Does This Mean Microsoft Windows RT Is Dead?

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Sometimes at big tech events, what's not there can be as important as what is there. That was certainly true at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, where the notable absence of 3-D TVs signaled the death of that overhyped trend.

Computex Taipei -- the biggest PC trade show in Asia -- is under way right now. When viewed as a whole, Asian OEMs now dominate the PC industry (three of the top five PC vendors are based in Asia), so Computex is a staging ground for the latest and greatest products making their way to market. On display is a wide range of PCs from Lenovo, ASUS, and Acer, among many others, sporting all imaginable form factors as OEMs search for the next popular device category.

What's absent? Microsoft Windows RT.

The controversial platform was featured prominently at last year's Computex, running a wide range of devices powered by different ARM-based chips. Since then, criticism about Windows RT's dubious strategic positioning has mounted, and sales have been uninspiring.

Instead, devices are predominantly running on Intel's latest Haswell chips, which mostly negate Windows RT's whole purpose to begin with. Haswell's strong power efficiency gains in Windows 8 devices give consumers one less reason to consider Windows RT tablets.

It could just be a matter of timing, though. Some manufacturers are reportedly just waiting for Qualcomm's newest Snapdragon chip, which should also offer support for the upcoming Windows RT 8.1. Qualcomm is one of the remaining two chip makers powering Windows RT, following Texas Instruments' high-profile exit last year.

The other is NVIDIA, which feels particularly confident competing with Qualcomm powering Windows. I recently spoke with NVIDIA Vice President of Investor Relations Rob Csongor, and he made it clear why: Qualcomm has far less software experience with making Windows drivers. Many of Qualcomm's advantages in smartphones don't translate into the tablet market.

Microsoft continues to use Office as a strategic weapon, though, as Office remains the gold standard among productivity software. The software giant is now adding Outlook RT to the Office RT suite as part of the update to 8.1. Microsoft says that Office is the single most important software feature for 61% of prospective tablet buyers, citing a Morgan Stanley research study.

Office is a key software suite that Microsoft has withheld from Apple's iOS platform thus far, in a strategic move to undermine the Mac maker's productivity capabilities. Microsoft's recent ad against the iPad calls out the absence of PowerPoint -- which Microsoft has never released for iOS.

Windows RT may not be dead quite yet, as OEMs are probably just waiting before giving it another go at it. Still, Windows RT will probably die eventually. If and when it does, Intel will be an important beneficiary, as it will continue being the primary chip provider for PCs running Windows 8. 

It's been a frustrating path for Microsoft investors, who've watched the company fail to capitalize on the incredible growth in mobile over the past decade. However, with the release of its own tablet, along with the widely anticipated Windows 8 operating system, the company is looking to make a splash in this booming market. In a new premium report on Microsoft, a Motley Fool analyst explains that while the opportunity is huge, so are the challenges. The report includes regular updates as key events occur, so make sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.

The article Does This Mean Microsoft Windows RT Is Dead? originally appeared on

Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple and Qualcomm. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Intel, and NVIDIA. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Intel, Microsoft, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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