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Little was heard or seen of Windows 8 tablets at CES; where were they, and what’s to come?

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  1. 1. January 19, 2012 Windows 8 Tablets: What’s to Come? at BUILD. And in private briefings off the show floor, Texas Instruments displayed a Windows 8 reference platform. Running 7, Testing 8 A few Chinese tablet makers displayed tablets of distinctly generic design running Windows 7, but only one spoke specifically to Windows 8 plans. One tablet maker, Kupa, showed off its X11, a Windows 7 tablet available now that runs an Intel Atom Z670 processor; Kupa exhibited the tablet running the Windows 8 Developer’s Preview, and billed it as Windows 8-ready thanks to its 1366-by-768-pixel, C onsidering that 2012 will be the year of Mi- 16:9 aspect ratio display — which matches to Mi- crosoft’s dramatic upgrade to Windows 8, one crosoft’s optimized target for Windows 8; and to might have thought the floor of the Consumer the specs of Samsung’s Series 7 tablet, distributed Electronics Show last week would be filled with pros- to Microsoft BUILD attendees last fall with the Win- pective hardware platforms for the new Windows dows 8 preview preinstalled. operating system. it might have seemed logical to expect that to hear lots about tablets with Windows But beyond the Yoga — an inventive concept that’s 8. But news on that front was surprisingly…quiet. perfect for making noise at a big event like CES — none of the tablet makers were ready to talk about While CEO Steve Ballmer talked Windows 8 at his Windows 8 on a tablet, and what we might expect keynote and showed a Qualcomm prototype tablet to see in that form factor. Samsung had nothing to running Windows 8, Intel’s Paul Otellini briefly discuss at the show on the Windows 8 tablet front. showed a and Lenovo unveiled its innovativeIdea- Pad Yoga, a Windows 8-primed convertible notebook Fujitsu’s Paul Moore, senior director of product de- whose screen can twist around to turn into a tablet, velopment, hinted that Microsoft is encouraging a little chatter was heard on the Windows tablet front. clean look on tablets that will run the new OS, but “they’ve been a bit vague so far.” Fujitsu, which The same three companies that showed off Windows already has the Stylistic Q550 on the market running 8 on ARM processors at BUILD were in the mix once an Intel Atom CPU, is looking at least one, maybe more. Nvidia got things started by having a Microsoft two updates to that model’s specs by midyear. The rep do a five-minute demo of Windows 8 running company is looking at boosting performance for smoothly on an Nvidia reference platform at its press better video playback. “That seems to be the biggest conference. Then, just hours thereafter, Ballmer was challenge on Atom,” Moore says. “And that’s the on stage showing the Qualcomm tablet already seen Love this PDF? Add it to your Reading List! 4 Page 1
  2. 2. January 19, 2012 Windows 8 Tablets: What’s to Come? noticeable complaint customers have: The video is What should users expect from ARM devices? In a little choppy.” a private demo, Qualcomm showed off the second public Windows 8 build of its reference system, this Windows 8: The CPU Question time showing that the connected standby feature was enabled, even for connectivity like AT&T 4G The Windows 8 interface is clearly optimized for LTE. Connected standby, a new state that powers touch, but what remains unclear is what, if any, down the system in a way that you can resume im- advantage Windows 8 will have when it comes to mediately, will enable 4GWindows 8 tablets to save the tablet market. That’s in part because Microsoft power and extend battery life, for example. hasn’t yet clarified if and how exist Windows apps will work on the Windows 8 version destined for “Microsoft has discussed this new [to its OS] concept use on ARM processors. ARM tablets will have a of always on, always connected. We see this as a distinct weight, power, and likely price advantage marriage of smartphone functionality and compu- over tablets with x86 processors, which makes the ting,” says Qualcomm’s Steve Horton, director of ARM tablet space an intriguing one to watch. software and product management. “The content you care about will be active, and you will be able to program it, and it will be able to be fed.” While tablet makers were mum when asked how ARM platforms will influence their tablet designs, the use of ARM will no doubt keep things interes- ting. In a previous conversation at BUILD, Horton noted that with ARM chips, there’s no restriction on form factor beyond the fact that Microsoft is asking hardware OEMs to stick to displays with 16:9 aspect ratio to match the optimal screen size for the new Windows 8 Metro interface. When asked about Windows 8 tablets using ARM, Meanwhile, Intel is readying a dual-pronged ap- for example, Senior Designer Junghwan Hong proached to tablets to compete with the coming and Principal Designer Sangwon Yoon, the Sam- ARM onslaught. Its single-core Medfieldplat- sung designers involved in creating the gorgeous, form, launched at CES and due in the second quar- lightweight Series 9 laptop, shied away from speci- ter, is designed for Android; and its Clover Trail fics, but admitted that the prospect of ARM presents platform, due in the second half of this year, is built a new design opportunity and challenge. from the ground up for Windows 8. Clover Trail will replace the current Atom chips being used in “As designers, we are studying ARM,” Yoon says. most of the Windows 7 tablets available today, from “ We have a lot of different form factors for ARM companies like Fujitsu, Kupa, and Viewsonic; only devices. ARM has no fans, so for designers, that’s a Samsung, with its Core i5-based Series 7, has re- good feature.” One logistical challenge: ARM tablets leased a Windows tablet that uses the beefier CPU will likely carry relatively low prices, which “means common to laptops. we cannot use fancy materials. But they have to look good. That’s a challenge.” Love this PDF? Add it to your Reading List! 4 Page 2
  3. 3. January 19, 2012 Windows 8 Tablets: What’s to Come? And it’s likely not the only challenge for Windows 8 tablets. Even without any solid teasers at CES, 2012 promises to shape into an interesting year for tablets running Microsoft’s next operating system refresh. Love this PDF? Add it to your Reading List! 4 Page 3