Dell executive warns Microsoft to change Surface for Windows RT branding

One of the initial criticisms of Microsoft’s Surface tablet was that its operating systemis too confusing for users to understand. It’s not Windows 8, but it looks strikingly similar to Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system. Around the time that the Surface and Windows 8 had launched, the Redmond, Wash.-based company had trouble explaining the difference between the tablet-based Windows RT software and Windows 8.

This is an issue that a top Dell executive advised Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to address when speaking with analysts at the Dell World conference in Austin last week, according to the Australian Financial Review. Jeffrey Clarke, Dell’s vice-chairman and president of its PC division told the Microsoft chief that the “Windows” brand signifies that an operating system would be compatible with Windows applications. This isn’t the case, since Windows RT cannot run standard Windows applications and is only compatible with apps for its own OS.

In response, Ballmer said that the Windows franchise was too big to not be associated with Windows RT, Clarke said. However, the decision could result in users purchasing a Windows RT device and not realizing the difference between the two types of software. Microsoft, in turn, has reportedly been practicing flexible return policies for its Surface tablet, the Australian Financial Review reports.

Unlike Windows 8, Windows RT is designed to run on ARM chips, which are common in most mobile devices. Windows 8, along with previous generations of Windows, runs on Intel-compatible chips. Nearly all Windows apps are written to be compatible with these Intel-powered chips.

Neil Hand, vice-president of Dell’s tablet business that sells both Windows RT and Windows 8 devices, said that electronics makers still have to teach consumers the difference between these two Microsoft-branded operating systems.

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

Microsoft’s Surface tablet has gotten off to a somewhat sluggish start following its October launch. Analysts have predicted that fourth quarter sales for this year will not reach one million units. However, Microsoft has begun selling its first self-branded tablet in third party retail locations such as Best Buy and Staples, which could help sales.