Windows RT is a variant of the Windows 8 operating system designed for mobile devices which use the ARM architecture. First unveiled as a prototype in January 2011 at the Consumer Electronics Show, the operating system was officially launched alongside Windows 8 on October 26, 2012 with the release of three Windows RT-based tablets—one of which being Microsoft’s own Surface tablet. Unlike most other versions of Windows, Windows RT is only available as pre-loaded software on devices specifically designed for the operating system by OEMs.
While lacking certain features and compatibility in comparison to Windows versions for x86 (Intel-compatible) processors, Microsoft intended for Windows RT devices to take advantage of the ARM platform’s power efficiency to allow for longer battery life, system-on-chip designs to allow for thinner hardware designs, touch-optimized apps, and to provide a “reliable” experience over time—making the entire platform comparable to a mobile operating system. Windows RT was also distinguished by the inclusion of a special version of Office 2013 as pre-loaded software.
Windows RT was released to mixed reviews from various outlets and critics. Some felt that Windows RT devices had advantages over other mobile platforms (such as iOS or Android) due to its bundled software and the ability to use a wider variety of USB peripherals and accessories. However, concerns were also raised surrounding its software compatibility limitations, how Microsoft had promoted the new operating system, and whether its power usage advantages were now irrelevant due to the introduction of x86-based SoCs with battery life comparable to those of ARM chips. As a result of these shortcomings, the Windows RT tablets have been met with poor sales, causing some OEMs to question the viability of the platform.
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