Windows 8 vs Windows RT
When Microsoft launched its new operating system, Windows 8, it added a little wrinkle to the set of OS versions: a completely different operating system known as Windows RT. The confusing thing is, in many ways Windows RT looks and feels and acts like Windows 8 – except when it doesn’t. Here’s a look at the things to think about before deciding on which OS to purchase. By Lynn Greiner
The Chips are Down
For the first time, Windows runs on a CPU other than one from the x86 family from Intel or AMD. Windows RT uses the ARM processor. This is a mixed blessing: ARM-based systems can be lighter, and get much better battery life than x86 systems, but they don’t run software designed for x86-based systems.
Another first: Microsoft introduced its own computer hardware, the ARM-based Surface tablet. Small, light, and rated at eight hours battery life, it runs Windows RT. In January 2013, the company will add the x86-based Surface Pro, running Windows 8, to the lineup. Other manufacturers are taking the same approach, with both RT and Windows 8-based hardware either released or in the pipeline. Dell, for example, has its XPS 10 running Windows RT and the Latitude 10 running Windows 8. Lenovo’s Yoga comes in two versions. Samsung has systems running both OSes, as do Asus and others. So there’s lots of choice.
A Tale of Two Desktops: Windows 8
Both versions of the operating system have an app called Desktop, but they’re very different animals. Here in Windows 8, you can see that all sorts of Windows 7 programs have been installed. In the main, Windows 7 software runs fine on Windows 8. Even utilities like the Screenhunter screen capture program work flawlessly, even doing grabs of native Windows 8 screens.
A Tale of Two Desktops: Windows RT
The Windows RT Desktop looks just like the Windows 8 Desktop, but it doesn’t work in the same way. Windows RT does not run Windows 7 software at all. Any programs that run in the Desktop environment in Windows RT are specially-created versions of Microsoft programs such as Internet Explorer 10, Notepad, and Calculator.
There is one bonus with Windows RT: several Microsoft Office 2013 programs are included with the OS. You get Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote at no extra charge. Unfortunately, no other Office programs will run on Windows RT. The biggest omission is Outlook, which a Microsoft exec admitted had unspecified technical problems that prevented porting it to Windows RT.
Both Windows 8 and Windows RT can run apps from the Store. Once you’ve installed an app, whether paid or free, it will automatically be available to up to four other Windows 8 or Windows RT systems. And the number of apps has ballooned since launch; the Store now reportedly contains upwards of 20,000 apps. Not all of them run on Windows RT (for some reason, the Microsoft Solitaire Collection is Windows 8 only, for example), but most do.
One big issue for corporate users is that Windows RT lacks many enterprise-friendly management features. It can’t be joined to a domain. It can use Remote Desktop, but not Client Hyper-V (though you can run Hyper-V Manager). It does, however, offer BitLocker device encryption, and Citrix offers a native version of Citrix Receiver. Windows 8 Pro, the business version of the full OS, does support all of the niceties, and can be managed using Group Policies. Windows RT’s device support is also more limited than that of Windows 8; users should check that printers in particular will work. Windows 8’s support is broader, although there is some unsupported hardware, as with any new operating system.