Microsoft is believed to be discounting Windows RT tablet OS licenses in an attempt to stimulate interest in the Windows-on-ARM platform. Windows RT had been Microsoft's strategy to directly take on the iPad and Android tablets with more affordable chipsets from Qualcomm and others, but lackluster app compatibility left OEMs hesitant. Now, Bloomberg's sources claim, Microsoft is relying on good old fashioned discounting to drive interest.
Exact figures on exactly how much Microsoft is offering to reduce Windows RT licensing fees for are unclear, and neither has the company revealed its original pricing. The promotion is said to be around "Windows RT for small-sized tablets", which may or may not include roughly 10-inch versions like Microsoft's own Surface.
It sounds like a solid strategy, given the feedback from manufacturers around Windows RT over the past months. Some companies have outright panned the platform, such as Acer, which earlier today dismissed Windows RT as not influential. Others, however, have been more taciturn in their failing confidence, marginalizing products that had been on the roadmap.
HTC, for instance, was said recently to have axed plans to release a 12-inch Windows RT tablet, though it's possible the slate may not have qualified for Microsoft's "small" criteria as part of a discount scheme. At the time, sources suggested HTC lacked confidence that the market demand for Windows RT hardware was sufficient to make releasing the slate worthwhile; it also took issue with Microsoft's expensive licensing.
However, HTC is still believed to have a roughly 7-inch Windows RT tablet - as well as an Android-based counterpart - in the wings, for release sometime later this year.
ASUS and Toshiba are yet to bring a Windows RT model to market, and Dell recently slashed the price of its model, the XPS 10, by around a third. A Dell spokesperson blamed underwhelming interest on poor awareness of RT's strengths, rather than a shortcoming in the platform itself.
"We've found that customers using it are really, really happy," Dell tablet VP Neil Hand told Bloomberg. "There just aren't enough of them knowing what it is, and why they should use it."
In the meantime, Intel has pushed its own Atom chips to achieve new, lower power consumption without necessarily sacrificing power. The Clover Trail+ series has already shown up today in new tablet models from Samsung and ASUS, and it's possible that some of the ARM advantages Windows RT took advantage of may be peeling away as x86 architecture catches up.
Microsoft said it will announce more news about Windows RT and its strategy for the platform at BUILD late this month.