Windows 8 tablets -- hardware-secured or not -- don't need the Windows 7 portion that hurts the overall Windows 8 tablet experience. They just need enough of the x86-based legacy Windows core to handle the file system and the security features -- Windows RT acknowledges that through its inclusion of some legacy Windows aspects in its essentially ROM-based compatibility environment for File Explorer, Office RT, and IE10 RT. Windows RT thus points the way for Windows 8's tablet evolution.
I suspect that in a year or two, after people realize they don't want legacy Windows on their tablets, Microsoft will offer Windows RT Pro on the x86 platform to satisfy that customer demand. By then, we may see more and better Metro apps that make it easier to let go of the Windows legacy, at least on tablets. (iOS users have already done so, using those devices as companions to Macs and PCs, not complete replacements. I suspect Windows 8 and RT tablet users will do the same, contrary to Microsoft's dual-environment designs.)
Which Microsoft will prevail?
Microsoft is not one company. You can see that fact in how different Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8 handle management and security. Windows 8 uses existing Microsoft tools, Windows RT offers almost nothing, and Windows Phone 8 offers a set comparable to Android (but fewer than iOS has) for use by third-party MDM tools. If Microsoft as a whole were one company with a unified vision and strategy -- that is, if it were an Apple -- all thee platforms would have a common, Metro-based management and security architecture and tool set, with the Windows 8 platform continuing to support the traditional Microsoft back end as it too was evolved.
Still, the facts on the ground will shape how all three of these quasi-independent units (plus the equally independent server group) will evolve. I believe they'll converge because they have to. It could be done intentionally, in a coordinated fashion (not likely), or it could be done in lurch mode (most likely, and what we saw with Windows Phone and Windows 7) once the market rejects the current offerings as insufficient.
Microsoft may be fragmented and internally quarrelsome, but it has a history of pulling together under crisis. The very fact that the smartphone-derived Metro UI is now common across Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8 is a current example of that; critics can't say Microsoft's similar Internet turnabout a decade ago is no longer possible today.
Windows is in crisis -- people want it less and less, so it's simply not growing any longer, while OS X, Android, and iOS are. Microsoft's Metro shift and decision to make its own tablets both show the company knows it. Windows 8 and RT don't deliver on what Microsoft should do, but they lay the groundwork for what must come next. Think of them as training wheels not only for users but also for Microsoft. If we're all lucky, the training wheels will come off well before 2015.
This article, "The strategy Microsoft must pursue to recover from Windows 8," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.