Microsoft’s been pushing tablet computers for the best part of a decade, so you can imagine how happy the iPad’s success makes them.
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But Microsoft doesn’t give up easily, and Windows 8 tablets will be with us later in the year. One such example, that we saw at CES from Lenovo – called the Yoga – is a wrap-around convertible tablet that becomes an ultraportable laptop.
- Hands on: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga review
Microsoft has now released the Consumer Preview of Windows 8, so you can check it out for yourself.
The Windows 8 release date is late 2012, so let’s see what Windows 8 tablets will have in store for us. It’s a crucial product for Microsoft financially.
Windows 8 tablets will run on ARM, Intel and AMD chips
As well as traditional x86-based AMD and Intel machines, Windows 8 can now run on ARM-based hardware – the same type of kit as the iPad or any Android tablet. Expect plenty of interesting kit to hit the streets after the launch of Windows 8.
Windows 8 for ARM tablets will come out at the same time as Windows 8 for x86 PCs, if everything goes according to plan.
The Windows 8 versions will be called just plain Windows 8, while there will also be Windows 8 Pro. Both of those are for x86 Intel and AMD devices. ARM devices will have Windows 8 pre-installed. It will be referred to as Windows RT – a name which many have slated.
Read more about the Windows 8 versions here:Making sense of the Windows 8 versions
Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip has been confirmed to be one of the test beds for new ARM-based tablet devices.
“Microsoft is excited to partner with Nvidia to bring developers leading edge Windows on ARM test PCs to support the creation of compelling Metro style app and device experiences for Windows 8,” said Aidan Marcuss, head of the oddly-named business planning department at Microsoft.
However, ARM-based Windows 8 won’t have desktop apps (only Metro apps) so rumours in early March suggested that there would be few tablets at launch.
Intel said in April that Windows 8 tablets will pack a dual-core Atom Z2760 “Clover Trail” chip, which features a “burst-mode”, providing an extra boost of power when required. Clover Trail also boasts hyperthreading technology, allowing it to act like a quad-core chip at certain times.
Intel also claims its Windows 8 tablets will deliver over nine hours of battery, 4G connectivity, NFC technology, weigh less than 680g (1.5 pounds) and sport a slender, sub-9mm body.
Tom’s Hardware reports that Intel and Microsoft are looking to reduce the iPad’s 70-per cent global market share down to below 50-per cent by the middle of 2013. However, the jury’s still out as to whether Windows 8 tablets can really make a dent. Analyst Gartner says that Windows 8 tablets will only take a 4 per cent market share this year though.
Windows 8 tablets will have the new Metro interface
As we saw in our Hands on: Windows 8 review, Windows 8 tablets will have a marvellous new interface that looks rather like Windows Phone 7, called Metro.
- 10 ways Windows 8 tablets can take on the iPad
“Fast, fluid and dynamic, the experience has been transformed while keeping the power, flexibility and connectivity of Windows intact,” says Microsoft’s head of Windows Experience Julie Larson-Green.
“Although the new user interface is designed and optimised for touch, it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard. Our approach means no compromises – you get to use whatever kind of device you prefer, with peripherals you choose, to run the apps you love. This is sure to inspire a new generation of hardware and software development, improving the experience for PC users around the world.”
In late October 2011, Microsoft was forced to talk about how Windows 8 tablets would deal with portrait orientations – all the demonstrations thus far have been of Windows 8 tablets in landscape.
Windows 8 tablets desktop
In February Microsoft confirmed that new ARM versions of Windows 8 tablets would have the traditional desktop as well as the new Metro interface – but it will only allow third-party Metro apps.
On ARM, the Windows desktop, with familiar apps like Explorer, Internet Explorer and the Windows Live apps, plus Office – but everything else will be Metro.
- Windows 8 on ARM: Steven Sinofsky speaks
Windows 8 tablets Start Menu
Microsoft is also facing somewhat of a backlash as Windows 8 loses the Start Orb, better known as the Start button – it’s replaced by the Metro interface.
Microsoft has had to defend the decisions it’s made with the Start Menu in Windows 8.
Windows 8 tablets manufacturers
The first one Windows 8 tablet wasn’t a commercial model – a Samsung Windows 8 tablet shown off at Microsoft’s Build conference and given out to developers on 13 September 2011.
- Check out our Hands on: Windows 8 tablet review
After it confirmed that it was to keep making PCs in late October 2011, HP also said it would be making Windows 8 tablets. And it won’t be alone – some sources reckon that there will be 32 Windows 8 tablets by the end of 2012.
Entry level slates could hit the shelves with price tags of under $300 – although not everybody believes that price point would make sense.
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It has also been widely reported that Dell is pinning its hopes on Windows 8 and that it will be launching tablet products featuring the OS. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, CEO Michael Dell said Windows 8 tablets “have a lot of potential.” He spoke of the bonus opportunities as they will be compatible with existing systems and software.
“We’re very encouraged by the touch capability we are seeing in the beta versions of Windows 8,” said Dell’s chief commercial officer Steve Felice in a Reuters interview on March 16.
“We have a roadmap for tablets that we haven’t announced yet. You’ll see some announcements.. for the back half of the year,” he said. “We don’t think that this market is closed off in any way.”
On 9 May 2011, we reported on a rumour of a forthcoming Nokia Windows 8 tablet. The info comes from phone commentator Eldar Murtazin, who wrote on the Mobile Review forum that Nokia will launch a tablet in 2012, possibly pushed back to 2013. Nokia said at October 2011’s Nokia World that Windows 8 represents a “broader opportunity” for the company, (reported by TechCrunch).
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop later said that the company was looking at the tablet market and is considering just how to take on the might of the iPad.
“There’s a new tablet opportunity coming… Unquestionably, that will change the dynamics [of the tablet market].” It would appear the Nokia Windows 8 tablet could be slated for June 2012.
Digitimes claimed in March 2012 that a Windows 8 Nokia tablet wouldn’t be with us until the very end of 2012 at the earliest.
A leaked slide from Netbooknews.de indicates that Asus will begin selling Windows 8 tablets in Q3 2012. We believe that HP, Dell and Asus will be the Windows 8 tablet launch partners.
Acer told TechRadar that the forthcoming Windows 8 OS could bring Microsoft back to consumer tablet devices – so expect it to launch some Windows 8 devices.
“We think that Windows 8 tablets could well be a proposition for both consumers and professionals,” said a spokesperson.
Windows 8 tablets will have a lot of support
During an earnings call in mid-August, Nvidia’s Jen-Hsun Huang also said: “I’m very bullish about Windows 8,” adding: “I think it’s going to be an amazing operating system. Windows 8 tablets and Windows 8 clam shells that Tegra is going into, I hope will translate into real growth for our company in the second half of next year.”
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“We’re not leading the charge on Windows 8, but as we become comfortable that [Windows 8] is a viable ecosystem [and] that the quality of innovation and quality of services and quality of capabilities [are] being delivered there, we will certainly be open to that,” he said in response to a question.
Nvidia has been involved with delivering sample Windows 8 tablets to developers.
Motorola has also said it is “completely open to Windows as a platform” according to Cnet.
Australian site Smarthouse.au claims some vendors will even move away from Android tablets in favour of Windows 8.
Windows 8 tablets will be thin and light
While Dell makes some unusually shaped tablets already, the Samsung tablet is “similar in size and shape to the Apple iPad, although it is not as thin.” Unlike the iPad, “it also includes a unique and slick keyboard that slides out from below for easy typing.”
Some Windows 8 tablets will be designed for business
“The company believes there is a huge market for business people who want to enjoy a slate for reading newspapers and magazines and then work on Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint while doing work,” the NYT says, quoting the inevitable “person familiar with the company’s tablet plans”.
Windows 8 tablets will have apps and an app store
Apps are a big part of Windows 8, with Microsoft convinced that “app development will move to the web” and it has built a Windows Store with manufacturer-specific entrances. Again, we saw a lot more detail on this in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.
Windows 8 will come with a number of pre-installed Metro apps, which look set to include things like a camera, messaging, mail, calendar, SkyDrive, people, photos, video and music.
The apps will be in the Windows Phone Metro style and some, like messaging may incorporate mobile aspects like SMS support.
Windows 8 tablet prices should be similar to Android ones
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Windows 8 tablets will be up against iPads, Android tablets and Chrome OS netbooks, so if they’re not priced very aggressively they’re going to be a tough sell.
Windows 8 tablet display
According to Microsoft, Windows 8 supports a 10.1-inch tablet display with 291 pixels per inch resolution. The new iPad has 265 ppi. That probably means HD resolution tablet displays will be a standard feature of Windows 8 tablets.