The other Windows 8 hits some snags

Don't be surprised if the other version of Windows 8 — you know, the one that doesn't run on Intel chips — stumbles out of the gate.

Microsoft Surface tablet packing an Nvidia ARM chip.
(Credit: Microsoft)

We got a taste of this on Friday, when Hewlett-Packard confirmed that it won't offer a Windows RT tablet this year.

We heard about these issues in May, when a little birdie told us about problems with RT, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. And we wrote at the time that HP's Qualcomm-chip based tablet "may not happen this year".

Just to be clear, the RT version of Windows 8 runs on ARM chips from Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, and it will not have the backward compatibility of Intel-based Windows 8.

Whether these issues are PC company-specific, chipmaker-specific, RT-specific or a combination of all three, isn't clear yet.

Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights & Strategy, told CNET this week, that one ARM chipmaker is making more progress than the others.

Nvidia — which by no coincidence is in Microsoft's RT Surface tablet — is ahead of the other two ARM companies, because it has a long history of working with Windows drivers, among other reasons, according to Moorhead.

There are broader issues too, though. Microsoft, by design, is wading slowly into new Windows waters: RT is the first mainstream version of Windows to run on ARM chips.

How cautious is Microsoft? As we wrote in May, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments were initially assigned two "slots" each, for devices. "ARM is restricted to two designs each, meaning six total initial designs," said a source at the time.

One of those slots was for the Qualcomm-based HP device, referenced above.

So, Microsoft is obviously worried about quality control, which means issues, possibly major ones, are inevitable.

A best-case scenario is a staggered release of RT tablets, laptops and hybrids. With some versions, eg, those based on Nvidia chips, probably appearing earlier than others.


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LachlanC posted a comment   

Agree with trebor83. Intel CPU will get better in both performance and battery consumption over time. ARM-based Win RT would appeals to those only interested in a media consumption tablet and there are lots to choose from in Android tablet and iPads. For PC manufacturers like HP and Lenovo, it is better to focus their resources to Intel-based Windows 8 devices. It is their marketshare to defend against the onslaught of iPads in the business market.


trebor83 posted a comment   

I can't help feeling that Windows RT is going to turn out to be a complete non-event and that we are going to look back in 12-18 months and say that it was a complete waste of time and money for Microsoft. Especially given that Intels phione reference device, released back in April running a single core Medfield processor, achieves benchmarks better or equivalent to the multicored ARM powered competition with comparable battery life (from a below average sized battery). Fastforward to the end of the year and the arrival of multicored Clovertrail processors or to the completely redesigned Silvermont ATOM chips due next year and it appears it will be entirely possible to get all the efficiency of ARM on X86 architecture without the need for active cooling and there is no need for Windows RT.

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