Apple’s decision to pass on a Windows 8 app doesn’t affect hardware running the full version of Windows 8 in the slightest, as those users just grab the classic version. But for people who bought into the promise of the Surface RT and its ilk, the snub cuts deep.
More important, iTunes is a juggernaut of an ecosystem, gobbling roughly two-thirds of all paid digital music and video sales alike. If you buy digital media, there’s a great chance you have something stashed in iTunes—and, if that something includes any video files or DRM-protected songs, you’ll find it utterly inaccessible on Windows RT.
Meanwhile, even Microsoft’s staunch manufacturing allies are turning their backs on Windows RT.
HP and Toshiba took a pass before the operating system even launched. Samsung squashed plans to bring its own ATIV Tab stateside, saying “There wasn’t really a very clear positioning of what Windows RT meant in the marketplace.” Acer president Jim Wong landed an even stiffer gut punch just last week, when he told PCWorld that the company had decided to cancel its own plans for a Windows RT tablet until the Windows Blue update comes out.
“To be honest, there’s no value doing the current version of RT,” Wong said.
Nope, things aren’t looking good for Windows RT. And Apple just added to the pigpile.
Slow and steady
Calling the iTunes diss “another nail in the coffin” might be a bit harsh, though. Windows RT isn’t going to die anytime soon, because like a parasite, it can lie dormant and grow fat on Windows 8’s eventual success.
As I’ve argued before, even if growth has stalled for the PC industry, hundreds of millions of Windows PCs continue to sell year-in and year-out. Eventually, the operating system will have a massive installed base, and with a great user base comes great developer interest. Big-name apps like Twitter and MLB.tv are already starting to show up in the Windows Store with increasing regularity—and those Windows 8 apps run just fine on Windows RT tablet, too.
With time, the apps will come. With apps, the Windows RT users might—might—come as well, though only if the OS manages to create a value proposition it’s sorely lacking today. And with enough apps, and enough users, Apple may eventually grace the Windows Store shelves with an iTunes app of its own. (Don’t hold your breath, though. There’s still no Android iTunes app in sight.)
And on that distant, golden day, when Windows RT fulfills its promise, Microsoft might just go ahead and kill the desktop completely. But only if Windows RT survives long enough to get there.