RT vs iOS/Android: a consideration on consumers confusion


During the past days (and year) one recurring argument of discussion, among the two factions of RT supporters and RT detractors, has been the supposedly confusion the average consumers are facing when getting their hand on an RT device for the first time.
In particular, the confusion issue is based on the assumption consumers are expecting "their old well known programs" (i.e. the legacy x86 applications library) to run on Windows RT, given it's distributed by the maker of those ubiquitous Windows OSs they already use and where those old applications just work without issues.
This argument is normally countered with the proposition that the same hasn't ever been a problem for the iPad, whereas no one is complaining for the impossibility to run Macs applications on iOS, or Linux (and Windows) applications on Android.


Now, I'm actually a big fan of the new interface pushed by MS with Windows 8/RT, but I totally agree on the real issue of the confusion with RT previously explained and I also agree isn't a problem on the iPad or Android. Why? Because of the different OS base each platform has used to evolve from, in order to create a tablet UI:


- iOS on the iPad evolves from iOS for the iPhone. Both from a visual and usage point of view, the iPad UI recalls the iPhone UI. This means consumers going to try or buy an iPad will surely expect it to run their preferred applications, but what they are thinking about is iOS apps, running on the iPhone, because they see the iPad just like a "tablet with the OS in the iPhone".


- Android on tablets is even more akin to Android on phones. Apps themselves are most of the time re-flowed versions of the same apps available on Android. Potential Android tablet buyers will surely expect apps to run on it, but again "phone" apps, given they will see an Android tablet as a "tablet with that OS they have in their Samsung/HTC/Sony etc phone"


- Windows RT, a platform specifically created to run Windows on ARM tablets, evolves from Windows. Even more, Windows RT has basically the same visuals and UI users can find on the bigger brother, Windows 8. While the Metro interface is something totally new, the desktop available in both platforms recall previous Windows products, plus the name is the same, that "Windows" everyone associate with their laptop or desktop. This means, when your average consumer look at a Windows RT tablet, what they see is a "tablet with that OS I have on my laptop, desktop etc..". For this very reason those same consumers will expect to have their old windows applications to be able to run on the tablet, because this is the association they make.


Sorted out this, we need to understand what this means though, in reality. Some detractors consider this problem a direct proof of the lower quality of the platform for consumers. This is where I don't agree. The confusion is a problem that arise from a misconception. The confusion isn't per se degrading the quality of the UI, nor reducing the ability of the potential user to enjoy the platform offering.

What can effectively reduce the quality of the platform usage is the average quality and quantity of apps, but here the parallels with the iPad (and Android tablet) are in force again:

The first iPad generation (and quite more the first generation of Android tablets) suffered a lack of apps in comparison to what was available for the respective phone platforms. It took them at least one generation if not more to reach a consistent offering. The same problem is faced by RT, surely the problem is more evident since the other platforms are already mature, but the tablet market is quite young and evolving, there's enough time for catching up here. Also, Modern apps have seen a higher growth ratio than competition, showing already today more than 100.000 apps in the store after just one year (compared to 260.000 ipads apps in 3/4 years).


Going back to the customer's confusion, MS is definitely responsible for this problem, but it's a calculated bet they have to do, given their view of tablet UI is an evolution of the desktop interface, completely opposite to the view expressed by Apple and Android who consider a tablet UI an evolution of the phone interface.

Those instead in my opinion flatly guilty of having purposely fueled a misconception are those experts in the tech community (some bloggers reviewers and tech expert) that after having acknowledged the confusion, have continued to play (and even more flame) on the misconception instead of doing what would be expected from a technical expert: explain a misconception and help non-techie people to see things from the right perspective.


I'm adding this, given after reading a couple of comments I understood my last paragraph wasn't probably clear enough:

Bloggers *must* complain about potential problems arising on a product or platform. It's both a right and a duty. I agree they had to (and done) expose the possible issue of confusion arising from having a Windows like platform without legacy windows apps. But the next step should have been teaching non-techies about the reason behind such a choice, show them why x86 applications aren't that much of a good solution on a tablet format, showing them the advantages of sandboxing apps, talking about the advantages of centralized Stores and touch optimized apps in Modern format. Unfortunately I have seen too many failing to move at the next step and prefer to keep beating the dead horse.