Microsoft clamping down on ‘Windows 8’ tablet specs?

Posted by:admin Posted on:Jun 20,2011

Microsoft seems keen to keep its manufacturing partners on a tight leash when it comes to tablets, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. Redmond would like five chipmakers to pair initially with a single tablet manufacturer, the story claims.


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The June 1 article, based on discussions with unnamed “people familiar with the matter,” suggests that Microsoft wants five chipmakers to each pair with a single tablet manufacturer. The chip makers include Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Nvidia, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, who would eventually be allowed to expand beyond that single partner.

Although the Journal didn’t specify, these strictures would presumably be irrelevant to today’s crop of x86-based Windows 7 tablets, and instead take effect for the future ARM-based versions of Windows observers are currently calling “Windows 8.”

Last month, Renee James, general manager of Intel’s software and services group, was quoted as saying Windows 8 would come in alternative versions for four different ARM SoCs. “Each one is a unique stack,” she was said by The Register to have charged.

Quoted by the Journal, Microsoft’s response to the June 1 report was much the same as it had been to James quote last month: “We are continuing the engineering work with our silicon partners as part of the technology preview we talked about in January, and continue to talk regularly with hardware partners around the world as part of our development process.”

As shown last January: A pre-release version of Windows running on ARM
Source: Gizmodo

Microsoft learned some painful lessons in fragmentation from its experiences with Windows Mobile, its previous mobile device franchise.

When it came to Windows Phone 7, its Windows Mobile replacement, Microsoft kept its hardware partners to a strict set of minimum hardware requirements, including a five megapixel camera and 1GHz processor. All Windows Phone devices also share a touch screen and three primary hardware buttons. With that foundation in place, some hardware manufacturers then decided on some additional hardware tweaks to make their devices stand out in the marketplace — for example, the Dell Venue Pro offers a physical QWERTY keyboard.

Those strict hardware requirements, coupled with Microsofts determination to push out software updates to all devices on a regular basis, were likely meant to signal Redmonds determination to push back hard against Google Android and Apples iOS, which currently rule the consumer mobile device space.

Microsoft is prepping the next version of Windows to work better on the tablet form factor. CEO Steve Ballmer remarked in a speech to the Microsoft Developer Forum in Tokyo that “Windows 8” would appear on “slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors.” Microsoft later attempted to roll back his comments, characterizing them as “a misstatement.”center>
A prospective Windows 8 welcome screen
Source: Within Windows(Click to enlarge)

A ribbon-equipped explorer for Windows 8?
Source: Within Windows(Click to enlarge)

However, Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, took to the stage at this Januarys Consumer Electronics Show to describe how the next version of Windows will support SoC (system-on-a-chip) architecture, in particular the ARM-based systems so popular in mobile devices. In April, bloggers Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott dissected various features of what they called an early next-Windows build on Riveras Within Windows blog, including elements seemingly geared for a mobile, touch-ready form-factor.

Sinofsky is appearing at this weeks D: All Things Digital Conference (run by The Wall Street Journal’s parent company, ironically), where he could reveal some additional Windows-on-a-tablet details.

Microsofts partners seemed willing to play ball when it came to Windows Phones hardware requirements. But will they do the same with tablets?

The Wall Street Journal quotes Acer Corporate President Jim Wong as saying he’s concerned about Microsoft’s restrictions.”The industry does not belong to Microsoft, and it does not belong to Intel,” Wong reportedly said at Computex June 1. “It belongs to all participants. They cannot make the decision for all of us. That is the problem.”


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