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Why aren’t Apple and Amazon dumping on Windows RT?

They face more harm from Microsoft’s ARM OS than complainers Mozilla and Intel

Mozilla’s top lawyer is upset because he’s pretty sure Windows RT won’t support a fully featured Firefox browser.

Intel’s  CEO Paul Otellini hip-checked Windows RT because he says it won’t support legacy Windows 7 applications.

Despite their loud and public protests, their Windows RT problems are nowhere near those of Apple, Amazon and a host of other vendors who make tablets and other devices based on ARM processors. That’s what Windows RT is – software bundled with hardware and restricted to using only Microsoft-sanctioned applications, and it will directly compete with other power-scrimping tablets.

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As such, Windows RT may or may not (probably not) support third-party browsers to the full extent that it supports Internet Explorer 10, and that’s bad for Firefox, but no worse than Apple’s restrictions on browsers that run on iPads. At least probably. Probably keeps coming up because Microsoft doesn’t fully explain publicly how much support it will actually give to competing browsers.

Otellini’s assertion that Windows 8 mobile devices based on Intel processors will be better than Windows RT is just silly. If you want to port legacy apps or if you want to install the OS on your own hardware or if you want to be able to upgrade from earlier versions of Windows or if you want massive processing power, you probably want Windows 8 on an x86/64 machine.

Windows RT can’t do all that, but that doesn’t make it worse, necessarily, it just makes it unsuited for those purposes. It’s a different beast, a touch-friendly tablet with good battery life and a smattering of Office applications pre-loaded as well as native encryption.

That’s not a bad set of features for a device to have if it wants to compete against an iPad. And given that hardware vendors will be responsible for packaging Windows RT software on their hardware, there could be a range of product pricing. That includes low-end devices at prices to rival Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet. Customers might find it attractive to own a device that has reader apps for both the ebook sellers without being bound to all their rules and restrictions.

While it may be fun to take pot shots at Windows RT, which nobody has played with yet outside Microsoft, it’s a little early. The full details about its shortcomings have yet to come out, and those taking pot shots should settle down until they know more.

And those who face a genuine threat from Windows RT based on what is actually known should hunker down and figure out how they’re going to deal with it.

(Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Tim_Greene)

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