you should know about Windows RT

By Mark Hachman Published Date
25 - Oct - 2012
| Last Updated
25 - Oct - 2012
Six things you should know about Windows RT

When Microsoft launches Windows 8 on Oct. 26, Redmond and its partners will begin selling Windows RT hardware at the same time. What Microsoft hasn't really communicated is that Windows RT is essentially a separate operating system with different features, quirks, benefits, and limitations.

RT is still somewhat of a mystery; OEMs have allowed reviewers to play around with RT tablets that they've showed off at trade shows like IFA, but formal reviews will have to wait. Will there be a deluge of Windows RT reviews before the hardware launches, or will consumers just have to figure it out on their own? It's a great question, and one that hopefully will be resolved soon.

But the bottom line is that Windows 8 apps won't necessarily run on Windows RT. RT apps will have to be downloaded from the Microsoft Store, which isn't nearly as onerous as one might have thought a few years ago: Apple's own app store takes the same tack. But how many apps, and the quality of those apps, is an open question. It may be that users simply don't care. It seems like the majority of time consumers spend on a PC is connected to the Internet, anyway, so that all a Windows RT user is going to want will be a Web browser. For those who want to edit video or perform CAD renders, there's always Windows 8. But Microsoft has positioned Windows RT as a consumer operating system, anyway, so those concerns may be minor. We certainly know that Microsoft has priced the Surface tablet with Windows RT at $499, which some have deemed too expensive.

In any event, here are several things you'll need to know if you're considering Windows RT.

Lack of Windows 8 Apps: Windows RT is its own unique operating system. Yes, it shares quite a bit with Windows 8, but you won't be able to run legacy apps on the OS. The "Metro" apps you will use are only available from the Microsoft Store. Fortunately, there will be quite a lot of overlap between Windows 8 and Windows RT apps, meaning that a Windows 8 app will likely be available in a Windows RT flavor, too. But how many there will be is anyone's guess.


Microsoft Store: If you want to download third-party apps, there's only one place to find them: the Microsoft Store. Microsoft does this for security's sake, as well as the ability to promote certain apps.


Locked to the Hardware: Don't expect to be able to buy and install Windows RT yourself (although a leaked build might emerge). Instead, you'll have to buy it on dedicated hardware, like Microsoft's Surface with Windows RT tablet.


ARM: Likewise (and this ties with the previous two slides) Windows RT will run on the ARM chip, which isn't compatible with x86.


Looks Just Like Windows 8 - Almost: As far as the "Metro" interface is concerned, Windows RT and Windows 8 are nearly identical. The difference is this is as deep as Windows RT goes - while there are options for the traditional "desktop" interface of Windows 8, they're essentially limited to Paint and Notepad.


Microsoft Office: A "preview" version of Office that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, will ship as an integral part of Windows RT. No, Outlook isn't included. It will be replaced by the permanent, final version of Office when that is released next year.



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