Microsoft just can’t catch a break.
Samsung plans to pull its Ativ Tab, a 10.1-inch tablet running the Windows RT operating system, from sale in Germany and “other European countries,” according to a report from Heise Online, a German technology site. The company had previously announced that it would not debut the tablet in the US, citing uncertain demand for the operating system and a lack of clarity on where Windows RT would exist in the industry.
For those of you wondering what Windows RT is: It’s the tablet-specific version of Windows 8 that kinda-sorta removes the desktop from the new, don’t-call-it-Metro user interface. The first Microsoft Surface released — the one without “Pro” appended to it — runs Windows RT, as does the Ativ Tab and products from Dell, Lenovo, and Asus. And, if you’re wondering why Microsoft named it “Windows RT,” the answer is basically “because they felt like it.”
“There wasn’t really a very clear positioning of what Windows RT meant in the marketplace, what it stood for relative to Windows 8, that was being done in an effective manner to the consumer,” Samsung VP Mike Abary told CNET in January. “When we did some tests and studies on how we could go to market with a Windows RT device, we determined there was a lot of heavy lifting we still needed to do to educate the customer on what Windows RT was.”
A report from The Verge from last October shows just how much education that might have required. Microsoft employees weren’t able to articulate the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT, and incorrectly stated that Windows RT could run all Windows apps. It can’t.
What Windows RT seems to be, based on the many reviews of the Microsoft Surface RT, is a half-step towards a truly tablet-centric Windows operating system that managed to be clunky, confusing, and frustrating to use. Windows RT uses the new user interface (formerly known as Metro), except when it doesn’t, and promised to offer the best of both mobile and desktop computing, and then didn’t.
Reviewers seemed bedeviled by the inclusion of the traditional desktop interface with Windows RT devices. The interface, which should be familiar to anyone who has used Windows since its creation, only appears when someone is using an Office application. That’s it. One minute users are swiping around and having a jolly time (well, roughly) with the new interface, and the next they are thrown back into the ’90s, just so they can write something up in Word.
So, in short: Windows RT is a new operating system, built on an old operating system, that is like this other new operating system. It doesn’t act like other Windows PCs, except for when you’re using Office, but that’s the only time it acts like that, so you’ll still be using the other interface most of the time. Except when you’re not.
Is it any wonder that Samsung decided not to release the Ativ Tab in the US, and might pull it from European countries as well? Windows RT is a seemingly-simple product — Windows for tablets — that somehow managed to become a complex, confusing mess as Microsoft tried to make it something more.
“We want to see how the market develops for RT,” Abary told CNET. “It’s not something we’re shelving permanently. It’s still a viable option for us in the future, but now might not be the right time.”
Now, after watching consumers react to Windows RT and its own Ativ Tab, Samsung seems to have decided that, while it isn’t the right time for the operating system, it’s the right time to stop pouring resources into supporting it. We can hardly blame them.
PandoDaily has reached out to Samsung for comment.