At least one person wasn’t happy with the way Microsoft was naming its new ARM tablet operating system.

Dell vice-chairman Jeffrey Clarke spoke at a conference last week and told a story of how he urged Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this year to rename Windows RT because it couldn’t run traditional Windows applications.

Clarke said that Ballmer responded by saying that the Windows brand was “too important a franchise not to be used with Windows RT.”

Windows RT runs only Windows Store apps and is designed to run on ARM-based tablets like the Surface.

It’s a fair point from Clarke, as it might be confusing for customers to know the difference between an ARM tablet and an Intel one. Microsoft has reportedly had to soften its return policies due to customers angered because they can’t run traditional Windows apps on the RT.

Neil Hand, vice president of Dell’s tablet business, told the Australian Financial Review that Microsoft needed to educate customers about the differences between the ARM and Intel-run operating systems.

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

He did add that “there is a future for RT.”

Previously on GeekWire: Christmas in Redmond: Microsoft employees finally get their Surfaces

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  • n8

    Dell has a good point. Apple customers don’t seem to be enraged that the iPad doesn’t run Apple desktop apps…probably because Apple wasn’t stupid enough to give it the same name as its desktop platforms and stupid enough to offer a version of the iPad that does run desktop apps. People love Apple for the same reason people love Dicks Hamburgers, FEW and SIMPLE choices (plus nostalgia and lasting trendiness).

  • Easyrhino1

    When I hear “RT” I think of the Russia Today news network already know as RT.

    RT broadcast through 30 satellite and 500 cable operators to 550 million people in over 100 countries, 25 percent of all cable subscribers worldwide.

  • Rajeev

    Microsoft’s branding choices lately have been so confusing, it’s hard to fathom that any rational person is making these decisions. If the confusion between Windows 8 and Windows RT isn’t bad enough, there’s also WinRT (Windows runtime) which is something completely different. Apps built using WinRT will have the Windows 8 UI and will run on Windows 8 and Windows RT. But not all Windows 8 apps use the Windows 8 UI, in which case they won’t run on Windows RT since they weren’t built with WinRT. Windows Photo Gallery used to come installed with Windows, but then newer versions of this exact same app were renamed to Windows Live Photo Gallery, and you had to download it separately from the web. You could have both Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Live Photo Gallery installed on the same machine. Now, they’ve taken Windows Live Photo Gallery, and made newer versions of this app (amazingly without actually adding any new features), but renamed it back to Windows Photo Gallery. But it still doesn’t come with Windows … you still have to download it separately. It has become harder and harder for me to defend Microsoft when my friends tell me how much they love their Macs.

    • n8

      Microsoft has brand schizophrenia. It probably comes from a bunch of smart engineers thinking that they are smart at everything.

      • Guest

        You are more right than you know. One of Microsoft’s biggest problems is that the leadership is composed of either technical people or sales/business operations/MBA people. None of the leadership sees any value to any communications disciplines. If you look over the years they’ve dropped investment in tech writing, online content, PR and to your point marketing.

        Basically they think they can do it themselves. And here you yet again see the results of this approach.

        I mean what does “RT” mean anyway? For the majority of people in tech it means “retweet” right now. In that way alone it’s just a bad name.

        But the other point is that Microsoft is so fixed on Windows as a brand name that they keep making bad decisions around it. It’s a product name not a company name. And using it like this is just diluting it. Plus, they should read the memo that Windows isn’t a strong brand name any more.

    • Bob

      The Photo Gallery issue is confusing but that’s likely an attempt to avoid legal problems relating to Windows bundling (not to mention minimizing the install footprint). But the Windows RT, Windows 8, and WinRT thing is definitely confusing. In addition to MS’s normal practice of often incorrectly assuming “Windows” in the product name is an asset not a liability, I suspect they were hedging their bets on the future of Windows, which they hope is Windows RT and not Windows 8 but could end up DOA.

  • Karl Mamer

    I got the Surface partially thinking “well, I can run some of my favorite old Windows programs until the apps store catches up… and if it doesn’t I’m not like a Blackberry user.” Alas. I discovered RT wasn’t Windows 8. I’m going to give my Surface about a week of playing around with. Some of it is just learning to do same things in a different way. Many people who love Android first had to grapple with this.

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