Top 10 biggest drawbacks of Windows RT

While Microsoft is spending a small fortune promoting its next-generation Windows 8 operating system, it also has another new operating system called Windows RT, which will actually power the company's Surface tablet and a few other devices.

Microsoft's Surface tablet doesn't run on Windows 8; it runs on Windows RT.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET )

Superficially, the operating systems look and feel the same. But Windows RT is designed for devices running on ARM chips, which are used to power smartphones and tablets, and are also considered more power-efficient.

Windows RT is more like "Windows Lite" than a full-blown update to the operating system. It's Microsoft's attempt to make a controlled environment, similar to Apple's iOS, and means that Windows RT has some big limitations, compared with Windows 8.

If you're thinking of buying a Windows RT device, there are a few things you should consider. Here's CNET

1. Flash only works on approved sites

Think you'll be able to watch all those Flash-based videos using your new RT computer? Well, think again. Flash will only run on sites approved by Microsoft. Lucky for you, CNET is one of them.

2. So-called legacy apps — the traditional programs for older versions of Windows — won't run on Windows RT

This includes some pretty popular offerings, like iTunes and Adobe Photoshop, and web browsers, like Google Chrome. And forget about playing some of the top games. World of Warcraft and Call of Duty, among others, aren't currently offered.

Of course, this could all change tomorrow, but for now, these apps aren't available.

3. Apps can only be purchased through the Windows Store

If you think you can buy software at any retailer, think again. Windows 8 software won't work on Windows RT devices, neither will software purchased from places other than the Windows Store. That's similar to how Apple limits iPhone and iPad purchases to its iTunes Store. Android, however, can be enabled to install apps not purchased in Google's Play store.

Another confusing factor is that Microsoft will offer games in the Windows Store, as well as on the Xbox Games app.

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET )

4. The apps that are available are pretty limited

Microsoft has said that it expects more than 100,000 apps in its Windows Store by the end of January, but it's a long, long way from that level right now. Microsoft declined to provide CNET with an updated number, but said earlier this month that it had "thousands" of apps available.

Wes Miller, vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft, said earlier this month that there were about 4300 Windows Store apps at that time. Miller, who monitors the Store total using publicly available information, expects there to be "well over" 5000 apps on launch day.

5. Even some traditional Microsoft programs won't work with Windows RT

Outlook is one of those, and Windows Media Player is another.

6. You can only get Windows RT already bundled on a device

And that product has to use a processor from Qualcomm, Nvidia or Texas Instruments. No more "Intel Inside" for these devices. And you won't be able to upgrade your old PC to Windows RT. You'll have to choose Windows 8 instead, or buy an entirely new device.

7. Windows RT will have a desktop mode, but it will be restricted to pre-installed, Microsoft-produced software

That includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. You won't see other desktop applications when you visit the Windows Store. Also, if you don't want Office, for some reason, you're out of luck. It comes pre-installed

8. For business users, Windows RT is less than ideal

All those traditional applications you use won't work, and Windows RT licensing is for home and student use only. This means that you have to buy a commercial license to use Windows RT's Office apps for work. And while Office is pre-installed, it doesn't include Outlook.

9. The number of Windows RT devices is pretty limited

Currently, only four companies have plans to launch Windows RT products, and they're all limited to one product each. That has a lot to do with Microsoft's strategy and close supervision over the devices. You'll see PCs and tablets from Lenovo and Asus that run on Nvidia chips, and devices from Dell and Samsung that use Qualcomm processors. Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba, two other companies in the initial program, dropped their plans for Windows RT devices.

10. Overall, Windows RT vs. Windows 8 is pretty darn confusing

Microsoft hasn't done the best job in explaining the differences, and many consumers are likely to buy RT only to find out they don't have the full functionality of Windows 8.


Add Your Comment 11

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Vacuous posted a comment   

I am not sure I have seen a more assinine list...

1. In the equivalent OSes of the same ilk from competitors, Flash doesn't work AT ALL

2. Windows RT never purported to run legacy apps. RT is the Windows analogue of iOS. New architecture, ergo new OS, ergo new apps need to be written.

3. As has been pointed out by others, there are no such complaints about iOS

4. Name me one platform that has started fresh with thousands of native apps. The important thing here is the kind of apps that are available. The BlackBerry Playbook is lambasted for not having the likes of Skype or Netflix, but I feel those are available here. I understand that there are not many apps, but for Australian customers, perhaps you could detail what apps you wanted but couldn't find? After all, it's about functionality, not about quantity. Not rhetorical: what apps were a glaring omission?

6. I can't install iOS on my Macbook Air, either

7. Considering that MS want the Metro (or whatever) interface as the primary driver, the desktop probably shouldn't have been included at all. But it's been fairly common knowledge that if you want to use the desktop, get Win 8 Pro

8. Doesn't WIn 8 have mail and calendar clients? Can these be synced with Exchange? As for support for work apps, maybe that'll come in time? You know, when the OS isn't brand spanking new? Pre orders for the Surface seem strong, which means developers may well be enticed to write apps for RT...

9. So MS wants to properly control hardware being used for RT? So... you prefer the so-called fragmentation of Android?

10. Are you a tech journalist? Or are you speaking from a customer's point of view? Because I think for your audience here, it's pretty clear the difference between the two platforms. I'll concede that maybe regular, non tech people off the street may get mixed up, but I find those kinds are buying iPads anyway.


LeighW posted a comment   

Did people reporting on Windows RT vs Windows 8 miss the Microsoft announcements back at CES? I don't think its that confusing...

Windows 8 is Microsofts unified OS Windows RT is their specific attempt to bring ARM into the Windows eco system. There are the natural limitations of not being able to run programs designed for x86 on Windows RT but from now on all new programs developed for the new Windows 8 platform in mind will work across the entire eco system... am I missing something???

the vast majority of tech journalists i've read seem to have very different opinions on what Windows RT is...


thesorehead posted a comment   

So... the biggest drawback of Windows RT is that it's not Windows 8?

I would say that the single biggest drawback of Windows RT is that it's not called "Windows Slate" or "Windows Metro". Something that anybody can associate specifically with the new UI and tablet expectations. Because as a tablet OS it seems to be really quite good, it's just that the name doesn't do anything to help manage that expectation.


anphong posted a comment   

"3. Apps can only be purchased through the Windows Store".

So do we equivalently complain that apps for the iPhone and iPad can only be purchased from the Apple App Store???

I think another article should be written to address the confusion created from the article above???


anphong posted a comment   

And the iPad can't use all those programs from the Apple MacBooks???


anphong posted a comment   

10. Overall, Windows RT vs. Windows 8 is pretty darn confusing.

And iPad to Mac is pretty darn confusing too???


jbray posted a comment   

Bah, I haven't really been taking much notice of Microsoft's attempts at phones and tablets, but lately thought the surface might be good because it's tablet size with a keyboard cover etc., but then since reading that it is a separate OS and doesn't run normal programs, can't really see the point. Next. Maybe just look for a standard ultrabook running normal Windows 8, if that's what it's called.


trebor83 posted a reply   

So what you want to do is wait for the Surface Pro to be released in the New Year. It is essentially the same only Windows 8, i5, 1080p screen, 4 gb RAM. It slightly heavier and thicker as a result of course and will probably set you back $1500


trebor83 posted a comment   

I can't elp feeling the biggest question about WinRT actually has nothing to do with it.

Ultimately, if the new Clovertrail, or Hondo, powered devices can provide a comparable experience on a similar range of fuctions (Office, Web Browsing, Win8 apps, media playback) while offering, at least, limited backwards compatibility with legacy software, the purpose of RT becomes really questionable.

Given that thing like the Lenovo Lynx and Acer W510 (just as the first 2 examples i could find stats on) are around the same size, weight and price as an iPad, and the manufacturers are claiming similar battery life, using Clover Trail and AMD are telling us that on similar devices with Hondo we will be able to play Call of Duty (if only just). If these products pan out then I think RT is a dead end.

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