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Dell executive warned Microsoft that Windows 8, Windows RT branding would confuse everyone

Dan Graziano
December 17th, 2012 at 7:57 PM
Windows RT Dell

The latest version of Windows brought a wave of confusion to consumers looking to purchase a new computer or tablet. Microsoft’s (MSFT) operating system is available in four different versions — Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Enterprise and Widows RT. All but the latter are compatible with traditional Intel (INTC) chips and can run older Windows programs. Windows RT is not like the rest, though — the tablet-specific version of Windows is only available on ARM-based devices such as Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet. The operating system comes preloaded with a basic version of Office 2013, however it cannot run traditional desktop applications. The naming scheme has left consumers scratching their heads, and at least one executive warned Microsoft about it earlier this year.

Jeffrey Clarke, Dell’s (DELL) vice-chairman and president of its PC business, revealed at the Dell World conference in Austin last week that he informed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer of the dangers of calling the new tablet operating system Windows RT, The Australian Financial Review reported. Clarke said that because it wasn’t compatible with other versions of Windows, the name would only lead to widespread confusion.

Ballmer responded by saying that the Windows brand was too important of a franchise to not be used in the company’s tablet operating system. The executive’s decision has since been heavily criticized and even forced Microsoft to extend its Surface RT return policies after consumers realized the device could not run their favorite Windows applications.

Neil Hand, vice president of Dell’s tablet business, notes that regardless of how Microsoft named Windows RT, tablet and PC vendors would still have had to teach consumers about the differences between the two operating systems.

“Making sure we educate the market place on the differences was going to be a necessary action no matter what,” he said. Just calling it something different is not going to solve the problem.”

The advantage of Windows RT is lighter and thinner devices with longer battery life and lower price points. Many consumers are not yet ready to adopt the new Windows-style apps full-time, however.

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