A puzzle: why did Microsoft hold back Windows RT previews from developers?

Surface RT is out, along with a few other Windows RT devices such as the Asus Vivo Tab RT, and for most people (developers included) it is their first opportunity to have hands-on time with Windows 8 on ARM. What is odd here is that at the same moment that users can try (or in some cases buy) apps that those same developers have built, on Windows RT. The idea was that if you code for the Windows Runtime, which is common to both Intel and ARM versions of Windows, then the same app will just work.

Of course it is not that simple. The problem is that Windows RT has different performance characteristics than x86 Windows, such as a much slower JavaScript engine, and an app that runs fine on x86 Windows 8 may not give a good user experience on Windows RT.

Microsoft’s store process ensures that apps which do not work at all on ARM – such as those which include x86 native code – are not listed for download on Windows RT; but these other apps which work, but not well enough, have generally been made available.

The puzzle is why Microsoft did not offer developers some kind of preview hardware, such as RIM makes available for Blackberry 10, so that these issues could have been addressed, either by fixing the performance with further optimisation, or if necessary by marking apps as x86 only.

As it is, the developers of these poorly-performing apps will get the blame for a problem that is not of their making.

Post written and posted on Surface RT using the Word 2013 blog template

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1 comment to A puzzle: why did Microsoft hold back Windows RT previews from developers?

  • I think it is possible that MS didn’t want to tip their hand on Surface. With no prototypes available, and no competing devices either – it would be hard to offer an ARM based preview.