During the Q&A portion of yesterday’s Windows 10 event, I asked Microsoft whether Windows RT would be upgraded to Windows 10. Apparently I misunderstood the answer as Microsoft this morning confirmed that Windows RT will not be upgraded to Windows 10. Instead, the ARM-based version of Windows will get an upgrade that provides only some of the functionality of Windows 10.
And with this single statement, I think we can declare that Microsoft’s Windows RT experiment is officially dead.
“Surface Pro 3 (and the entire Surface Pro lineup) will update to Windows 10,” a Microsoft representative told me, clarifying yesterday’s answer to my question. “We are working on an update for Surface [RT and/or Surface 2], which will have some of the functionality of Windows 10. More information to come.”
Pedantically, one might argue that I’m mixing Windows RT and Surface RT/2, Microsoft’s Windows RT-based Surface models. But since those are the only Windows RT devices that ever sold in any measurable quantity, two conclusions are obvious. Other Windows RT devices may not be updated at all (i.e. this Windows 10 subset update may literally only be for Surface RT/2 devices). And more generally, Windows RT is dead.
Microsoft launched the confusing Windows RT “SKU,” or version, of Windows alongside Windows 8 in 2012. It was a fairly complete port of Windows 8 to the ARM architecture, allowing users to access a full Windows desktop and Metro system on hardware that was at the time more efficient than typical PCs. But Windows RT was severely constrained by two huge issues—performance and incompatibility with non-bundled desktop applications—dooming it to irrelevancy.
Until this week, many suspected that Windows RT wouldn’t be upgraded to Windows 10 because of Microsoft’s silence about the topic. (Hence my question.) But Microsoft also planned to ship a third generation RT-based system, Surface mini, in mid-2014. I’m curious if that would have changed things at all. Not that it matters now.
In the good news department, Windows RT is no longer necessary: Windows fans can have it all with x86/Intel-based systems in the Windows 10 generation, thanks to major advances on the hardware side. Here, again, Intel has risen to the challenge of faster moving competitors, and while it may have taken them a few years, it’s safe to say that Windows RT played a role, however small, in getting the microprocessor giant to act.
RIP, Windows RT.