Windows RT and Windows 8? What is the difference?

With the launch event of Windows 8 nearing, Manufactures are unveiling new devices based on the new Windows OS. Among these, one must have noticed Microsoft’s own Surface tablets. If you have then you must have heard the phrase “Microsoft’s Surface for Windows RT”. “Now what in the world is this Windows RT?” must have been your first thought. There is the Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and the Windows Phone 8, where does the Windows RT fit among these? We will be answering these questions in this article.

Few days back we ran an article about Microsoft’s new “strategy”, which is somewhat similar to the way how Apple functions. Taking this into consideration, one can say that Windows 8 is like Mac OS and Windows RT is like iOS. But Microsoft is not copying Apple completely. Unlike iOS, which Apple only uses for its mobile devices and Mac OS for it PCs, Microsoft’s Windows 8 is being used for tablets too and Microsoft has Windows Phone 8 for smartphones. So what is the use of Windows RT when Windows 8 is being used in tablets as well?

One can say Windows RT is for those who want a proper Microsoft tablet experience. Unlike Windows 8 which can be deployed on devices ranging from desktop PCs to tablet, Windows RT is specifically for ARM architecture based devices. ARM architecture? What is that? Basically It is a kind of computer architecture. If I go into details, I expect many to fall asleep while reading this article. So I will just stick to the benefits. One thing to remember is that it will give you a better battery life. This is one of the main requirements especially for a tablet. Other benefit being cost. It cheaper to build a device based on this architecture.

Other than the fact that Windows RT is built only for ARM based devices, there are quite a few differences from Windows 8 on the software front. Basically the Windows RT is a watered down version of the Windows 8. Hence there are lots of things missing in Windows RT compared with Windows 8. One of the major things missing in Windows RT is the ability to run legacy applications. Legacy applications, for those who don’t know are applications which have been built for previous versions of Windows OS. While one can run legacy application of Windows 8, Microsoft has only allowed applications created on the latest Windows Runtime. These are what Microsoft calls “Metro-style apps”. Apps? That sounds kind of familiar, and yes it certainly does, remember iOS or Android? Again taking few pages from Apple’s model of controlling apps, Microsoft insists that one can only install apps on Windows RT only from Window Store. With this Microsoft just made life complicated for many people. Developers have to develop a new version of their app for Windows RT and customers at present have access to only a small number of apps. Windows Store at present has 5,562 apps which is way behind Apples App Store and Google Play.

But there is an exception, Microsoft Office 2013 and Internet Explorer 10. Microsoft Office included with Windows RT comes with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and support device encryption capabilities. These have been optimized for touch. The only thing missing from the package is Outlook.

So we can say that the Windows RT is for people who want a good tablet experience like in the case of iOS with iPad, But with a Microsoft touch. The only thing missing is the number of apps available on Windows Store. If Microsoft can do something about that, we could have a viable alternative to Android and iOS based tablets. At present only a few tablets have been announced with Windows RT, but the number could increase after 26th October, the day when Microsoft Officially launches Windows 8.