"RT was supposed to have a competitive strength with Office, but the most powerful component for Office on a tablet -- given a tablet's limitations -- is Outlook, which RT didn't get," Enderle said. "Tablets are typically used for consumption and email, and RT was going to be light on games and interesting tablet apps because it was late to market. The one advantage RT should have had -- Outlook -- Microsoft denied."
Windows RT is expected to support Outlook eventually, but not until 2014, which may be too late, Enderle said. "Microsoft is still coming from behind, so they need to significantly accelerate improvements or leave the race," Enderle added. "If they aren't willing to do what it takes to win, they should exit and accept that this is another Zune."
Zune was a portable digital media player that Microsoft essentially killed nearly a year ago after Microsoft failed to fund and support the product early on, Enderle argued.
"The sad thing is that the Windows RT hardware is actually far more compelling than the current selection of Windows 8 products in terms of price and battery life," Enderle said.
In fact, Microsoft has talked up the advantages of Windows RT in running ARM processors, providing longer battery life and a thinner form factor than x86-based Windows 8 tablets, noted IDC analyst Tom Mainelli. But buyers care less about ARM's benefits than having compatibility with their existing Windows apps, which is not possible with Windows RT, he said.
"Most consumers don't understand what Windows RT is or why they would want it," Mainelli said. "It's difficult for Microsoft to effectively market Windows RT because when they talk up its advantages, they end up comparing it to Windows 8, so they end up downplaying the advantages of one of their two tablet OSes." That's different than with Apple, which has two operating systems but has described clear uses for the Mac OS and iOS, he said.
Mainelli said Microsoft should focus its attention on getting Windows 8 adoption on track. However, he also said Microsoft isn't likely to kill Windows RT. "I don't think there's much chance they'll walk away from Windows RT anytime soon."
Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said not only does Windows RT not run legacy applications, it has no ability to use existing management tools valued by IT shops. And, the Intel x86 alternative with Windows 8 tablets is widely available and offers the ability to support both those apps and management tools.