These tablets seem to assume that users won't be able to fully ditch the physical keyboard, perhaps because navigating the Windows start menu could be cumbersome on a touch-screen device. Presumably, future versions of Windows will allow a keyboard-less experience along the lines of an iPad or Android tablet. Microsoft has resisted calls to adapt Windows Phone 7 to tablets, saying the mobile OS is designed for smartphones only.
Intel branching out
Just as Microsoft plans support for both Intel and ARM chips, Intel's plans for tablets extend beyond Windows. There are no Intel-based smartphones yet, but nine Intel- and Windows-based tablets are on the market today, including one - the ViewSonic ViewPad100 - that supports both Windows and Android.
"In addition to Intel tablets available today, Intel currently has more than 35 design wins based on the upcoming 'Oak Trail' Intel Atom processor, with companies including Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Asus and Cisco preparing tablets with either the Windows or Android operating systems," Intel said in an e-mail to Network World. "The Oak Trail processors are in production now and are expected to be seen in over 100 new netbook, tablet and hybrid designs in the first half of 2011."
Davis said Intel will differentiate itself from ARM with an architecture that makes it easier for applications to run on many different devices and operating systems, and that this ability will prove important in hybrid devices. Beyond Windows and Android, Intel is working with the Linux-based MeeGo. "We can support various operating systems that customers want to design with," he said. Further, he said, "the ability to take applications and use them across a range of devices on Intel architecture is a given. That's the value proposition we've had for 35 to 40 years. That won't be the same when you're looking at ARM devices from different companies."
In response to growing customer demand for tablets, Intel formed the netbook and tablet group last month. Davis, who is general manager of the new group, said the technologies it covers were previously under the PC client division. There is a third Intel group that focuses on smartphones.
"We just recognized as the types of companion computing devices evolve, we wanted to apply more focus and resources, put more attention on it and be more deliberate," he said. "Netbooks are here to stay, and tablets are here to stay."
While Intel has much work to do on the tablet front, it's done quite well on netbooks with the Intel Atom processors, designed for mini-notebooks and long battery life. Although Intel's more powerful desktop processors are also popping up in tablets, such as the Acer ICONIA, Intel will focus most of its tablet and netbook efforts on Atom. "You really should expect that in netbooks and tablets, they will be predominantly Atom-based devices, because it delivers the right performance-per-watt," Davis said.
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