The release of Microsoft’s big assault on the tablet market is fast approaching. The Surface tablet is going on sale in a little over a week, but you can pre-order the Surface RT right now. Microsoft has trumpeted Windows 8, along with Windows Phone 8, as the realignment of its range to present a familiar experience across devices. So, what is the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT?

According to an article in The Verge yesterday many sales reps in Microsoft Stores don’t understand the difference, so what’s the chance that consumers have a handle on it? They called and spoke to eight different reps who gave them an assortment of answers about the limitations of Windows RT when compared to Windows 8.

Windows RT is semi-skinned to Windows 8’s full-fat. It is essentially a stripped down version of Windows 8 designed to run on the tablets. It looks the same, but it is not capable of doing everything that Windows 8 can. When it comes to apps, Windows RT can only run apps from Windows Store. It cannot run “legacy apps” or x86 / x64 software. You can’t install apps on the desktop and you can’t copy over any apps that you have on your Windows 8 PC. If you want an app on your Surface RT you have to buy and install it from Windows Store.

Microsoft has responded by saying it will train its Microsoft Store employees before the launch on October 26. The best way to avoid any confusion is to buy an Android tablet instead.

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