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Can Windows 8.1 Save The PC?

Stocks in this article: MSFT AAPL GOOG ARM HPQ DELL

Microsoft blew it when it came to introducing Windows 8 last year. Aside from over pricing the new devices they introduced two different versions of the OS and confused the buying public. Windows RT was Microsoft's new operating system made to run on ARM Holdings (ARMH)-based processors. Many buyers thought they were getting the same exact software with the same features as Windows 8 but at a lower price.

That is not the case. Windows RT won't run anything other than special applets which can be downloaded from Microsoft's Windows RT online store - similar to the way users get apps for their Android and iOS devices. RT tablets do come with a free version of Microsoft Office but many of the legendary applications can't be installed on an RT tablet.

Once the word got out Windows RT computers sat waiting on retailers' shelves. Because of that Asus has just joined Samsung, Lenovo and HTC in ending Win RT tablet production. Hewlet Packard (HPQ) refused to make RT devices in the first place. That leaves Dell (DELL) and Microsoft as the only two WinRT manufacturers left.

Microsoft has started to make the right moves even though it was probably for the wrong reason. Microsoft decided to lower the price of its Surface tablet computers - both Windows 8 and Windows RT models to get rid of the old stock and make room for new devices coming later this year. The Surface RT is now priced at $349.

In the past two weeks I've had the chance to use one of Microsoft's Surface RT tablet/notebook devices. I played with it for a few minutes before upgrading the software to the Windows 8.1 Preview. The tablet changed from questionable to enjoyable. The hardware is terrific and the software now comes a lot closer to matching that quality level.

Looked at as a tablet - not as a PC - the $349 Surface RT with Windows 8.1 is quite competitive. Especially now that Microsoft throws in the less-expensive, flat-key keyboard/cover (usable although the optional "Type Cover" with real moving keys is better).

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