Looking at Windows Surface there was a slightly confusing thing. There are going to be two versions of the Surface with the cheaper version running Windows RT. So the question has to be what exactly is Windows RT? The short answer is it’s simply Windows 8 designed to run on ARM processors (the processor that will run the cheaper versions of Surface).

People who know about the development side of Windows will assume this could be “Runtime” but as far as can be said now this is actually incorrect. In Windows 8 the actual runtime is to be called WinRT, yes slightly confusing but it makes sense when you realise that the Runtime is what runs Windows 8 itself, it is not the operating system

So What is Windows RT

As mentioned it’s basically a stripped down version of Windows 8 designed to run on the less powerful processor. The more expensive Surface will run on the full Windows 8 and have all the functionality expected of the system. RT is basically making it clear that this is the ARM version. Microsoft have not let it be known as of yet what RT actually stands for other than that.

The big difference of course between Windows 8 and Windows RT for the user will be the applications that it will run. On RT “desktop” applications will in fact run but will only be pre-installed touch optimised versions of software Microsoft have chosen. This will namely be things like Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote. Don’t expect to try any other Windows desktop software on this as this is not what it’s designed for. Remember this is the Windows RT version, not Pro. What this means in theory is that this is a stripped down version of Windows 8 that looks to restrict usage based on the ARM processors capabilities and the expectation that for full access to the Windows 8 architecture you would want the more expensive Surface.

For software that will run on it’s safe to assume that anything that runs on “Metro” will run on the RT as this will not utilise the desktop. Other than that don’t expect much, Microsoft have their view set on RT being a tablet operating system where the more expensive surface will be more about functionality.

What This Means for the Surface

This obviously shows that Microsoft is looking at a two tier “society” of users with this. When looking at RT models of the surface you are looking at a tablet that allows you to use Microsoft Office and apps from the Microsoft Store. Many will be happy with this, as long as Microsoft offers enough Apps to keep people happy.

The real risk of RT will be seen closer to the release of Windows 8 and the release of Surface. Microsoft have a long road to climb if they are going to make a dent in the lead that Apple have created with the iPad and it’s arguable that they will struggle with Surface and Windows RT. The Windows 8 version will have different problems with cost being one and of course the argument that it’s more of a tablet than a laptop. Risky as it may be it’s possible that this is a move in the right direction and if Windows 8 is a hit with consumers it could really be a success.

One interesting side on all of this will of course be gaming. With the new SmartGlass software which will obviously release to take advantage of Surface it may catch the interest of a lot of users. Along with that Microsoft already have a strong presence in the gaming world something that the iPad struggles with at times. If Microsoft push for the gaming side of Windows RT (and full Windows 8) to be a major part of Surface then it may just have an edge in the competition.