In a move that’s likely to surprise…well, just about no one, the Wall Street Journal reports that ASUS will cease making Windows RT tablets. Windows RT is basically stuck in limbo between full Windows 8 (and 8.1) laptops and hybrid devices on the high-end and Android tablets on the low-end, and the market appears to be giving a clear thumbs down to the platform. Many critics have also noted the lack of compelling applications to compete with Android and iOS platforms, which is something we noted in our review of the VivoTab RT last year.

This morning, ASUS Chief Executive Jerry Shen stated, “It's not only our opinion, the industry sentiment is also that Windows RT has not been successful.” Citing weak sales and the need to take a write-down on its Windows RT tablets in the second quarter, ASUS will be focusing its energies on more productive devices. Specifically, Shen goes on to state that ASUS will only make Windows 8 devices using with Intel processors, thanks to the backwards compatibility that provides—and something Windows RT lacks.

It looks like many feel towards Windows RT similar to how they feel towards Windows Phone 8. As Vivek put it in our recent Nokia Lumia 521 review, “Microsoft cannot expect to gain back market share after this many years unless they’re willing to aggressively ramp their development cycle the way Google did with Android a few years ago—something they have thus far shown no indications of doing. They just haven’t iterated quickly enough, and I can’t think of a single time when I picked up a Windows Phone and thought it was feature competitive with Android and iOS. It’s not even because I use Google services; there are just a number of things that are legitimately missing from the platform.”

The situation with ASUS ditching Windows RT (at least for the near future) reminds me of what we saw with the netbook space several years ago. ASUS had some great initial success with the first Eee PC, and then just about every manufacturer came out with a similar netbook…and most of them failed. Couple that with a stagnating platform (Atom still isn’t much faster now than it was when it first appeared, though the next Silvermont version will likely address this), and most of the netbook manufacturers have moved on to greener pastures. Specifically, we’re talking about Android tablets, and while most companies didn’t stop making Android products to try out Windows RT devices, we will likely see fewer next-gen Windows RT devices and more next-gen Android tablets in the next year or two. With Haswell showing potential to compete head-to-head with tablets for battery life, more lucrative Haswell-based tablets running full copies of Windows 8.1 look far more promising than RT.

Of course, long-term the story for Windows RT is far from over. Microsoft needs Windows RT or they are locked out of a huge market. They can't expect to compete with $300-$400 tablets that use ARM processors ($10-$35 per SoC, give or take) and run an OS that's basically free with tablets that need Core i3 or faster chips ($100+) and a full copy of Windows 8.1. Right now they're losing this battle, with fewer quality applications and far fewer hardware options. ASUS might not be carrying the flag for Windows RT, but if no one else will then Microsoft will have to carry the torch on their own. The next Windows Surfact RT will try to do just that, whenever it turns up, and certainly Silvermont will help provide a better x86 alternative to the current Atom processors.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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  • DanNeely - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Can't say I'm surprised. For about the same price you can get an 11" atom based slate that is about as fast as the fastest arm based tablets (and much better than the tegra3 based winRT tablets being ignored on the marketplace), will last about as long on battery, and can also run traditional windows apps if paired with a keydock. Intel's success in improving standby/idle power levels destroyed the potential market niche for win 8RT.

    If metro apps are able to almost fully displace traditional windows apps then Win9 RT might make sense at the very low end segment of the market but that would come down to relative hardware performance levels between A57 and atom-2015 processors and the only people with enough knowledge to make informed speculations about this work for the chip makers and and snarled in NDAs.
  • Impulses - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Wasn't that kinda the not so subtle point of Windows RT tho? To force Intel's hand as far as pricing and Atom's update schedule (or lack thereof)... Even if RT ends up being an utter failure (tbh I'd be surprised if they put out a second ARM Surface), it still accomplished Microsoft's goal. I'm sure they'd take that half loss/half win if it means cheaper/faster x86 tablets in the end. I doubt they were ever gonna recoup the very low end of the market, sub $300's gone forever at this point.
  • DanNeely - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    MS didn't need to blow almost a billion on unsold Surface RT tablets to make the threat. Just by it existing they've made that point. IF they'd done a better job of matching supply to demand and could point to a modest profit from the project even if it's market share was still miniscule their standing would be much stronger than the current situation where everyone is snickering about how badly they screwed up.
  • skiboysteve - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Even if winRT failed in sales it is a success.

    the point if it was to point a gun at Intel. Mission accomplished. Ms can go back to leaning on Intel innovation again.

    trust me, when MS told Intel about winRT years ago, they reacted. Even if sales failed... The roadmap of Intel now, and Intel products on the shelf now, wouldn't be the same without winRT.
  • sixmemos - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    Those are some pretty rose-colored glasses sir. Microsoft wrote off nearly $1B last quarter in to account for RT's sales failure, to "point a gun"?

    The gun at Intel's head was already cocked, loaded, and discharged, not by MS, but by iOS and Android.
  • chizow - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    "The gun at Intel's head was already cocked, loaded, and discharged, not by MS, but by iOS and Android."

    And ARM, but I think he does have somewhat of a point. Both MS and Intel were hedging their bets and peeking under the kimono of the other's main competition. ARM for Microsoft, and Android for Intel. By doing so, both showed they weren't going to be completely reliant on the other anymore, breaking the WIntel monopoly.

    I think Microsoft still has work to do, Intel's task is much easier (already plans to run Android on it's Atom Bay Trail SoCs). Microsoft really needs to put a TON of money into RT development to get all those Android and iOS makers to port their apps to RT, or it's going to be game over.

    Either that, or have some type of emulated version of x86/x64 Windows 8.1 running on their ARM powered surfaces.
  • boozed - Friday, August 9, 2013 - link

    "Microsoft really needs to put a TON of money into RT development to get all those Android and iOS makers to port their apps to RT, or it's going to be game over."

    Then it is game over, since they tried that, and failed.
  • Impulses - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Why bother, it's not like they're every gonna give Windows RT away for free... They're never gonna be able to compete with the low end tablets like a Nexus 7 (much less the cheaper off brand stuff)... Silvermount/Win 8 devices should be able to fight those off and carve out their own space in the market below ultrabooks/Surface Pro and above ARM's assault, although I guess for that to work in the long run you still need a healthy Metro ecosystem. I'd cut RT off before long tho, it's simplify things so much... If they ever do want to move into the low end tablet space they can just do it thru WP.
  • nofumble62 - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    Win8 emulation on an ARM? who has the patience, beside does it has enough memory needed for Window?.
  • Krysto - Saturday, August 10, 2013 - link

    $1 billion RT loss (so far), $1 billion Surface Pro loss (so far), and $1 billion Surface advertising loss (so far).

    The losses are much bigger than they make them seem to be.

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