Samsung's decision hurts Microsoft's efforts to gain ground against Google and Apple in the mobile computing market.
8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
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Just days after Steve Ballmer touted the company as one of Microsoft's key partners in the tablet market, Samsung has killed plans to launch in the U.S. a device based on Windows RT, a derivative of Windows 8 designed mainly for portable systems.
Samsung senior VP Mike Abary told Cnet that the South Korean electronics maker does not see sufficient demand from retailers to justify launch of the previously announced Ativ Tab. Abary said retailers' interest in Windows RT is only "modest." He added that customers may be confused by the OS, which, unlike full-blown Windows 8, can only run software preinstalled by Microsoft or apps downloaded from the Windows Store.
"When we did some tests and studies on how we could go to market with a Windows RT device, we determined there was a lot of heavy lifting we still needed to do to educate the customer on what Windows RT was," Abary said. "And that heavy lifting was going to require pretty heavy investment." Abary said Samsung may still launch the tablet in some international markets. A spokesperson for Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
[ Will Microsoft introduce more hardware products beyond Surface? CEO Steve Ballmer suggests it's likely. ]
Last year, Hewlett-Packard said it had scrapped plans for a Windows RT tablet, based on customer feedback.
The decision by Samsung, one of the world's leading consumer electronics makers, to pull back from Windows RT surely comes as a blow to Microsoft. On Monday, CEO Ballmer made a surprise appearance during Qualcomm's keynote at CES to tout new Windows devices, including the Ativ Tab, which he called "stunning."
Microsoft developed Windows RT to run on ARM chips made by Qualcomm and Nvidia. But Samsung's move leaves only Lenovo, Dell and ASUS as the only major OEMs developing products around the OS for the U.S. market.
Microsoft itself entered the market when it launched Surface RT in October. Indeed, Redmond's concern that hardware makers may not fully get on board with Windows RT was partly behind its decision to go into the business itself.
"Not that we don't have good hardware partners, but sometimes getting the innovation right across the seam of hardware and software is difficult unless you do both of them," Ballmer said at Microsoft's annual shareholder meeting in November, Bellevue, Wash.
Analysts believe Microsoft may get deeper still into hardware if it senses its partners are not fully behind Windows RT and Windows 8, or if it concludes that the OEM community is not being sufficiently innovative. "Sometimes when you want a true showcase product you have to step up and do it yourself," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, who cited Google's Nexus smartphone as an example.
Many PC makers looked at Windows RT "and said this is a crippled product" because it does not run legacy Windows applications, Enderle added.
Earlier this week at CES, Microsoft Windows group co-chief Tami Reller said Microsoft is in the hardware business for the long haul. "We got into this business as a business, this isn't a short-term adventure," said Reller.