Windows RT: And Asus makes none

Asus says it won't make any more Windows RT machines, leaving Microsoft's Surface RT as the sole model for sale

Nobody wants to buy Windows RT computers. But in light of recent comments from Asus, it appears that no one wants to make any more Windows RT tablets anytime soon.

The former shouldn't come as a surprise to those of you who've been reading my stream of articles about Windows RT circling the drain. As far back as early February, it's been clear that little, if anything, could be done to save the patient.

Asus appears to have given last rites to the tablets too, judging by what Chairman Johnny Shih recently told Ina Fried at AllThingsD:

[W]hile not completely ruling out future Windows RT products, when it comes to Windows, he is putting all of his time and energy into devices that use Intel chips. People still use a lot of classic Windows apps, Shih said.

Shih went on to note, "One of the most popular apps for Windows 8 is a program to bring back the classic Start menu." While some journalists who should know better try to mollify readers by saying that Windows 8.1 "Blue" brings back the Start button, you and I know that the ersatz Start button in the Windows 8.1 previews isn't anything at all like the Windows 7 Start menu. Windows 8.1 Start doesn't even come close to the dozens of add-ins that bring a Start menu to Windows 8. You can bet that Shih knows it.

By my count, that brings the number of actively marketed Windows RT devices down to exactly one: Microsoft's own Surface RT. Thumbnail estimates put the number of Surface RT machines sitting in warehouses at somewhere between 3 million and 10 million. The Microsoft Store page for Surface RT devices -- which once listed a dozen models -- now includes just one.

Perhaps it's inertia or the inability to cancel manufacturing contracts, but Microsoft seems hell-bent on releasing a Surface RT 8.1. If the new machine follows in its progenitor's footsteps, Microsoft might sell 10 of them.

I'll stick to my earlier guesstimate: I'd be surprised if there were more than 500,000 Surface RT tablets in use right now -- meaning that somebody actually paid money for a machine, didn't return it, and uses it now once a week or more.

The future of Windows RT -- if it has one -- lies in diversifying: much lower prices, smaller form factors, different software, perhaps a tie-in to the Xbox or a replacement for or adjunct to the dearly departed Nook (Wookie, anybody?). There may actually be a profit looming if the new Wookie can tap into B&N's big catalog of titles -- but the profit will be in selling razor blades, not Microsoft's third-rate razors.

It doesn't take a marketing genius to see that if Microsoft gives us a slightly warmed-over version of the same-old, same-old Surface RT, buyers will shun it in droves.

I have to wonder if the Windows RT fiasco is pulling down sales for all devices that use the Metro interface -- once burned, twice shy, and all that. #EpicFail

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