Windows RT 'isn't Windows'

The Windows brand is dying from overexposure, and a Microsoft attorney's reported assertion that 'Windows RT... isn't Windows anymore' is 100 percent correct

The blogosphere is alight once again with rallying cries about Microsoft's decidedly uncompetitive approach to applications on Windows RT (formerly known as Windows on ARM). Mozilla has complained that restricting browsers to operate only in the Metro part of Windows RT, and not allowing them to play in the "classic" Windows environment, amounts to unfair competition. Harvey Anderson, Mozilla general counsel, blogged: "By allowing only IE to perform the advanced functions of a modern Web browser, third-party browsers are effectively excluded from the platform." Google later chimed in and agreed.

When I read that comment, I was struck by two facts. First, Microsoft told us back in February that third-party browsers won't be allowed to work on the "classic" side of the Windows RT fence. The blogs may be boiling now, but it's really old news.

Second, until we know exactly which APIs Microsoft allows to Internet Explorer, and blocks with other browsers, we don't really know the extent of the damage. As far as I can tell, Microsoft hasn't uttered a peep publicly about the block list. At this point the whole episode's just sound and fury.

What's really interesting in all this uproar is Cnet's Stephen Shankland report that (follow the chain of attribution here) Mozilla general counsel Anderson says that Microsoft deputy general counsel David Heiner told Mozilla that "Windows RT ... isn't Windows anymore."

I really want to be able to confirm that quote directly because if Microsoft attorney Heiner actually said that, I agree with him 100 percent.

Before you rush to the Comments section to condemn me as a closet Microsoft fanboy, the simple fact is that Heiner's quote is right: Windows RT isn't Windows. Not even close. No more than, say, Apple's OS X is Unix.

I'm not disputing Microsoft's right to call anything and everything "Windows." Microsoft has done it already. Windows Live Hotmail doesn't have anything to do with Windows. Windows Live Search wasn't Windows. Right now, Windows CE has only the tiniest, most tenuous genetic connection to Windows. Windows Phone 7 isn't Windows, for heaven's sake. Windows Phone 8 "Apollo" will get minuscule MinWin pieces of Windows DNA grafted into it, but will that make "Apollo" Windows? Sorry, no way. The interfaces may look similar, but inside, one of them has a Vulcan heart.

"Windows" -- as Microsoft uses the term now -- is just a brand, and it's dying from overexposure. (Shall I recall the extended Windows Live debacles?) Other companies have ridden their once-admired brands into the ground. It remains to be seen if Microsoft can duplicate the performance of, say, Blockbuster or Pontiac, MySpace or Borders.

It appears to me that Microsoft's caught between a rock and a hard place. If it keeps the "Windows" name in Windows RT they'll not only confuse the living daylights out of hundreds of millions of consumers, Microsoft will also have to explain to a jury someday why it allows competitors' products into all of Windows 8 but doesn't allow access to all of Windows RT.

Sounds like a career-enhancing move for Microsoft's attorneys, eh?

This story, "Windows RT 'isn't Windows'," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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