Windows RT 8.1 in the Enterprise: User Experience

Published: April 16, 2014

Applies To: Windows RT 8.1

Although Windows RT 8.1 is a distinctly separate operating system from Windows 8.1, it does share much of the same functionality like Start screen experience, as well as support of touch operation, Windows Store experience, desktop environment, and multiple user accounts.

Windows RT 8.1 devices are designed for long battery life, while at the same time being thin, light, and sleek, regardless of form factor—making them desired devices by many users in today's business environments. This is enabled by the use of low-powered ARM processors designed from the ground up for energy efficiency, paired with additional power-saving hardware components, and the power-optimized Windows RT operating system.

The degree to which Windows RT 8.1 has been optimized can only be achieved through the close cooperation between Microsoft and the OEM and silicon partners producing the Windows RT devices, the firmware that drives them, and the components that go into them. To ensure the best possible experience, a Windows RT device is always shipped as a preconfigured, optimized system; enterprises cannot load their own customized Windows image on the devices as they can with Windows 8.

As a result of these optimizations in Windows RT 8.1, these devices typically will never be turned off. Instead, they will operate in a new low-power mode called InstantGo (formerly called Connected Standby), similar to what is currently used for mobile phones. While the screen is on, you have access to the full capabilities of the device; when the screen goes dark, the device enters this low-power InstantGo state. (Even while the screen is on, Windows RT 8.1 will dynamically adjust the power consumption for unused parts of the system, as you would expect.) By using InstantGo, Windows RT 8.1 devices are always instantly ready for use.

Even though Windows RT 8.1 is a distinctly separate operating system from Windows 8.1, it does share much of the same functionality. As a result, you can be assured that the experience of using Windows RT 8.1 will be very similar to Windows 8.1. Some examples include:

  • Both natively support touch operation, while also supporting mouse and keyboard operation.

  • Both provide the Start screen experience for launching and organizing apps.

  • Both support the Windows Store experience.

    • The Store app is used with both operating systems to install and update Windows Store apps.

    • The same Windows runtime (WinRT) APIs are used in both Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 so that Windows Store applications can run on both operating systems.

  • Both support a desktop environment.

    • File Explorer can be used to manage files and folders, connect to network shares, and access external storage devices.

    • You will have access to the Control Panel and its deep array of settings to give you a finer-grained level of control over your system.

    • The command shell and various utilities (such as Notepad and Regedit) are available on both Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1.

    • Note that Windows RT 8.1 only supports the desktop applications included with the device, while Windows 8.1 supports the installation of additional desktop applications.

  • Both support multiple user accounts.

    • You can use local computer accounts or Microsoft accounts to log on to both Windows 8 .1 and Windows RT 8.1. (Note that Windows 8.1 also supports Active Directory accounts, while Windows RT 8.1 does not.)

    • You can use picture passwords and PINs (as convenience passwords) with both operating systems.

    • You can have multiple Administrator accounts as well as multiple standard user accounts.

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