The next generation of Microsoft Windows comes in two flavors—Windows 8 and Windows RT—unlike all of the previous versions. There are significant differences between them. Windows 8 is the regular upgrade to the desktop operating system, while RT is a new version that incorporates the features of Windows 8. Although RT is just a name, some say it stands for ‘Runtime’. Let’s look at the differences between these operating systems.
Do you know about the ARM architecture? It is the most widely used 32-bit computer architecture. It is the same architecture that any Android device uses. The same architecture is used on Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc. They form the basis of other operating systems like Symbian, Solaris, MeeGo, HP WebOS, Solaris, and most of the Linux operating systems.
Microsoft has had only limited support for ARM architecture through Windows CE, Windows Mobile, etc.
The new Windows RT is the most important release of Windows that works on ARM devices. Microsoft has been daunted by the success of Google Android and Apple iOS on tablets and phones. They have been eclipsing Windows for years in the tablet and smartphone market. It’s high time for them to come up with a competitive solution, and Windows RT is their answer.
This operating system is solely developed for ARM and hence it will not work on regular Intel-based computers. On the other hand, Windows 8 is the version that works on personal computers based on Intel and AMD processors (x86 architecture).
In short, you can’t install Windows RT on a PC, and you can’t install Windows 8 on an ARM tablet. However, x86 tablets like the Sony VAIO Tap 20 could support Windows 8.
Another major difference between the operating systems is here. RT cannot run any of your regular desktop applications. It is designed only for ‘apps’ that you use on Windows Phone devices, supporting the Metro user interface. On the other hand, Windows 8 is backward compatible supporting both Metro apps and regular Windows applications. This makes Windows 8 the right choice if you want to use existing applications.
Also, certain important applications like the Mozilla Firefox don’t work properly with Windows RT. Development of such software are also not supported. This is the reason why Mozilla has recently denounced Windows RT saying nothing can be done to develop a fully capable third-party browser on RT. Also, the Windows Media Player is not available on RT. You have to rely on third party apps for proper media management.
Windows 8 doesn’t come with Microsoft Office, while RT comes with a lite version of Office preinstalled. Only Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Excel are available. There is no Outlook.
In short: Use Windows 8 if you want to use your previous applications
Getting the Operating System
You will be able to purchase Windows 8 by the end of this month. Expected date is 26 Oct. This is for Windows 8 and 8 Pro. Windows RT is not available for purchase. It is delivered directly to OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), like Samsung, Nokia, Dell, etc., for incorporating to their ARM-powered devices.
This also makes RT a very lite version of Windows, and thus less costly (the cost being incorporated to the device cost). Also, RT version has its own version of Office that is available for free. Regular PC users have to upgrade to Windows 8 (from 7 Starter or Home Premium) or 8 Pro (from Win 7 Professional or Ultimate). This can be done for a PC, laptop, or x86 tablet supporting Windows 8.
The User Interface
If you know and like the Metro UI, you are in luck as this is the default user interface for both versions. However, being a desktop operating system, Windows 8 can be converted to the regular desktop interface. RT has only the Metro interface.
As you can see, RT has the only advantage being it’s very cheap. As soon as x86 tablets get released, Windows 8 and 8 Pro should become the primary choice of customers. However, the choice is really up to whether you want to use your regular Windows applications on a tablet or on your PC that has any previous version of Windows installed. If you just want a Metro style tablet, then RT is the right choice.
[Image used with permission from Microsoft]