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Microsoft to throw Windows RT device owners one last bone

Barry Collins
10 Aug 2015
Microsoft Surface RT
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Revamped Start menu coming to Windows RT devices this September

If you were one of the eight people unfortunate enough to buy a device pre-loaded with Windows RT, we have a smattering of good news for you: Microsoft has delivered details of a forthcoming update to the almost defunct operating system.

Windows RT, lest we forget, was a splinter of Windows 8 designed specifically for systems running ARM-based processors instead of conventional x86 chips. It proved to be about as popular as Gordon Brown, largely because it carried few discernible advantages over regular Windows 8 and quite a few serious downsides: most notably an inability to run conventional desktop applications. 

Microsoft quietly dropped development of Windows RT with the launch of Windows 10, although Windows 10 Mobile will still continue to support ARM-based devices. However, Microsoft is preparing to throw one last bone at Windows RT users, with a refresh that will bring a little of the Windows 10 feel to devices such as the Surface RT. 

Windows 8.1 RT Update 3 will be issued in September, and "will improve the Start menu and lock screen," according to Microsoft's official guidance. However, this won't be the exact same Start menu as found in Windows 10, but one that appeared in an earlier build of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, according to a report on WinBeta. This is because the final Windows 10 Start menu is built on Windows 10-specific APIs, whereas RT will continue to use the Windows 8.1 code base. 

It's not clear what improvements will be made to the lock screen, although RT users again won't be able to benefit from the new facial recognition feature that can be used to unlock Windows 10 PCs, because this requires dedicated camera hardware.

In all, it seems Windows RT users are going to receive the most cursory of updates, before Microsoft tries to forget the whole sorry misadventure. 

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