Business Tablets: What’s The Difference Between Windows 8 & Windows 8 RT

Business Tablets:  Selecting Windows 8 RT or Windows 8 Pro

As a Sage ACT! certified consultant and a long time network support guy working with Microsoft Windows, one of the big questions I keep running into with the advent of Windows 8 tablets is: “There are two versions of Windows 8 – So what are differences and what is the big deal?”

Great question!

And it is rather a big deal.

Here’s the lowdown on what you can expect with the Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 Pro OSes, and a few pointers about various tablets on the market, including the Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro tablets.

  • Battery Life: 
    Windows 8 RT tablets should have longer battery life than those based on Windows 8 Pro.

    Windows 8 Business Tablets Can Be a Boon for Your Business

    When it comes to selecting tablets for your business, Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 Pro can be a great choice. But you have to make the right choice, so you won’t feel left in the cold later.

    The primary reason is that RT runs on a different chip than Pro.  Whereas Pro is the “full blown” version of Windows that we have been using for years (or at least the update to it), RT is a kind of scaled down version made especially for tablets.  RT can only run (at this time) on ARM cpus.  These chips are smaller, somewhat less powerful, and designed with low power consumption in mind.
    Pro on the other hand needs an x86/x64 cpu from AMD or Intel.  These chips, while much more efficient than their earlier brethren, are still more complex than the ARM family, and thusly use more power.  Microsoft says to expect RT tablets to run “all day”, meaning 8-13 hours, before needing a charge.  Dell claims to have a tablet with RT that will run 20 hours.  We’ll see.  (If you have used notebooks and portable devices, the one thing we all come to expect is that the first time is the best, and the battery life diminishes rather quickly during the first few weeks of use.)  Expect Pro based tablets to be better than most laptops, but not as good as the RT ones.


  • Cost:  Being that RT tablets do not have AMD – and especially Intel – in them, they are less expensive.  There no doubt may be other factors involved, but the nut of this consideration is that you can procure RT based tablets starting in the $450-499 zone, while their Pro based counterparts are leading off in the $800 (and up) range.


  • Spoiler Alert – Software No, I’m not actually giving any secrets away here, but this is the question that seems to be on many peoples mind:  “Can I run all of my favorite Windows apps and programs on my RT tablet?”
    Here’s the answer no one wants to hear:  “No!”.
    Windows 8 RT is NOT the full version of Windows, it looks almost exactly like it, but by design, it has been created to run only on tablets using the ARM processors.  As such, YOU CANNOT RUN “NORMAL” WINDOWS APPS ON RT.  Furthermore, as it stand right now, the only place you can get new apps to install on an RT tablet is the Microsoft Windows Store.  Period.
    On the upside, RT tablets come with the RT version Office 2013 which includes Excel, Word, and Powerpoint.  (Sorry, no Outlook – kind of odd really being that Microsoft is seemingly attempting to leverage Outlook as a brand with their hosted email service replacement of what was Hotmail.)


  • Support / Integration in a Business Network:  Windows RT cannot join an Active Directory domain.  This means no Group Policy and management of an RT device from a Windows Server.  If you have not idea what I am talking about, this does not matter.  If you do, than this may be a serious consideration for you.

The Bottom Line:  Windows 8 – whether RT or Pro – is a huge step forward and certainly is a modern operating system which successfully moves the Windows platform into the era of “touch”.  You need to be clear on how you plan to use your tablet.  If you are looking to it as an adjunct to your “real” PC – getting email, browsing the web, doing some light-weight application creation – RT will fit the bill nicely.  If you are looking to a Windows 8 tablet as a PC replacement, especially if you have need to run your existing Windows software, than a tablet that runs Windows 8 Pro is a must.

Windows 8 tablets are a great addition to and a viable competitor in the tablet space – just be clear on how they work and what you want to do.


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