No Windows 10 for RT users, says Microsoft

January 23, 2015 | 11:52

Tags: #surface-pro #surface-rt #windows #windows-10 #windows-rt #wintel #x86

Companies: #arm #intel #microsoft

When Microsoft announced that it would allow users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to upgrade to the upcoming Windows 10 on release for free, it was rightly celebrated - but the company has now clarified that there's a good reason it didn't mention Windows RT in that statement.

Windows RT launched as something of a big deal, being the first mainstream Windows release to feature support for the ARM instruction set architecture. Previously, Windows - at least on desktops and laptops - had been heavily tied into the x86 instruction set architecture, to the point where Windows and Intel were known as the Wintel duopoly. A shift to supporting ARM, then, was a bold move, but one that Microsoft may have had cause to regret. Sales of its initial product, the Surface RT, were poor, while its handful of licensees abandoned the platform in favour of building tablets based on Intel's low-power Bay Trail chips and the x86 version of Windows 8.1.

This week's press conference for the upcoming Windows 10 confirmed the rumours that it would be a free upgrade for current and previous generation Windows releases, at least for the first year from launch. Windows RT, however, was not mentioned - and CNET has the official word on why: it won't be upgraded to Windows 10.

That doesn't mean Microsoft is abandoning the platform and casting its users adrift, however. 'We are working on an update for [the Windows RT version of] Surface,' a company spokesperson told the site, 'which will have some of the functionality of Windows 10.' Exactly what functionality that will be remains to be seen, with Microsoft promising 'more information to come.'

The statement does hint that Windows 10, unlike its predecessor, may not be released in an ARM-compatible format. A lack of licensees, poor sales of its own Windows RT-based tablets, and an increasing focus on its Intel-powered Surface Pro product family - which runs full-fat Windows 8.1 and will receive the Windows 10 upgrade free of charge - could have led Microsoft to focus exclusively on the x86 build of its upcoming operating system. While current Windows RT users will receive 'an update,' then, it won't be Windows 10 - and the next-generation Surface tablets which will undoubtedly launch alongside the new operating system later this year are unlikely to feature ARM processors at all, making Windows RT a costly experiment for the company and a poor investment for its few users.
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