Windows RT – the cut-down, half-fat, limited, unloved version of the world’s most famous operating system – is officially dead. Microsoft tweeted us to confirm:
@appsinthesky Thanks! All future devices of Surface will have full Windows capabilities.
— Surface UK (@Surface_UK) April 15, 2015
That it was in terminal decline is of no surprise to anyone, though manufacturers do like to string these things out. It quickly became apparent that people weren’t going to buy RT unless there were apps for it, and developers weren’t going to write apps for it unless people started buying it. Ultimately neither side broke the cycle. It’s perhaps telling that in the entire history of Apps In The Sky, we’ve never once been asked to create an app for Windows RT.
The death of RT is a victory – perhaps incidentally, but a victory nonetheless – for freedom. RT represented Microsoft’s first forays into closed-system computing. That is, RT was intentionally locked down so that it could only run software that had been pre-approved, screened and censored by Microsoft. This set a potentially dangerous precedent, because it gave a single commercial organisation the complete power of veto over everything you might want to do with your computer. If you wanted an RT app we would have had to first check against Microsoft’s rules that what you wanted was OK by them, even if you were the only person who was going to use it.
The technology also had the potential to permit more sinister, draconian policies. What if Microsoft started rejecting apps which were beneficial to consumers, but against their own commercial interests? There would be nothing you could do, for example, if they one day banned Chrome/Firefox and forced everyone to use Internet Explorer.
That consumers have overwhelmingly voted against it, even where not for this reason, is an important step. We hope Microsoft will learn from this experience. Don’t believe the haters: Windows is a truly great operating system, and Windows 10 in particular looks superb. We hope it will forever maintain its openness and the right of the consumer to choose what they want to do with their computer. The future is surely bright.