I consider the release of Windows RT to the consumer market to be one of the worst decisions Microsoft has made in recent years, and I have an $853MM writedown to back me up. RT shipped primarily on a Surface RT, which isnâ€™t an attractive personal deviceâ€”itâ€™s small, relatively costly, difficult to connect to the usual suite of peripherals and doesnâ€™t sit well in your lap. Additionally, here was a version of Windows which wouldnâ€™t run any previous Windows program. Consumers were used to getting a new computer with a new version of Windows and simply reinstalling their favorite old greeting card maker or photo editor. Months later, when Windows 8 was released, confusion multipliedâ€”now there were two versions of Windowsâ€”a â€œright oneâ€ and a â€œwrong oneâ€, and your average consumer couldnâ€™t tell the difference by looking. Consumers literally needed someone with technical knowledge to tell the devices apart. Add to that an a store which had few desirable apps and itâ€™s no wonder interest was really low for RT. The release of the Surface 3 running only Windows 8 puts the future of RT into greater doubt.
Having said that, RT could still be one of the greatest versions of Windows of all time. How? Improve the concept of enterprise application stores, and make RT the next Windows Embedded. Itâ€™s not as crazy as it sounds. Iâ€™ve helped manage installations of WinTerms for sales teams, and hundreds of handheld and lift mount devices in multiple warehouses, and this idea is a bit of a dream come true.
Windows 8 ships with a hard-coded attachment to the Microsoft store. Make it simpler for enterprises to set up their own internal app store, and control the store setting via group policy. Enterprises could easily distribute their in-house apps, or those supplied by ERP/WMS/etc vendors to the issued devices. At a previous employerâ€”a warehousing companyâ€”we had to manage hundreds of devices in multiple warehouses around the country. We had to have someone onsite manually dock each one, and we had to go through a complicated set of steps to update the wimpy onboard apps. If we could have posted an updated app on our internal store and have every device update itself automatically in seconds, that would have been a dream come true. Intermec and Symbol should be all over this idea.
Take this one step further. Remember the fires in Tesla Model S? A software fix to correct how the car rides at freeway speed was downloaded to all the Model Ss. Now imagine Ford replacing Sync with RT, and being able to do the same for control or entertainment systems. Speaking of entertainment systems. keep the linkage to the movies and music stores so movies can be downloaded while parked at a McDonaldâ€™s. The capabilities in RT would put Ford years ahead of its competitors in regards to onboard systems. This could be extended into on-board systems for trucks as well.
Take this one more step. Imagine battlefield updates to combat systems, downloaded via AWACs or properly equipped drones from a secure DOD app store. Itâ€™s not too far-fetched.
Vehicles and warehouse equipment alone offers the potential of millions of devices running RT. By looking at RT as a new Windows Embedded, Microsoft thinks big by thinking small.