Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is going to all-out war to try to combat the low-end Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chromebook threat! In a bid to try to keep customers from switching over to machines using Google's cheap notebooks, Microsoft provided a handy chart to illustrate just how "deficient" Chromebooks are and why Windows 8.1 notebooks are superior. Take a look:
So, at first glance, this seems like a pretty compelling list of reasons for why Chromebooks are inferior to Windows 8.1 machines, right? You're not going to get any disagreement from me, but what Microsoft utterly fails to realize is that these same criticisms can be applied to Windows RT!
Seriously, Just Replace "Chromebook" With "Windows RT"
Let me illustrate precisely why replacing "Chromebook" with "Windows RT convertible" would be a near-perfect substitution.
- Skype, iTunes, Photoshop, Quicken, and other essential programs: Yes, this is a great advantage for Windows 8.1 devices running Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and AMD (NYSE:AMD) chips. However, other than Skype, none of the applications listed here will run on a Windows RT/ARM (NASDAQ:ARMH) based machine since they are compiled for X86 (and I doubt the folks at Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU) are in any hurry to port it over so that Surface RT/2 users can use it).
- Desktop: Microsoft claims that the "desktop" is only a background image on Chrome. Tell me, other than Office 2013, just how many "desktop" applications can anybody put on a Windows RT device? (hint: if it's not zero, it's within spitting distance of it)
- Use almost any printer: I'll give Microsoft this one -printer support is good (I'll get 'em in the "peripheral devices" one)
- PC Games: Nope. Can't run any traditional Windows games on Windows RT due to the fact that just about every PC game is compiled for X86. Good luck getting Call of Duty running on a Surface 2 (an ASUS Transformer T100 will run Call of Duty just fine albeit at lowered settings - video here)
- Watch popular movies and TV shows offline - This is more of a criticism of the tablet form factor/limitations, but it'd be really nice if Microsoft could point me to a Windows RT device that actually had the storage space for movies and TV shows...
- Connect to most peripheral devices: According to ExtremeTech, while simple, more generic peripherals will work on Windows RT, more complex ones won't have support out of the box and will need an updated set of drivers. Good luck getting that Logitech gamepad to work! (although since Windows RT can't run any PC games, who would care if it could?)
- Choose where your documents go: Fine, Microsoft gets that one too.
But you see the point that I've been making for nearly two years, right? As long as X86 hardware with similar performance/power characteristics is available, Windows RT devices will always be seen as crippled and undesirable. With Intel accelerating its Atom roadmap and playing it very aggressively on price, it's still baffling that Microsoft let Windows RT live through another "Surface" iteration (Baytrail would have been great for the Surface 2).
The continued push of Windows RT seems silly. In trying to pick on the limitations of Google's Chromebooks, Microsoft exposed just why Windows RT was an ill-conceived idea. It's no surprise that Surface RT was a financial disaster and Surface 2, while a much better device, is still ultimately not going to achieve the goal of being a "convertible" since it can't run traditional PC applications. The ASUS T100, which hits it right on the mark and for cheaper (although at the expense of build quality and battery life), is just the beginning of what Microsoft's partners can achieve with full Windows 8.1 and a real X86 processor.
I'm sure Intel is ready and waiting to power Microsoft's Surface 3, and I'm sure many people looking for a high quality, fast, and sleek Windows tablet/convertible would love a 14 nanometer "Cherry Trail" based Surface 3. It's all on Microsoft now.
Disclosure: I am long INTC. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.