Microsoft has been pretty quiet at Computex thus far, but today we got a bit of expected news. Outlook 2013 RT will be coming with the free Windows RT 8.1 update later this year for Windows RT tablets. Not having Outlook was a big gate to Windows RT adoption by many business users, making this a much needed move by Microsoft.

Outlook 2013 RT joins Office 2013 RT as very valuable components of the free software package that comes with all Windows RT tablets. By supplying key desktop applications for free, Microsoft not only increases the value of the platform but also drives users towards the Windows Store and modern UI apps for the rest of their needs as the basics are already met.

Despite the presence of Office 2013 on Windows RT, the ARM based platform hasn’t been embraced with tons of success. Many have blamed the lack of backwards compatibility with existing x86 applications, however I have a slightly different perspective. In my eyes, both Windows RT and Windows 8 suffered from the same issues: the OS was rushed. There was very little integration between modern and desktop UI modes and switching between the two was very jarring. Performance issues and bundled app inflexibility also plagued both OSes. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft seems to be addressing many of these items. If the list stops at what Microsoft has already announced, I suspect Windows 8.1 (and RT 8.1) will be evolutionarily better. If Microsoft can take this opportunity to address bigger problems as well (e.g. fixing high-DPI scaling in desktop mode), then Microsoft has a much bigger opportunity ahead of itself.

Windows 8.1 and RT 8.1 have the benefit of launching side much better hardware. While I complained about the performance of Tegra 3 in Surface RT, this generation we’ll see significantly better performance out of Snapdragon 800 based tablets with 8.1 (likely to also include the 2nd generation Surface RT). On the PC side, we finally have Haswell, which should make the next-gen Surface Pro significantly better (although it may take Broadwell to substantially reduce thickness depending on how aggressive Microsoft chooses to be).

As far as why Microsoft remains committed to Windows RT, I think the reasoning is obvious. PCs (and PC-like products) are under incredible pricing pressure. Microsoft’s only plays are to reduce its margins to remain competitive, or to reduce the cost of other components within the platform. Intel remains the only other big consumer of cost in a modern PC - moving to ARM helps change that. Intel does offer lower cost Atom solutions, but it’s clear at this point that Microsoft feels it needs competition in the market in order to continue to keep prices low. In that regard, ARM really is the new AMD.

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  • wsw1982 - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    It's interesting especially with the consideration how expensive is the outlook alone.
  • domboy - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    A smart move, and I'm really glad it's going to be a desktop Outlook, not a ModernUI version. I might actually start using it. Interesting way to deploy it too.
  • Duraz0rz - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    This might actually make a WinRT tablet interesting to me. The Mail and Calendar apps in Win8 are sorely lacking. It just depends on how cut down Outlook is.
  • JDG1980 - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    My understanding was that RT can't join a domain. If that's still the case, then it's unlikely that it will make much of an inroad with business - especially since RT still can't run any legacy applications. And virtually all businesses have some sort of legacy apps.

    The Exchange server is still a big thing, but these days, virtually all portable devices have ActiveSync support to connect with it, so Outlook isn't as necessary as it once was. If you're giving up legacy compatibility anyway, why go with RT over iOS or Android? Microsoft does still collect licensing fees for ActiveSync, so they're not completely losing out.
  • jhoff80 - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    They have something new called "Workplace Join" in 8.1 that might be expected to cover the lack of Domain functionality in RT. Still, this suffers from the same problem that the current Windows RT management setup (InTune) has- it's something new you need to integrate into your business.

    At this point, I don't see why they don't just enable domain functionality in RT. They've got half the work already done, since group policy already works in RT if you re-enable the service.
  • andrewaggb - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    yeah I think they should have done full domain support. that + outlook + their newly announced games, miracast, wifi direct (xbone controller), starts to make it look like a well rounded device :-)
  • domboy - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    That's what I've been saying too. I don't see why they've put so many artificial limitations on Windows RT. Windows on ARM should have just been a recompile of Windows 8/8Pro straight up.
  • eanazag - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    Bingo. They charge too much to get a cut down Windows experience. $400 can buy a Windows laptop that does run x86 apps. No Desktop?
  • eanazag - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    One of my biggest complaints was sluggishness on the Surface RT; #2 was capacity. They really need to take into consideration usable space. That was just plain dumb. Ultimately Windows RT should have been an ARM Windows 8. No DIY market as it currently stands.
  • sporkfan - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    I still don't understand why Windows RT exists. You've explained why Windows Phone exists. Why doesn't Windows Phone do everything one needs from Windows RT? There are reasons, but thise reasons are not acceptable. Windows Phone needs real productivity. Windows Phone needs more bigger form-factors.

    In real life, Windows RT only exists because the Office organization refused to embrace touch.

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