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What is Windows RT?

Pre-orders have begun for the Microsoft Windows RT tablet. However, the Windows 8 tablets are not yet available. But wait… isn’t Windows RT windows 8? Well, yes, sort of.

You see, Windows RT is a version of Windows 8 created to run on ARM devices, such as tablets and phones. These are low power consuming chips created specifically to be optimized for these devices. These are the same chips used for the plethora of Android tablets out there. Now, that being said, it is indeed Windows 8 and will be exceptionally similar for most users, but there are some key features that you should be aware will only be in the full Windows 8, which will come out on the Intel based tablets due out soon. The missing features are:

1. Windows Media Player will not be present in RT
2. Windows Media Center will not be present in RT
3. HomeGroup creation is not possible in RT
4. Domain join is not possible in RT

To go up a level, it is critical to understand that the RT version is not compatible with prior versions of Windows, and the only apps you can run on it are those that come with it, and those you purchase through the Windows App Store. Much like an Android or iPad (which each require you to purchase apps through an app store). If you want to run specific applications you have purchased for existing Windows PC’s or laptops, you will need a full Windows 8 device, not the RT.

But, what makes this a compelling device to me are two simple things:
1. The keyboard cover. Sure, you can type on the screen, but if you are doing anything that requires quick and frequent changes from letters to numbers, or simply a lot of text, a keyboard can be a life saver. And one that acts as a cover and folds out of the way when you don’t need it is a fantastic idea.
2. The inclusion of the Home and Student version of Office 2013.

For me, item #2 is what turns this into a personal productivity power house instead of just a media consumption too. I have a Kindle Fire. I have an iPad. They do some things well, and I use them both. However, when I need to work on a document, or edit a spreadsheet, it is Microsoft Word and Excel I want. Period. And this device is the ONLY one that brings that.

They had me at ‘Office 2013’.

It is not a perfect device, and it is not the device Microsoft has created for seamless integration to a work environment. That will be the full Windows 8 devices. But those will be heavier, thicker, and have less battery life most likely. This is the perfect middle ground for me – a device that can do all of those nice media consumption pieces AND lets me to the real stuff I need to do in the way I want to do it when productivity time comes around. I’m not buying it for Angry Birds (though I’m sure it will be available). It is all about Office for me, combined with the new Windows 8 interface, which I believe to be optimal for mobile tablet computing. Yes, I like the live tiles.

Keep in mind, no Outlook here. It has an email client, and of course you can use Internet Explorer for the fully fleshed out Outlook Web Access experience (again, only on a Windows device can you use OWA the way it was meant to be used) but it is not going to have Outlook. Why? Because, that is a full business solution and that is NOT what Microsoft has positioned this device for. Again, that will be an application you can buy (no Office apps will be included with full Windows 8 devices) and install on the Windows 8 device.

All in all, it appears that the Windows RT device is a compromise device (in a good way). It will do a few things exceptionally well that no other device can do and do everything else just fine. It is those things (Office application use and keyboard) that make this perfect for me. It is a true personal productivity device. Full on business productivity will be full Windows 8 devices, but that is not what I am looking for. Use a laptop or a desktop for heavy computing. This is on the go, document viewing and editing goodness, as well as access to email and all the types of content you could want.

I like the RT device as a nice middle ground between what will ultimately be the Windows 8 ultra books (with detachable screen – aka tablets) and the current bevy of useful but not perfect tablets.

Buy one or don’t, but always continue to practice
Happy Computing!
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