Today is the day. One of the biggest days ever in Microsoft’s history: the launch of Windows 8. Why am I saying today is bigger than, say, the Windows 7 launch? Because just like how the launch of Windows 95 meant the end of DOS, the launch of Windows 8 is Microsoft breaking with many of the conventions of all their operating systems since Windows 3.1. Windows 8’s primary interface is the ‘live-tile’, touch-friendly based ‘Modern UI’, which is a dramatic paradigm shift away from the current UI based on icons, windows and menus all of us are used to. Along with this radical change in the way we interact with Windows, in order to make it better-suited to use on mobile devices like tablets, Microsoft has also made some big changes under the hood. One of those big changes is Windows RT, a new version of Windows available on select devices, and it is important to understand the differences between RT and 8 when shopping for a new PC.
Up until now, all Windows ran on hardware that uses the x86 architecture, powered by chips from both Intel and AMD. Windows RT is the first version of Windows that supports ARM processors, the kind of processor technology found in many mobile devices like smartphones and tablets like the iPad. ARM based devices can still be very powerful, but can be thinner, lighter and have better battery life than a similar device with an x86 CPU. However this means that applications have to be coded to work for each specific platform. What this means for Windows RT is that while this version of Windows runs all the same ‘Modern UI’ apps as Windows 8 (both pre-installed and ones available from the Microsoft Store, since they are programmed to work on both architectures), it CANNOT run older ‘legacy’ Windows apps. While this may seem like a big limitation, keep in mind the only hardware that will come with Windows RT will be lower-powered mobile devices, which will not be suited to run older ‘traditional’ Windows applications anyways.
While Windows RT does have this disadvantage over Windows 8, there are quite a few benefits to running RT on mobile devices like tablets. Windows RT turns on instantly, has device encryption to keep your data secure, and comes with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT at no extra cost.
On Microsoft’s Windows site there is a very useful FAQ for Windows RT that I have reproduced parts of below:
How do I get Windows RT?
Windows RT comes preinstalled on PCs and tablets that are powered by ARM processors. You can buy a Windows RT PC at retail stores
Is Windows RT available as a separate download?
No, the only way to get Windows RT is by purchasing a new PC or tablet with Windows RT preinstalled.
What's the difference between Windows RT and Windows 8?
Windows RT contains many of the same features as Windows 8, but is a new operating system for thin and light PCs. Some of the features of Windows 8 and Windows RT are:
- Fluid, intuitive, and easy-to-use interface design that you can easily customize.
- Built in apps like Mail, Calendar, Messaging, Photos, and SkyDrive with many more apps available in the WindowsStore.
- Internet Explorer 10, for fast, intuitive browsing.
- Touch-enabled so you can interact with Windows in a whole new way.
- Mouse and keyboard–enabled so you can be as productive as you need to be.
Windows RT also includes some different features:
- Windows Update and Windows Defender are always on and up to date making your PC more secure.
- Device encryption provides advanced data protection to help keep your information more secure.
- The PC can turn on instantly with connected standby.
- Comes with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT Preview, providing you with touch-optimized desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. For more details, see “Where do I get more information about Office on Windows RT” below.
Some features aren't included in Windows RT:
- Windows Media Player
- Windows Media Center
- HomeGroup creation (you can join an existing HomeGroup but you can't create a new one)
- Remote Desktop
- Domain join
Although you can install apps directly from the Windows Store, you can't install apps on the desktop on Windows RT.
You can only install printers, mice, keyboards, and other devices that are certified for Windows RT.
What apps does Windows RT come with?
Windows RT comes with several built-in apps like Mail, People, Messaging, Photos, SkyDrive, Music, Video, and more.
Windows RT also comes with Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview Edition, which provides you with touch-optimized desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Some features and products are unsupported.
How can I get more apps for my Windows RT PC?
You can install more apps from the Windows Store.
Where do I get more information about Office on Windows RT?
Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT Preview is included in Windows RT and contains touch-optimized desktop versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote. It is a preview version but will be automatically updated by Windows Update when the final version is available. There is no cost for the download, but Internet access (with any fees that apply) will be required. Some features and programs are unsupported.
You can read the complete ‘Windows RT: Frequently Asked Questions’ on the Microsoft Windows site.
You can also read more about Office Home & Student 2013 RT on Microsoft’s product page.
Currently Future Shop has one Windows RT-based device available in stores today, the Asus Vivo Tab, which Raj wrote about recently.
I’ll be meeting with Microsoft Canada on Monday to see some new Windows 8 and Windows RT devices, so check back for my hands-on report with the new OS.
Possibly the most versatile tablet in the world, the Asus Vivo Tab RT comes complete with premium features that include a 10.1" Super IPS display with Corning Fit Glass, NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core processor and NVIDIA GeForce graphics that work together with the Microsoft Windows 8 RT OS giving you the power you need to be productive with style.
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