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The death of Windows RT

Mauricio Freitas asks Are we seeing the death of Windows RT?

It’s a fair question.

And it begs an even bigger question: Can Microsoft breathe life back into Windows?

This might seem crazy given the sheer number of Windows devices in circulation. Microsoft’s installed base is significant and can’t be underestimated, but Windows’ relevance appears to be eroding with each clock tick. And by extension, Office is growing less important too.

Today RT, tomorrow all Windows?

RT is everything that’s wrong with Microsoft. The problem goes back a decade, but came to the fore when Apple launched its first iPhone in 2007.

Although Microsoft’s complacency before the iPhone wasn’t good, it was understandable.

At the time, the dollars were still rolling in. Google may have nibbled at Microsoft’s edges, but the core product lines, Windows, Office and server software, all enjoyed market dominance and that meant solid margins and profits.

When the iPhone dropped, everything changed. The revolution was obvious to everyone almost immediately.

Everyone except Microsoft.

Within months it was clear computing had altered course, from 2007 on the PC’s fate was sealed. The future was mobile devices.

In 2010, Apple’s iPad consolidated the revolution.

No Microsoft answers

Microsoft had no answer to the iPhone in 2007. It took the company five years to get a credible alternative – Windows Phone 8 – out the door.

When the iPad arrived in April 2010, Microsoft had no answer. It took two and half years to get Windows RT to market, almost three years to get the Surface Pro on to the streets.

Three years is a long time in technology. Too long.

Microsoft assumed customers, especially business customers, would wait while it developed a Windows tablet. Most didn’t wait. They chose iPads or even Android devices. Companies bought them by the container load, individuals gave their CIOs palpitations as the phrase BYOD entered the lexicon.

Microsoft’s July 2103 scorecard

On Friday Microsoft’s share price fell 10 percent as investors finally understood how bad things are. Here’s a stocktake:

  • PC sales plummeting. Ultrabooks not happening. Barely any interest in touch screen PCs.
  • Weak Windows Phone 8 sales, lack of interest from phone partners other than ailing Nokia.
  • Windows RT a basket case.
  • Slow Surface sales.
  • Little interest in third-party Windows tablets.
  • Disappointing Windows 8 sales, humiliating partial u-turn with 8.1.
  • CEO widely regarded (rightly or wrongly) as out of touch with market reality.

None of this suggests Microsoft is doomed. Nor is Windows likely to die in the near future. It does suggest the company is no longer a market leader and its star is waning. It also suggests that Windows will decline in importance and the rivers of gold from operating systems and Office could slow to a trickle.