HP to launch Windows 8 tablets, but holds off on Windows RT

Hewlett Packard has taken a variety of approaches to the tablet space over the past few years. The company’s HP Slate 2 is a business-focused tablets with Windows 7 and digital pen input. Last year the company launched the HP TouchPad consumer tablet running webOS software… and canceled it less than two months later after a multi-billion dollar investment failed to pay off quickly enough.

Now that Microsoft is retooling its flagship operating system with a tablet-friendly user interface, HP is preparing to launch tablets running Windows 8 software.

But Bloomberg reports that the company is holding off on launching Windows RT tablets with low-power ARM-based processors.

Windows 8

Windows RT devices won’t be able to run legacy Windows apps designed to run on computers with x86 processors, but they’ll probably offer long battery life, lower prices, and always-connected capabilities — features that aren’t necessarily a given for tablets with x86 processors.

HP officials told Bloomberg that the decision to focus on x86 over ARM was based on input from customers and a focus on supporting the wide range of software already available for Windows 7 and earlier.

But it’s hard not to imagine that Microsoft’s decision to launch its own Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets played no role in HP’s decision.

It’ll be tough for any company to compete directly with Microsoft, a company that controls the hardware and software, and which doesn’t have to pay a licensing fee to put Windows on a tablet.

Instead, it looks like HP will be focusing initially on business customers with its first Windows 8 tablets, possibly offering enterprise-friendly features that aren’t available from Microsoft’s Surface tablets.

  • joe

    Makes sense, especially if they’re targeting business professionals since I doubt makers of non-entertainment software will embrace the new Metro UI and will continue to make desktop software for a while. From what I’ve read there isn’t an easy way to make desktop software for both RT and 8.

    • CyberGusa

      Yes, MS is imposing security limitations on RT to ensure stability and performance but means we’ll only really see Metro apps for RT, besides the desktops apps MS itself provides like MS Office and Student 2013 RT will come standard with RT.

      Only Windows 8 for x86 will remain open for supporting desktop and legacy apps.

      • noone

        As a developer, can I assure you that the restrictions on WinRT are far more severe than just security, stability, and performance concerns? There is a good chance that WinRT is going to be a weird silo device, that cannot run OpenGL code because it only supports DirectX making it the only platform that uses that system, thus making cross development of games, and other graphically accelerated apps difficult to create for cross platform releases.

        Also remember you can only run code from the MS Store, even driver updates have to come from the MS App Store. So it’s going to be as bad a walled garden as iOS. iOS is currently a fantastically profitable market for developers, compared to every other market. MS is going to be climbing an uphill battle on this.

        It doesn’t help that they didn’t allow for easy porting of WCF and .NET apps that rely on 3rd party DLLs. It really sucks that there aren’t any cross platform tools that compile for Metro, and that Metro’s primary language is C# which is a MS owned language without excellent support outside of VS (Eclipse and many text editors support plug-ins, but my experience with them has been mixed). It also sucks that they shafted every WIn Phone developer with this as well by not allowing for push button recompiling for Metro. Having to redo those apps is relatively easy, but it’s still engineering work, and that’s lost money either in salary, opportunity cost, or both for small development houses, just to support a marketing decision on MS’s part.

        There’s a lot to like about Win8. There are also a lot of really annoying bits, that may seriously hamper the adoption of the platform. Especially since there are good tools that support right once, release on iOS and Android, that don’t support Win8, and may never support it.

        Lastly in a surprising twist, it looks like of the 3, the hardest platform to develop on, and the one that is most restricted, is actually Win8 for Arm. Windows Phone 8, and Windows 8 proper both appear to support more programmer friendly features, and have wider support for non-Metro style apps.

        MS has done better at developer relations of late, but early on, like at PDC they were so vague that other than telling me that JavaScript was a fully supported Metro language, that I had no idea what to expect. They’ve still burnt a lot of bridges by not supporting .NET applications that were already built for Windows CE 6 and 7 (I know that’s not what they called 7, but that’s what every dev I know calls it). For more info: http://blogs.infragistics.com/blogs/nick-landry/archive/2012/06/19/developing-apps-for-microsoft-surface-windows-8-windows-rt-and-windows-phone.aspx is a nice summary of what devs can and can’t do on the various MS OS’s

        I’ve been fairly vocal about my frustration with all this. Basically from a user standpoint the interfaces of the 3 OS’s will look very similar. From a Dev point of view, it’s still a very very fractured platform, and unless you like writing apps that can only run on one screen, and can’t have any traditional UI features even if run on systems with keyboards and mice, WinRT has some nasty restrictions that in my opinion make it very unattractive.

      • CyberGusa

        You have a valid opinion and some good points but MS is trying something new with Metro and their point isn’t backwards compatibility with traditional Windows but establishing their own cross compatible platform.

        Here’s an example of their reasoning…

        http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/02/09/building-windows-for-the-arm-processor-architecture.aspx

        While the main reason why WP8 supports more is because like Windows 8 it still supports legacy apps. So like how W8 will support older Windows apps, so too will WP8 support older WP7.x apps.

        Mind that for ARM tablets MS has no previous version to be concerned with and thus Windows RT starts a new line and that link article shows at least some of their reasoning.

        Though I sort of agree on your point about OpenGL, MS probably went a bit overboard by declaring it legacy and thus only supports it with versions of Windows that support legacy.

        However, it’s not like MS is all that concerned with being compatible with Android and iOS when they’re trying to push their own platform and most of the apps that would benefit from OpenGL either can work with DirectX instead or are too powerful for a ARM device anyway. Also the lack of desktop apps for RT doesn’t help either for justifying support for more than what MS intends for Metro.

  • Renee Auclair

    According to the ff article

    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Windows-RT-HP-Jelly-Bean-Android-4.1-OEM,16161.html

    other manufacturers are considering similar moves to HP on Win RT tablets. Apparently, Microsoft was charging 3x the Win 8 x86 license fee for a Win RT license. Also, MS was privy to the final designs of tablet manufacturers, then used this knowledge to come up with the Surface tablet design. If these are true, then MS is up to its dirty tricks again.

    Microsoft had lost a $100 million lawsuit before when, while ostensibly doing due diligence of its proposed acquisition of a software vendor which was selling a Drivespace (disk compression) type product, it supposedly sent an engineer who memorized the trade secrets he saw at the software vendor. Microsoft then came out with Drivespace, which was a virtual clone of the vendor’s product. To avoid paying the $100 million award, Microsoft bought the vendor.

    • CyberGusa

      No, MS isn’t charging 3x the Win 8 license fee for Win RT license.

      First, there’s no confirmed pricing for the OEM licenses yet and we’re all still working with the rumored pricing.

      Second, the actual rumored pricing is about the same for both. It’s just both are rumored to be higher than the present OEM cost for Windows 7 but some try to confuse that with the even lower lost of Win7 Starter Edition to get the so called 3x price difference.

      While ignoring that the actual difference is that Win RT will come with MS Office and Student 2013 RT included by default. Something you’d have to pay over $100 to get via retail separately, and compensates for the lack of legacy support and 3rd party desktop apps on Win RT’s

      Third, the original source article is “Semi-Accurate” and there’s a reason for that site’s name! For example they predicted that Asus would be releasing x86 version of the Transformer that would “not” be running Windows… These turned out to be the 600 and 810 models that will come with Win RT and Win 8 respectively, and they’re hardly fans of Intel and MS to begin with…

      Besides, MS does go too far every now and then. So we don’t need to make stuff up to criticize them over!

      However, MS has been working on Surface for a long time. The Courier, etc were all leading up to this product. While MS has a point to be not happy with vendors efforts to date for developing the platform.

      All too often vendors are cutting corners and lower build quality and diluting the intended user experience by bundling tons of bloatware and other practices that I think most of us can agree don’t benefit the consumers.

      While MS is hardly taking over the market with only 2 products! For example, they have absolutely nothing covering the mid-range between the ARM version and the Core i5 version. Along with both the presentation and design of the Surface being fairly obviously targeted to more business style users than general consumers.

      Elements like using Magnesium in the casing is more expensive to use than plastic and aluminum. Really, look up devices that use Magnesium and you’ll primarily see business targeted products like Lenovo Thinkpads.

      Mind also that HP has had a lot of issues in the market lately. They’ve cut down and restructured themselves. While previous failures like the HP Touchpad, along with poor sales of their previous PC Tablets like the HP Slate, didn’t help.

      So HP isn’t really interested in products they can’t be at least reasonably sure would do well. While Windows RT still has to prove itself as a viable product. Meaning it’s more telling that they’re still considering a Windows 8 tablet rather than them not considering a Windows RT tablet.

      • nonone

        So your point is that just because MS is that just because it’s a bad strategic move to have the Surface Tablet, because it is directly competing with the suppliers they are supposedly relying on, that MS isn’t also charging way more for a license than most companies will find in profit margin, because MS is compelling Office and WinRT to be bundled together?

        It’s not just Semi-Accurate saying these things. A lot of the coverage at Computex covered it as well. It was even on The Tech Report.

        It may or may not be true. But the industry history doesn’t really look very positive in the startlingly few cases where companies offer to partner with their suppliers to help them make the best product they can, then decide that they all suck, don’t tell them that, and instead secretly make their own design, and then blind-side said suppliers with a release with little to no warning.

        History will tell the tale after it’s unfolded, but I believe that’s not considered playing nice, and might generate a LOT of ill will from one’s partners, that might make them reconsider supporting a platform, that was already having a lukewarm reception due to a lot of other unnecessary steps MS did to essentially cripple Windows on Arm making it look from the outside like a very unappealing platform for end users who may not realize what they are buying. This is especially true since the more expensive platform will actually do everything like run legacy apps, thus making it harder for consumers to determine exactly what they are buying without specific industry knowledge such as what the processor in the thing can or can’t do.

      • CyberGusa

        First it’s not a automatic bad move for MS to have created the Surface any more than it’s a bad move for Google to have any of their Nexus branded products created!

        Second, bad move for who? Setting higher standard for products is usually better for the consumer. Really, when did everyone start caring about manufacturers more than the consumers?

        Third, a lot of bloggers and even some so called news sites don’t really know what they’re talking about and are mainly just voicing their opinions like everyone else. While some just do it to get more net traffic through their site with the sensational titles.

        It’s like the claim of the 3x cost, which I already pointed out why it was false. So let’s not confuse people discussing rumors and opinions with facts to begin with!

        Remember, MS hasn’t released much details on the Surface. So most of what you’ve read are just rumors.

        While MS has been complaining about its partners for quite some time and they already knew MS wasn’t happy but the problem was they still pretty much were doing whatever they wanted.

        Since the fact are that every company, not just MS, are mainly concerned about their bottom line and few want to take risks anymore.

        So only very few companies are really still innovating anymore.

        While most just take the same idea, repackage it and sell their own version and then rinse and repeat.

        It’s like what happened to netbooks, with every one pretty much the same there wasn’t much at all to distinguish one from another and they cut so many corners that the latest ones are practically designed to be disposable. Along with virtually no advancement in literally years.

        This is the pattern that the entire PC market was starting to follow and is why both Intel and MS are trying to re-invigorate the markets with some much needed changes.

        So keep in mind MS is trying to change the market and not just introduce a new version of their OS and there is overlap with the interest of the other companies because if MS is successful then that benefits them all with renewed consumer interest in what they’ll be selling.

        There’s just no pleasing everyone but there’s little doubt that the change was needed and it’s just a question of whether they are necessarily good changes but like you said it remains to be seen.

        Like whether MS choices for designing Windows for ARM were all good choices.

        However, MS does have good reasons for the choices they made. Like better security, better stability, better efficiency, and faster performance.

        While things like Legacy support were never really realistic considerations for ARM. Since it would have been a nightmare getting everything compatible and would have bloated Windows RT to Vista proportions.

        ARM still has many limitations like they’re all still 32bit processors. They’ll eventually get 64bit but it’s coming to the server market first and will be many years more before we see it available to the general consumer. So that leaves out VM as many require 64bit and besides VM isn’t 100% for all programs.

        While the performance range of ARM has only recently rivaled the Intel ATOM, which is very low by PC standards and can barely run Windows 7.

        So they needed every erg of performance to keep Windows from not seeming sluggish, especially for tablets which such sluggishness are more obvious and it doesn’t take much to change opinions from it’s okay to why am I using this reaction.

        Consequently the lack of apps would be a concern for the initial release of Windows RT. So that’s another reason for them to include Office to keep the basic reasons why most people still use desktop OS that are otherwise happy with mobile devices.

        Really, you don’t see services like Citrix offering that many things besides remote access to apps like Office after all.

        While Office is also one of MS biggest sellers and one of the reasons why MS would be concerned about business users and yet another reasosn why MS would be considering those types of users first.

        Mind MS did bother to change the name to RT specifically to reference “WinRT (Runtime)” to set it apart from regular Windows 8. So I don’t think it’ll be that confusing to remember the difference.

        All these changes though will make it tough for early adopters and that brings up the possibility that MS may have done better if they took the changes more piece meal instead of all at once but again we’ll have to wait and see.

      • Guest008

        VERY good posts Gusa.
        Always a pleasure to read (and learn from) you.
        People tend to make up their minds with little to no evidence or facts, just by reading biased or little informed bloggers/writters.
        Not mentioning they have their own bias and their desire to bash MS (it deserves it most of the time, still) is also coming into play.
        Like if the alternatives (beside Linux but that’s another story) were proposed by angels (Google and Apple, even Amazon of course)
        But he’s right on one thing (at least), people are dumb and they may be disappointed, after purchasing a SurfaceRT, to not being able to run their x86 apps.
        ARM, x86, most people don’t know and don’t care.
        They buy Windows because they know the environment.
        For them, the new Metro UI is just a face-lift, an evolution.
        It may be the case on Metro, but not RT.
        So, we’ll see but I expect the worse.

        But that’s not even the point. The point is, actually:
        “What’s the point of purchasing a device running RT, then?” (meaning if it cannot run x86 apps).

        So,, it’s gonna be difficult for MS to sell RT.
        If people accepted iOS, it’s because they didn’t have much choice in the begining of the tablet market.
        Android is now better than iOS but, at the same time, more and more closed (see the Nexus tablet which represent the dream mobile device for Google -as well as Amazon and Apple-, a completely closed environment where the user has no other choice than to be a customer. Completely captive of the ecosystem/OS of the tablet.)

        MS and RT just offer more of the same.
        Why choose RT over iOS/Android and ‘android-Amazon’??
        Office, that’s it?
        Sure, some people will like the Surface and its design plus the fact that it’s new/fresh and has a light and thin keyboard.
        But the price, the low number of apps, the impossibility of personnalizing the UI and familiarizing yourself with a new OS (even a simple and ergonomic one) won’t help convincing people to make the jump.

        Sure, MS NEEDED to take the matter into their own hands. But if they want to succeed they need to take a lot more agressive approach on RT.
        Lower prices, support (financially by different ways and even more so on the developping part. Because if, as @noone suggested, devs are helped and convinced of the potential of the platform to decide to dedicate time, money and effort into creating apps for RT, well, it’s gonna be a hollow one.) developpers and communicate by using lots of future/innovation oriented marketing campaign.
        If they don’t and think the product will sell itself just by putting some ads here and there, RT is DOA.

        The Surface pro, on the other hand, could be the future of ultrabooks.
        And this one have, in my opinion, a future a lot brighter and an easy line for MS to communicate on.

      • CyberGusa

        There’s no doubt MS has a uphill struggle with Windows RT. At the very least it will take about two years for them to get app ecosystem going for it and it’ll likely be pretty niche market up till then and that’s a long time for them to struggle.

        Though they are leveraging a fair bit with WP8, WinRT, and Win8 all having compatible kernels so Metro apps could be made to run on any Windows device from then on.

        While there’s something to be said for people who just want a basic device and only need a Windows device to run things like Office, in which case MS got them covered with Windows RT.

        Though for now it’s safe to say Android and iOS don’t have much of anything to worry about for the mobile market. MS plans though are long term and that’s the best way to view their efforts for now.

        While Intel will do everything in their power to make x86 a good alternative to ARM by 2 years from now. So the dynamics of the market may change a lot by then. So who knows, it could go either way.

        MS could even create a whole never version of Windows RT by then… While we should start seeing other alternatives in about another year as well.