Over the last eight weeks, I have participated in several conferences or customer device days. It is really exciting to meet new people and to share the Microsoft and Windows 8 story. I get to talk about the latest operating system, the cloud services that keep our life in sync (including Skydrive, Outlook.com, XBOX 360 with XBOX Live, the new XBOX Music and XBOX Video), Windows Phone, and many of the new devices from Microsoft and our OEM partners (HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Acer, Samsung, etc.).
For the most part, the conversation always starts out the same. I do the initial pleasantries and then I’m asked “what is Microsoft showcasing today?” So, that’s when it begins… I first uncover that most people are not familiar with the two primary types of operating systems from Microsoft: Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro. Further leading into an explanation between the differences between the Microsoft Surface RT and the Microsoft Surface Pro.
I’m assuming that if you are reading this, you might also not be too familiar between the two operating systems.
Let’s first start with “What is Windows 8?”
In a nutshell, Windows 8 is the new operating system that was design with a touch first experience. The goal is to create a more beautiful, more flexible experience that is more you. There are many new experiences with Windows 8 including: The Start Screen, Touch with a no compromise Mouse and Keyboard experience, Windows Store, XBOX Music and Videos, and Cloud Synchronizing of your preferences.
Windows RT and Microsoft Surface RT
Windows RT is a new edition for the Windows Family. It is a version of Windows that runs on the ARM processor. ARM devices are typically thought of as being thinner, lighter, and having a longer battery life than their x86 counterparts. I say “typically” because Intel has an ultra-low-voltage processor, the Atom processor, that is getting the battery performance of ARM-based devices. Intel is also under development of Haswell, a new low-power processor that is optimized for power savings and performance.
With Windows RT, you get the beautiful new experience. The main thing to know about Windows RT is that the only apps that run on these devices are the ones that come from the Windows Store… with the exception of the pre-included Microsoft Office Home & Student edition which gives you Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote (all 2013 versions). As a business user, the Information Technology (IT) department can side-load the new Modern applications and manage these devices with Windows Intune (more coming later).
This allows any user of a Windows RT device to have a touch-optimized experience to play games, interact with touch-enabled applications, browse the web, and do light email. Additionally, with Microsoft Office included, you get all of the great productivity software to create rich content for work, home, school, etc.
To accompany Windows RT, Microsoft designed a device that takes full advantage of the ARM processor with a beautifully designed tablet, touch experience. The Microsoft Surface RT is 1.5 lbs, gets approximately 10 hours of battery life, has 5 points of touch, an integrated kickstand, and the extras that you would want in a tablet device: USB port (USB 2.0), microSDXC card slot, HD video out port, and you can purchase an optional cover that is a keyboard (either the touch keyboard at 3 millimeters thin or the tactile Type keyboard).
Windows 8 Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro
Windows 8 Pro provides you all of the greatness of a Windows RT device, but since it leverages the x86 processor, you also get to leverage the full capabilities of the desktop. What does this mean to you? Any application that runs on a Windows 7 device (desktop, laptop, etc.), can run on a Windows 8 Pro device. Therefore, if you purchase a touch-enabled device that runs Windows 8 Pro to take advantage of the new touch capabilities of Windows 8, you also get the ability to run all of your existing applications. It’s a no compromise solution… the best of both worlds (a tablet device combined with the power of the full desktop).
Microsoft has a second tablet device called the Microsoft Surface Pro. Surface Pro runs Windows 8 Pro. For most people, this device can be your PC/Laptop replacement. If you are looking for a new ultrabook or laptop, you should consider the Microsoft Surface Pro. It is slightly heavier at 2.0 lbs but it packs a punch. It’s equipped with the Intel Core i5 processor, 10 points of touch, a digitizer for a beautiful inking experience, a display of 1920×1080 pixels, Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0, microSDXC card slot, and 4 GB RAM.
The Beauty of Windows 8 Applications
To finish this post, I want to conclude with WinRT. Do not confuse “Windows RT” with “WinRT” – Windows RT is the version of the operating system that runs on the ARM processor. WinRT is the API (application programming interface) for the development of Windows 8 applications.
Why is WinRT so important? As a developer, you can develop a Windows 8 application and deploy it to all devices (ARM and x86). This means that you don’t have to recompile or do anything extra. The applications just work because both the Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro have the WinRT library included with the operating systems. This is very important for developer support. There is no worry on how to make a Windows 8 application work for the ARM platform as well as the x86 platform. Because of WinRT, the applications are cross platform. As an end-user, I can move between devices without worrying if the application is supported on that particular device.
It just works.