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Forget Haswell: Why tablet processors mean more to Intel at Computex

Brad Chacos | June 5, 2013
Intel's bid for mobile relevance became a whole lot stronger at Computex, starting with the news of an x86-based Samsung Galaxy Tab.

That's very, very true--but Intel's processors didn't just pop up in the Galaxy Tab. Clover Trail could also be found in the bizarre Asus Transformer Book Trio laptop-desktop-tablet "frankenconvertible" (as Moorhead calls it) that runs both Android and Windows; the 10-inch Asus Memo Pad FHD; and even the 6-inch Asus Fonepad Note phablet. Asus, it seems, is at least partially won over.

Intel's Clover Trail processor can also be found in the world's first 8-inch Windows tablet, the Acer Iconia W3. That, in fact, brings up a whole 'nother problem for ARM, and a whole 'nother win for Intel.

Where is Windows RT?
It's not at Computex.

Windows RT's absence from Asia's biggest trade show is nothing short of glaring, especially when you consider how most manufacturers were tripping over themselves to show off Windows RT slates--which run on ARM processors and aren't compatible with classic Windows desktop programs--at last year's show. In the 12 months since, manufacturers, developers, and consumers alike have avoided Windows RT like the plague.

That's bad news for Microsoft and ARM, but it's wonderful news for Intel. Manufacturers are rolling out droves of Windows tablets, but virtually all of those tablets run the full-blown version of Windows 8 on top of Intel's x86 silicon, rather than the crippled monstrosity that is Windows RT.

There's a reason for that. The mere threat posed by Microsoft's ARM adoption spurred Intel into action, prompting it to devote its near-endless resources on energy efficiency.

"The power and performance gap to ARM for Intel Atom is a myth now," Blaber says. And when Intel's Atom or one of AMD's mobile processors offer a true Windows experience and last just as long as an ARM chip, settling for Windows RT's sea of compromises just doesn't make much sense. Manufacturers know that.

Bay Trail chips will be even more powerful and long-lasting than the Clover Trail processors winning the hearts and hardware of manufacturers today. Haswell's mobile power efficiencies are paving the way for a future where tablets can offer full laptop power with none of the compromises found in the powerful slates like the Surface Pro and Razer Edge Pro.

Yes, it appears as though the old Wintel hegemony will carry over to Microsoft tablets. Hybrids may just be the future of Windows, and it's hard to see where ARM fits in to the picture. On Monday, Acer honcho J.T. Wang told The Wall Street Journal that Windows RT won't be "so influential anymore."

"I think Microsoft wants to give some separation between Computex and what's going on with Windows RT," says Moorhead. "Because if you did a comparison today, no matter how you slice it, there will be a lot fewer Windows RT devices than Windows 8 tablets."


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