Right behind the first public showing of the future Windows 8 at the D9 conference, Microsoft’s attention swung across the Pacific to Taiwan and the Computex Trade Show. Because of the proximity of China’s huge electronics manufacturing base, Computex has been the most hardware-centric of trade shows. It was the place to show whether the next generation of tablets could handle Windows 8. Stated otherwise, has Microsoft managed to trim down Windows 8 enough to work on the latest tablet processors. Most phones and tablets run on chips licensed from ARM, to which vendors add their support processors to create systems-on-a-chip (SOC). Texas Instruments, nVidia, and Qualcomm are the big vendors in ARM SOCs. Microsoft recognized the ascendancy of ARM SOCs in tablets by promising that (i) Windows 8 will support both ARM and Intel processors, and (ii) applications need only do a recompile in order to run on ARM processors. To make the point, they showed Word 2010 running under ARM. It looked and behaved exactly as the familiar software running on larger machines. Of course, Intel is not pleased that the next generation of personal devices so far does not have ‘Intel inside’, and promised that the ‘Sandy Bridge’ generation of Atom processors will change that story.
But for the Computex show, the demonstration used ARM processors. For a pre-production build and prototype reference platform, this looks like a very impressive tablet. In this first clip, Microsoft introduces the audience to a wide variety of prototypes all running live code.
In the second clip, Microsoft starts showing multiple multitasking and full screen video rendering.
Finally, they demonstrate Internet Explorer 10, the legacy desktop, and full file system and network access.
About the only thing up in the air might be the battery life, although I have often felt that ‘all day’ battery life was overrated. How often are you away from a power outlet for that long? It also looks like the competition between ARM and Intel will be intense in this arena, perhaps much more than when AMD was trying its hardest to beat Intel on desktops.