Dell exec: I urged Microsoft not to call its tablet OS Windows RT

The head of Dell's PC business told Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that Windows RT should've been named something else since it doesn't run traditional Windows applications.

Lance Whitney
Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
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Should Microsoft have called it ARM tablet OS something other than Windows RT?

That was Dell's argument, according to comments made by a top executive at the PC vendor.

At the Dell World conference last week, Dell's vice chairman and president of its PC business, Jeffrey Clarke, told analysts what he thought of the name Windows RT, as reported by the Australian Financial Review.

Clark said he warned Ballmer not to use the Windows brand name in the new tablet OS since it would confuse consumers into thinking it supports traditional Windows applications. Designed to run on ARM-based tablets, Windows RT runs only Windows Store, aka Metro, apps.

In response, Ballmer said that the Windows brand was too important not to be used in the new name, according to AFR. But at least some consumers who've picked up Surface RT tablet have been confused.

Microsoft reportedly has had to change its return policies for people who buy Surface RT only to find out that they can't run standard Windows applications on it.

Neil Hand, the vice president in charge of Dell's tablet business, told AFR that no matter what Microsoft called its ARM tablet OS, the company still would've had to educate consumers about the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT.

"Making sure we educate the market place on the differences was going to be a necessary action no matter what," Hand said. "Just calling it something different is not going to solve the problem.

Still, this does point to a problem, not just with the brand name but with the overall differences in Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Consumers don't want to have to be "educated" about the products they buy. Already faced with a bewildering array of devices, people prefer more clear-cut choices so they can simply buy the product they want without having to be taught every single detail about it.

The Windows RT name certainly has created some confusion, but a different name probably would've created its own set of issues -- a no-win situation for Microsoft.