Channel Watch

What About Windows RT?

Windows 8 has taken the lion's share of the spotlight, but Windows RT still has big implications for Microsoft partners.

When it comes to the next Microsoft OS, we've really focused on Windows 8. Although Redmond Channel Partner has certainly covered Windows RT, which is like a little sibling to Windows 8, the main B2B opportunities seem to be in Windows 8.

After all, Windows RT runs on system-on-a-chip, ARM-based designs. It's intended for consumers -- and as a Microsoft answer to the Apple iPad.

Market research analysts, such as Al Gillen at IDC, have told us they anticipate Microsoft's best opportunity for success with tablets is in the enterprise with the Windows 8 systems running x86 processors. Those systems will accommodate business users who won't have to worry about the Windows RT limitation of only being able to see two apps on a screen at once.

None of which is to say that Windows RT doesn't have some big implications for Microsoft partners. Here are a few potential areas we're tracking:

OEMs: While most Microsoft partners are looking past Windows RT to Windows 8, there's one group for which Windows RT is critically important. OEMs were, of course, locked out of the iPad market, and have been mostly unsuccessful with Google Android-based alternatives. Windows RT represents the next big opportunity for OEMs to get in on the consumer mobile device market. Which is why many OEMs were so alarmed to see that the first Microsoft Surface tablet will be taking up prime real estate in that neighborhood. Nonetheless, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba have gone public with Windows RT plans.

Consumer Halo: Think of the Apple iPad, and the way an essentially consumer-first device has worked its way into businesses by virtue of being so darn useful. If the Windows RT tablets are priced low enough and become popular enough, they expand the whole Windows 8 platform. But this seems like a long shot -- Windows Phone, for instance, has struggled to catch fire with home users.

Office 365: The Office/Office 365/Windows RT dependencies are still kind of murky. When this all gets thoroughly documented -- in terms of support, as well as pricing for SKUs and devices -- Windows RT could round out some nice scenarios for cloud productivity on the cheap.

Consumer Apps: Partners with app development skills could moonlight, or invest deeply, by expanding beyond their business app borders to consumer apps that cover Windows RT, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 devices (see "Consumer Halo").

Vertical Devices: If Windows RT devices are substantially less expensive than Windows 8-based tablets (as is expected), they could represent a nice platform for vertically focused tablet apps. In a vertical solution, multitasking isn't necessarily required, or even desired, and Windows RT could drive down costs.

Do you see any big channel opportunities in Windows RT? Let me know at sbekker@rcpmag.com or leave a comment below.

More Channel Watch Columns:

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.