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Do Windows RT Price Cuts Portend a Fade-Out?
Do Windows RT Price Cuts Portend a Fade-Out?

By Barry Levine
April 5, 2013 10:18AM

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IDC predicts that, by the end of this year, only 1.9 percent of the worldwide population of tablets will be Windows RT, at the given rate of sales. In fact, tablets running any version of Windows, which includes non-RT Windows 8, are expected to account for only 2.8 percent, compared with 48.8 percent for Android tablets and 46 percent for Apple's iOS.
 



It's looking more and more like Windows RT tablets are bound to flop. New reports of price drops for the touchscreen devices have raised questions about whether the end is coming.

At Amazon, for instance, the Asus VivoTab RT model, originally launched for about $600, is now priced at $380. The Dell XPS 10 has dropped $50, to $450, and Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga 11 has fallen between $200 and $300, from its initial price of $800. Additionally, Samsung has stopped selling RT tablets in Europe.

Given that it's only been six months since RT was launched, one could contend it is too early to make a life-or-death prediction about the platform. Additionally, some of the price discounts, such as Dell's, are minor. Some analysts are suggesting that the price drops are simply summer season positioning. On the other hand, others note that the ARM-based device has suffered from substantial consumer confusion, mostly because it is called Windows RT but cannot run legacy Windows applications.

'Look Like a Failure'

Industry research firm IDC predicts that, by the end of this year, only 1.9 percent of the worldwide population of tablets will be RT, at the given rate of sales. In fact, tablets running any version of Windows, which includes non-RT Windows 8, are expected to account for only 2.8 percent, compared with 48.8 percent for Android tablets and 46 percent for Apple's iOS.

One RT vendor that is not budging on its price is its parent, Microsoft. The Surface RT tablet is still priced at about $500, although if other makers keep dropping their prices, Microsoft may soon be compelled to do so as well.

Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis, said that his check-ins with retail stores suggest that Windows 8 touchscreen notebooks and touchscreen all-in-ones "are doing OK." But, he added, Windows RT tablets "definitely look like a failure," in large part because it is "an operating system without much software support."

Whither Hybrids?

In addition to the fact that Windows RT doesn't run legacy Windows apps, Greengart noted that there aren't a tremendous number of RT native apps, especially compared with the 300,000+ available for, say, the iPad. He also pointed to the jaw-dropping fact that the Windows Office version that is RT-native is "a version that is written for a mouse and keyboard," which, of course, are additional to the touchscreen tablet.

In fact, Greengart said, it almost seems like Microsoft "didn't quite finish the RT OS." For instance, he noted, to simply change settings on the RT tablet you need to use a mouse. "Try changing the time without a mouse," Greengart suggested. "It's not possible." He added that, for the same price as an RT tablet, "you can get an entry-level, fully featured Ultrabook or a high-resolution iPad."

There's also a question about whether Windows 8 hybrids, which attempt to combine a touchscreen tablet with a laptop computer, are also sinking. The Windows 8 store is now offering significant discounts on the devices. Greengart said that hybrids "do seem to be struggling, chasing after a very small part of the market" that wants an ultra-portable device with a touchscreen tablet option.
 

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