Monday, 02 July 2012

Windows RT Explained - Everything you need to know!

With last weeks announcement of Microsoft's Surface tablet, internet forums and message boards have been abuzz with talk about Microsoft's new range of tablet devices. This article aims to provide you with the information you need to know about Windows RT.

What is Windows RT?

Windows RT is a special edition of Windows 8 that runs on ARM. You’ll find it alongside Intel x86 machines in stores. Though based on Windows 8,  you’ll be surprised just how much Windows RT differs from the traditional Windows you know.

Windows RT is claimed to be so different to Windows 8 that Microsoft told Mozilla "Windows RT isn't Windows anymore.”

If you’re considering buying a Windows system in stores, its recommended you know the difference between Windows RT and Windows 8.

ARM processors vs. x86 processors

During development, Windows RT was known in as Windows on ARM, or WOA. It is is essence a direct port of Windows from Intel x86 processors to ARM processors. In case you;re wondering,  x86 processors are what you will commonly find in standard desktop and laptop computers today, while smart-phones and tablets on the other hand use ARM processors.

Windows RT only supports applications written for Windows Runtime or WinRT (yes, “WinRT” refers to the runtime that works on both architectures, while “Windows RT” refers to the operating system that only works on ARM processors).

How does it look?

Windows RT does have a desktop, much like other editions of Windows 8. You're even able to launch the desktop and use applications like Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, and even Microsoft Office. Windows RT even comes with a touch-optimized version of Microsoft. You won't find Windows Media Player included, however.

A downside to the Windows RT desktop is the inability to run non-Microsoft applications. Microsoft simply won’t allow third-party applications on the Windows RT desktop. I

Third-Party Application Restrictions

All third-party apps on Windows RT must be Metro applications. As you probably guessed by now all  Metro applications must go through the Windows Store and be approved by Microsoft. This means that a Windows RT device can only run Microsoft-approved apps in the same way an iPad can only run Apple-approved apps.

This application restriction has implications for browser choice. A Windows RT device includes the Metro version of Internet Explorer and has exclusive access to system API's. This effectively means Mozilla, Google, Opera and others can’t develop their own browsers for Windows RT. Mozilla and Google have brought up concerns about this

Bottom line - If you use a Windows RT device, you’ll be using Internet Explorer in much the same way as you use Safari with an iPad, you’ll be using Safari.

Designed For Devices

Microsoft thinks of Windows RT computers as “devices,” not traditional PCs. You won’t be able to buy a retail boxed copy of Windows RT in stores. It will only available pre-installed on ARM systems.

Windows RT devices will be locked down in other ways also.Secure Boot for example on Windows RT devices isn’t user-configurable, so you won’t be able to remove Windows RT and install Linux or another operating system.

Missing Traditional Enterprise Features

Windows RT by design lacks many enterprise features that have made Windows so successful. You wont be able to join a Windows RT device to an Active Directory domain and nor does it support group policy, so you can managed Windows RT devices using existing Windows infrastructure.

Windows RT also lacks other features, including Boot from VHD, client hyper-V, BitLocker, remote-desktop hosting, and encrypted file systems.

Windows RT - Not for all Microsoft tablets

Most of the tablets you’ll see in stores when Windows 8 debuts won’t run Windows RT. These tablets will ship with x86 Intel processors and run one of the standard versions of Windows 8. This means they’ll happily support third-party desktop software and all standard Windows features.

When buying a Windows 8 ensure you get the right one. If you need support for legacy desktop software or Enterprise support then get an x86 tablet running Windows 8 and not an ARM one.

Forums are filled with rumors indicating that each copy of Windows RT will cost manufacturers around $85, making Windows RT quite possibly more expensive than other Windows 8 versions. This could also make Windows RT tablets more expensive than iPads.

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