Microsoft has spent well over a billion dollars advertising its newest operating system – Windows 8. But included in the Windows 8 marketing hype is a smaller kernel operating system called Windows RT.

And if you’re like most consumers, you have no idea what the difference is between Windows RT and Windows 8.

Before we get to the difference between RT and 8, let’s tell you some funny stories about how awful Windows RT performed at CES 2013:

Windows RT’s disastrous CES 2013

Microsoft – like most major tech companies – had high ambitions for CES 2013. And overall, Microsoft did okay at the industry’s massive event show. But Windows RT did not perform well. In fact, some critics are saying that it had a “disastrous” time at CES 2013. Here’s why:

Samsung’s disappearing ATIV Tab trick

Samsung was expected to release a Windows RT tablet called the Samsung ATIV Tab in the United States. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer excitedly talked about this device onstage at CES 2013 and praised Samsung for providing cutting edge Windows RT technology.

The ATIV Tab was one of only two Windows RT tablets that Ballmer mentioned. Three days after Ballmer’s speech, Samsung decided it would not launch the ATIV Tab in North America because there was “poor demand” for Windows RT and consumers had no idea what the difference between Windows RT and Windows 8 is.

A lack of other Windows RT devices


You know when I said that Ballmer talked about two Windows RT tablets onstage? He didn’t do that because those were the best two Windows RT tablets debuting at CES 2013. Instead, he did it because there aren’t a great number of Windows RT tablets from which to choose. In fact, we can specifically list each and every Windows RT tablet available today:

-Dell XPS 10

-Asus VivoTab

-Lenovo Yoga 11

-Surface RT

That’s it. Aside from the Surface RT, have you heard of any of those tablets? Probably not.

Lenovo ditches the Yoga 11

We just mentioned the Yoga 11 as one of four Windows RT tablets on the market today. But Lenovo has already moved past the Yoga 11 and has created something called the Yoga 11S. What’s the difference? The Yoga 11S will not feature Windows RT. Oops!

Difference between Windows RT and Windows 8


The only difference between Windows RT and Windows 8 is that Windows RT is more restrictive. Seriously.

And if you’re Microsoft, you don’t want to mention that in your advertising. Which is why Windows RT is a tough product to market and – at the same time – why consumers are getting confused.

Here are a few of the reasons why Windows RT is worse than Windows 8:

-You are forced to use the Metro UI and cannot access the classic desktop screen

-Windows RT won’t run desktop apps

-Users are forced to download Microsoft-authorized apps from the Windows Store, but the Windows Store is woefully understocked when compared to the Android and iOS app stores

So if you’re looking at this from Microsoft’s standpoint, “Windows 8 without desktop apps and the ability to download apps from outside the crappy Windows App Store” isn’t a great marketing slogan.

ARM processing advantages

Windows RT can only run on computers with ARM processors installed. Microsoft wants consumers to think that the ARM processor has major advantages over traditional x86 processors made by Intel and AMD. They are significantly more energy efficient than traditional processors and are cheaper to produce.

That means Windows RT devices offer better battery life and cheaper price points than Android and iOS tablets, right? Wrong! ARM processors are already being surpassed by the latest x86 Clover Trail CPU. And Windows RT tablets like the Surface RT are about the same price as an iPad and more expensive than Android tablets – so competitive pricing isn’t really an advantage either.

A silver lining for Microsoft

Sure, Windows RT didn’t have a great showing at CES 2013 – and it looks like there isn’t a great future for the awkward operating system. But the good news for Microsoft is that there were plenty of Windows 8 devices on display.

Furthermore, as more people buy Windows 8, developers will inevitably start to create more apps for the Windows App Store. That means Windows RT users will have an easier time finding the programs they need – which means RT won’t feel nearly as restrictive.

Why you should buy a Windows 8 tablet

Ultimately, Windows RT = bad and Windows 8 = good. Keep that in mind when you’re buying a tablet unless you’re okay with all of the restrictions listed under the “difference between Windows RT and Windows 8” section.

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