Windows RT is an operating system for tablets that does not allow users to install traditional desktop software written for Windows PCs. Windows 8 runs on both traditional desktops and laptops, as well as "hybrids"—touchscreen PCs that can be used as tablets or laptops. Windows 8 is the latest generation of the traditional Windows operating system that is backward compatible, meaning it can run most software that was developed for earlier versions of Windows, like Windows 7 and Vista.

Comparison chart

Windows 8 versus Windows RT comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartWindows 8Windows RT
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Platform support x86 architecture—Intel/AMD chip devices. Can only run on devices that use ARM architecture.
Introduction Microsoft's Windows 8 runs on desktops and laptops. It is the latest generation of the traditional Windows OS that is backward compatible, meaning it can run most software that was developed for earlier versions of Windows. Microsoft's Windows RT is an operating system for tablets that does not allow users to install traditional desktop software written for Windows PCs.
Price Standard version: $119.99USD. Pro version: $199.99. Student version: $69.99. Windows RT cannot be purchased as a stand-alone OS. Those who want to use RT will have to find a device that comes with RT pre-installed. Microsoft's 32GB version of the Surface 2 runs on Windows RT and is priced at $449.
Interface "Metro" tiles. Start button and further desktop support in Windows 8.1. "Metro" tiles. ''Less'' desktop support in Windows RT 8.1.
Initial release October 2012. October 2012.
Web Browsing Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozille Firefox, and others. Internet Explorer only.
Preceded by Windows 7. None.
Latest stable release 8.1 in October 2013. 8.1 in October 2013.
Software Support Most all Windows software. Limited to what's available in the Windows Store. No support for many popular programs, like iTunes, VLC, and Adobe Photoshop.
Gaming All the latest video games released for PCs will run on a Windows 8 system with modern hardware. Hardly any support beyond casual mobile games.
Storage Depends on the PC, but the OS takes up little disk space. Requires at least 16GB of storage for 32-bit Windows 8 and 20GB for the 64-bit version. Storage more closely tied to device. For example, half of 32GB Surface 2 is dedicated to Windows RT installation alone. Users can add storage using micro SDXC storage slots or external drives.
Global OS Market Share Less than 11% between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Less than 1%.

Overview

The Windows 8 operating system looks very different from its predecessor, Windows 7, but it still functions, or can be made to function, in many of the same ways that users will be most familiar with from previous versions of Windows. RT, on the other hand, while mostly looking the same on the surface, functions quite differently from both Windows 8 and previous versions of Windows. Some have said Microsoft's decision to consider RT an edition of Windows 8, rather than a stand-alone product, has confused consumers, resulting in poor sales and sometimes negative reviews.

RT is optimized for speed—the RT stands for "runtime"—and aims to maximize battery life. The major trade-off is that the only software that works on RT is Windows Store app software that has been specifically created for RT. This is because Microsoft created RT for 32-bit ARM architecture, so software created for x86 systems will not work on Windows RT. In many ways, RT has more in common with Apple's iPad iOS or Google's Chromebook operating system than it does with Windows 8.

The following video gives a brief overview of the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of Windows RT versus Windows 8.

Pricing

The Windows 8 operating system can be purchased for $119.99USD, with a Pro version available for $199.99 and a Student version available for $69.99.

In contrast, Windows RT cannot be purchased as a stand-alone operating system. Because it is optimized for ARM processing chips, Windows RT will only work on ARM devices. Those who want to use RT will have to find a device that comes with RT pre-installed. As an example, Microsoft's 32GB version of the Surface 2 runs on Windows RT and is priced at $449.00.

Windows 8 vs. Windows RT Features

Interface

Both Windows 8 and Windows RT use Microsoft's new, tiled design known as Metro. However, full-featured Windows 8 editions allow users to switch to a "desktop mode" that Windows RT does not support.

Battery Life

Windows RT was created with long battery life in mind. ARM processors are more power efficient than Intel or AMD processors, meaning Windows RT devices can last between eight and 13 hours—and even longer, depending on applications in use—on battery alone, whereas a Windows 8 device will only last for six to eight hours on its battery.

Web Browsing

Windows 8 users have the same browser options they had in previous versions of Windows. Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox all work on the operating system. Mozilla had planned to release a special, Metro-styled version of Firefox but stated in March 2014 that development had stopped.

In Windows RT, users can only browse the internet with Internet Explorer 11. There are no alternative browsers available at this time. Mozilla and Google have argued this is due to restrictions Microsoft has placed on third-party browser development for the RT environment.

Document Creation

Every device with Windows RT comes with Office 2013 Home & Student RT, a version of Microsoft Office that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and (since the Windows RT 8.1 update) Outlook. Windows 8 can run the Microsoft Office suite, as well as a host of other document and email software that RT cannot.

With an internet connection, both operating systems can be used to access web-based document applications, like OneDrive (formerly, SkyDrive) or Google Drive.

Multimedia

Windows 8 comes with a music app, Windows Media Player, and Windows Media Center pre-installed. The operating system can also run a multitude of other music and video players, such as iTunes, VLC, Winamp, foobar2000, and others.

One complaint about Windows RT is that it does not include Windows Media Player or Windows Media Center; however, RT devices do come with Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps pre-installed. There are no RT apps available for iTunes, VLC, Winamp, or foobar2000. Users can still access many web-based music services, though, like Pandora, Spotify, or Amazon MP3.

In terms of picture storage and basic photo editing, there is little difference between Windows 8 and its RT edition, but advanced users will notice the absence of RT's support for professional tools like Adobe Photoshop.

Windows 8 Gaming

Windows systems offer the best support for PC gaming. All the latest video games released for PCs will run on a Windows system with modern hardware.

However, as a simpler operating system made for tablets that is further restricted by its hardware, Windows RT provides little support for gaming. Some casual mobile games, like Bejeweled or Sodoku, are available in the app store, but no big-name games are developed for RT devices.

Storage

Like previous versions of Windows, Windows 8 can run on most modern computers and laptops. It requires at least 16GB of storage for 32-bit Windows 8 and 20GB for the 64-bit version. For most computer users, this will only take up a small portion of disk space that is available on modern hard drives. In the event that more space is needed, it is easy to install a second hard drive in a desktop computer or use an external drive.

With Windows RT connected to devices, rather than a stand-alone operating system, users' storage experiences are more closely tied to the device. For example, half of the 32GB Surface 2 is dedicated to the Windows RT installation alone. Users can add storage space on the Surface 2 by using one or two of the device's micro SDXC storage slots or using some external drive.

Miscellaneous

Windows 8.1 and Windows Update 1

In October 2013, Windows 8.1 was released to fix various bugs and improve features and usability. With the update, Windows' famous Start button returned, and further desktop interface support was added for non-RT users. Meanwhile, RT users actually saw a decrease in desktop support, as Windows altogether removed the desktop tile from the RT's Metro interface. RT users received a new version of Microsoft Outlook in their Office 2013 RT suite.

The update has been popular among users, and critics have given it positive reviews for the most part. However, many reviewers have felt 8.1's features should have been available in the original release.

In February 2014, Microsoft announced it would release another Windows 8 update. Known as Windows 8.1 Update 1, this update will again tweak the interface and make it friendlier for desktop users. In March 2014, Microsoft reportedly leaked the update by accident.

Future

Adoption of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 has been slow, and as of February 2014, the operating system and its update accounted for less than 11% of the global OS market. Relative to the RT, however, Windows 8 has done well.

Windows RT holds only a 0.02% share of the global OS market. In August 2013, Microsoft reported a $900 million loss following what it called "inventory adjustments" of the Surface RT. Deep price slashing on RT devices followed in hopes of stimulating sales.

Despite less than stellar performance in the market, some have speculated that at least parts of Windows RT are here to stay, as elements of the operating system may appear in future versions of Windows.

References

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