Dell's latest Venue tablets shun Windows RT system

Dell Venue Pro 11 Dell's latest hardware supports the full Windows 8.1 operating system

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Dell has opted not to release a Windows RT device among its latest line-up of tablets and laptops.

The US manufacturer had been the last to support the operating system other than its creator, Microsoft.

Dell said the software had failed to "resonate" with its customers because it did not support legacy software available to the full Windows 8 OS.

The firm is in the process of being taken over by a group led by its founder, Michael Dell.

He plans to stop its shares being publicly traded and refocus Dell's operations on business-targeted software and services rather than consumer-focused hardware.

However, the company said it would continue to sell devices in order to provide its customers with an "end-to-end solution".

"We're not going to put all our eggs into different baskets - what we have to do is focus on our strengths," Adam Griffin, Dell's global product manager for commercial tablets, told the BBC.

"We've focused our attention on the Windows 8.1 operating system because that's where the majority of the applications are [in the] segment that we're after, which is the commercial consumer environment.

"RT, even by Microsoft's admission, is a little bit limited in terms of the amount of applications you can get."

Mr Griffin added that there had been resistance from corporate IT departments to the idea of supporting what was effectively another operating system on top of the various releases of the main Windows OS.

Missing programs

Windows RT was launched just under a year ago.

Dell Venue Pro 11 Dell's new Windows 8 tablets feature either an 8in (20.3cm) or 10.8in (27.4cm) screen

It is designed for machines powered by ARM-based processors rather than the x86 chip architecture used by Intel and AMD.

ARM's designs tend to deliver longer battery life at a cheaper price, but its chips need Windows programs to be recompiled to be able to run them.

New software can only be added to Windows RT devices via Microsoft's own online store or via special enterprise software made available to companies.

That has meant there has been no way to install high-profile programs such as the iTunes media library, the Chrome and Firefox browsers, and the fully equipped version of Photoshop.

Samsung, Lenovo, Acer and Asus were among the other companies to initially back the platform but later switch efforts elsewhere.

Dell continues to offer the XPS 10 tablet - which uses Windows RT - in some markets, but said it would only do so until its factories had used up all the relevant components.

'Fizzled out'

That leaves Microsoft as the only manufacturer to have released a Windows RT device in recent months.

It launched the Surface 2 in September having previously posted a $900m (£560m) write-down after acknowledging it had made more of the first-generation machine than it could sell.

According to market research company IDC, Windows RT only accounted for a 0.5% share of global tablet shipments in the April-to-June quarter.

Windows 8 itself had a 4% share. By contrast, Google's Android system had a 62.6% share and Apple's iOS 32.5%.

"The Windows RT concept seems to have fizzled out," said Benedict Evans, a tech specialist at consultants Enders Analysis.

"It lacks even the redeeming features of a Windows 8 tablet which can run all the legacy apps.

"There remains a lot of appeal to being able to take existing Windows applications out with you on a mobile device.

"If you are an insurance firm and you've got proprietary software coded for Windows - which a huge amount of companies do - it can be tough to make that work on an iPad and easier to put it onto a Windows 8 tablet.

"But that's one use case. The broader question is why not spend a little bit more and buy a touchscreen laptop."

Surface 2 Microsoft is the only manufacturer still committed to the Windows RT platform

Intel's efforts to develop more power-efficient chips have led some to speculate that Microsoft might ultimately cull Windows RT, leaving Windows Phone as its only ARM-powered platform.

But one tech consultant said it was too soon to say RT was doomed.

"Microsoft seems to believe that there will be more devices running RT in the future - I don't think it's dead yet," said Tony Cripps, principal analyst at tech advisers Ovum.

"RT leaves open the door to lower-cost tablets running the Windows platform and there are good reasons in the long run for Microsoft to maintain a position there."

Dell itself is leaving the door open to returning to the system at a later stage.

"If customers start to demand that product then we certainly may come out with future designs," said Mr Griffin.

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