Just a few days ago, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer made a cameo appearance at a Qualcomm keynote speech at CES 2013 where he enthused about Microsoft’s partnership with major tablet makers. In particular, he mentioned Samsung, who are the partner to have, due to the shear volume of products that they sell. Now Samsung has, embarrassingly for Microsoft, contradicted Steve Ballmers announcement by saying that they will pull out of the Windows RT tablet market in the US.
Mike Abary, Samsung’s senior vice president who oversees the company’s PC and tablet business in the US, went on record with CNET at CES 2013, saying that Samsung’s plans to sell the Windows RT-based, Qualcomm-powered Ativ Tab tablet computer in the US have been put on hold for now. It’s not clear whether Samsung will produce Windows RT tablets in other countries, but it doesn’t seem that likely.
The reason for this decision are twofold. Firstly, feedback from retail partners indicated only modest demand for the device and secondly, Samsung determined it would take a lot of investment to inform consumers about the benefits of Windows RT. Here’s what he told CNET:
There wasn’t really a very clear positioning of what Windows RT meant in the marketplace, what it stood for relative to Windows 8, that was being done in an effective manner to the consumer. When we did some tests and studies on how we could go to market with a Windows RT device, we determined there was a lot of heavy lifting we still needed to do to educate the customer on what Windows RT was. And that heavy lifting was going to require pretty heavy investment. When we added those two things up, the investments necessary to educate the consumer on the difference between RT and Windows 8, plus the modest feedback that we got regarding how successful could this be at retail from our retail partners, we decided maybe we ought to wait.
Abary then added another reason for this decision: Windows RT tablets are meant to be cheaper than those running Windows 8, but Samsung realized that it would have to make unwanted tradeoffs to reduce the price, such as including less memory, which it wasn’t willing to do (see quote below). Despite all this though, Abary said that Samsung may consider selling Windows RT devices in the US in the future.
We didn’t necessarily attain the price point that we hoped to attain. It’s not an issue on Microsoft’s side. It’s more an issue of how the product was built and some of the tradeoffs we had to incorporate in it.