Do you need Windows Media Center, perhaps for a living room–based DVR (digital video recorder) solution?

If yes, then you simply cannot choose Windows RT. You’ll need to choose from the many Intel‑compatible Windows 8 PCs. In fact, you’ll need to use Windows 8 Pro.


Those are the four biggest Windows RT blockers. If you are still a candidate for a Windows RT‑based device, your choice is now a heck of a lot less clear, unfortunately. And that’s because it’s just really hard to know whether to choose Intel (Windows 8) or ARM (Windows RT).

Consider this quandary. You’ve decided on a Windows RT tablet because it’s super thin and light and it runs for days on a charge. (We’re fantasizing here; stick with us.) So you make the purchase, discover a bunch of fun and useful Metro‑style apps and go happily on your way. You are able to connect it to a docking station and take advantage of the large, widescreen display, external keyboard, and mouse you keep in your home office. All is well.

But then you receive an attachment for work that includes a file type that’s not supported by any Metro‑style app, perhaps an Adobe Photoshop file or WordPerfect document. If this were a traditional Windows 8 PC, you’d be able to install software to open this file. But on Windows RT, you’re kind of stuck until a Metro‑style alternative appears.

There are a hundred scenarios like this where the lack of real Windows compatibility can hurt: browser alternatives, browser add‑ins, games, and more.

As a rule, the decision will often come down to the very general difference between the Metro‑style environment that will be your primary interface on Windows RT devices and the Windows desktop, which will be far more powerful and usable on Intel‑compatible PCs (and will certainly be the primary interface as well, especially on traditional desktop PCs and laptops). And that difference is this: Metro is (largely) for consuming content and the desktop is (largely) for productivity. When you want to browse the web, check Facebook, perform simple e‑mail activities, enjoy music or a movie, and perform other consumption‑style activities, Metro is the place to be. And if this is all you’re doing with the PC or device, or almost all you’re doing, an ARM‑based Windows RT device should be ideal. You need a device, not a PC.

If you need to do anything creative or productive–regularly create word processing documents, edit spreadsheets, or make presentations, and so on–you need a Windows 8‑based PC running on an Intel‑compatible chipset. You need a PC, not a device.

What’s confusing is that the lines are blurring between the two types of products. That is, there are Intel‑compatible tablets, and there are ARM‑based laptops. The adoption of the ARM platform gives Windows users a choice. But it also provides a new bit of confusion.

Speaking of which, let’s talk device types.


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