I have taken an interest to the new generation of tablets lately. I got my first tablet in May 2011, the Asus Transformer TF100. At that time, it was what I considered the epitome of mobile devices that is not a smartphone.
nearly three years since then, there have been so many new tablets: many have been based on Android, a few on iOS, and some based on Windows RT. When Microsoft first introduced the Surface and Windows RT in October 2012, it conjured memories of Windows CE. I liked Windows CE, but despised the watered-down version of Office.
So, when I realized that Windows RT took a similar approach, of bundling a less than full version of Office, I had a deja vu moment. In the 15 months since, I haven’t really given much attention to anything running Windows RT. Instead, I had been looking forward to hybrid and convertible 10.1″ or smaller tablets that run the full version of Windows 8.1.
But a Windows 8.1 based tablet does not have the same battery life as a Windows RT based tablet. I tend to push my devices pretty hard, so many of them tend have a higher than average battery consumption.
At the same time, I have started to use some basic virtual desktop technology – Microsoft’s Remote Desktop using RDP. I have two Windows 8.1 devices at home – a desktop and a laptop. I made the desktop headless, and control it from my laptop using RDP. For applications that require high bandwidth or sustained running time, I run it on the desktop so I can close my laptop whenever I need and work from wherever I want without interrupting the application.
This weekend, as I was running some applications, it dawned on me: why not use Windows RT for a day-to-day mobile device?
I had previously considered getting a Chromebook, based on Android. I could use Google Drive to synchronize data for offline use while I was in areas without wifi (such as an airplane). For other corporate applications, I could run Android based clients of the web applications while offline.
The problem with Chromebooks is that all Chromebooks were heavier than my ultrabook, and does not run any version of Office making me essentially unproductive while offline. (I could run web versions of Office while online). I agree that there are Android applications out there that can create and edit Office documents, but none of them were really designed for much more than a cursory edit or viewing. I needed to be able to create decent Powerpoint presentations, or format Word documents. Android applications were not going to be able to do that to my satisfaction.
I have been waiting for the next generation of Windows 8.1 tablets. Based on news coverage of CES 2014, I think there will be a number that will fit the bill for me. I could use an 8″ Windows 8.1 tablet while on the road, have the full experience of Windows and Office, and be very satisfied … until I realized that the battery life would not be to my satisfaction.
So, back to the drawing board! The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Windows 8.1 RT could actually be very relevant to my needs: portable (around 1.5 lbs including a keyboard), runs a reasonable version of Office, Microsoft remote desktop, and can run the Chrome web browser. (Neuralytix only uses Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications for its corporate needs).
With the needs of weight, portability, productivity, and connectivity met, could my next mobile be a Windows RT device?
Alas, no. The Surface 2 with the keyboard costs nearly US$600. The alternative, the Asus VivoRT (again with the keyboard) is not that much cheaper. At that price point, and the reduced capabilities of Office, I am better off just looking at a new ultrabook or holding out for a tablet with full Windows 8.1.
My conclusion: Windows RT is relevant technology. It has everything an average user would need at home or in the office. The devices that support it are lightweight, portable, and highly connected. They also provide a very formidable battery life. But the difference between Windows RT and Windows 8.1 RT demands a much larger price difference. With so many applications being web based for home users, now including Office web apps, most consumers will not need the latest laptop with the fastest clock speed.
Instead, the “average” user should look for good network connectivity (e.g. 802.11ac) and expandable local storage (64GB or more). They need to balance battery life with weight, and consider whether they need all the features and functions of a full edition of Office.
For me, Windows RT fits the bill in all but price.