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New Windows RT tablets raise competition among ARM chip makers

Agam Shah | Aug. 31, 2012
New Windows RT tablets announced at the IFA trade show in Berlin have intensified competition among ARM-based chip makers, which are adding unique capabilities to processors so tablets become more attractive to buyers based on performance and features.

Tegra will be the only quad-core processor for Windows RT devices this year, and great graphics performance will bring console-quality gaming to devices, said an Nvidia spokesman via email. The Tegra 3 processor is already being used in some high-performance gaming tablets. Nvidia in the future will offer chips with integrated radios, but for now is working with partners to offer a separate 3G/4G radio on chips.

While chip makers in the ARM camp are watching each other closely, the companies also have to contend with x86 processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, on which the Windows OS has grown up. Beta testers have played with Windows 8 on x86 tablets and PCs for months now, giving it a leg up over Windows RT, which has been shown as a product in development via a few tightly monitored tablet demonstrations at trade shows.

The first choice buyers will make is whether they want Windows 8 or Windows RT, after which they will decide on the device, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

Both the operating systems have a similar touch user interface, but existing Windows applications will not work on Windows RT devices. Microsoft is trying to make RT attractive to new buyers by bundling desktop Office productivity applications.

Some longtime PC users may want Windows 8 on Intel chips for access to legacy x86 applications, which by default users have to leave behind when going to RT, Brookwood said.

Microsoft has kept Windows RT under tight wraps, which has frustrated device and chip makers, analysts said. But the success of Windows RT devices will ultimately depend on the price and the features buyers identify with.

"It's hard to say with Windows RT because it has not yet happened," McCarron said.

 

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