Surface RT name caused 'confusion' with consumers, Microsoft manager admits

Admitting what many of us already knew, a Microsoft manager has said the “Surface RT” product name confused people.

“We think that there was some confusion in the market last year on the difference between Surface RT and Surface Pro,” Jack Cowett, the product manager for Microsoft Surface, told ArnNet. “We want to help make it easier for people, and these are two different products designed for two different people.”

In response, Microsoft dropped the "RT" label from the product name. The Windows RT-powered Surface 2 launches next week, along with the Surface Pro 2 that runs Windows 8.1.

Sadly, the new approach isn't much of an improvement. From the product name alone, there's no indication that the Surface 2 runs Windows RT rather than Windows 8 proper, and therefore cannot install desktop software such as Photoshop and iTunes. By ditching the RT label, Microsoft could end up creating deception in place of confusion, as consumers may not realize they're getting a limited version of Windows, and the focus on Live Tiles still make the two Surface slates appear awfully similar at first glance.

Surface boss Panos Panay showing off the Surface 2.

Microsoft's new Surface ad makes no attempt to clarify the matter, treating “Surface” as a catch-all name for two very different products.

Many tech pundits feel Microsoft should ditch Windows RT altogether, given the lack of consumer interest and its potential to create confusion. Intel's low-power Bay Trail processors for tablets only strengthen the case for sending RT into exile.

However, Microsoft likely wants to keep Windows RT around as a way to support ARM-based processors—the kind that power most phones and tablets. Should the Windows Store ever gain a critical mass of apps, the added power efficiency and low cost of ARM-based chips could be a boon for Microsoft's platform.

But until that happens, Windows RT is still going to be a point of confusion for consumers, even if Microsoft tries to sweep the name under the rug.

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