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Intel Releases Details on Windows 8 Tablets (UPDATED)

The Windows half of the onetime Wintel duopoly isn't saying much about Microsoft's tablet and mobile device strategy in the Windows 8 timeframe, but the Intel half is talking a little.

During a presentation at Intel's Santa Clara, Calif. headquarters on Tuesday reported by Bloomberg and The Register, an Intel senior executive released details of the versions of Windows coming for system-on-a-chip (SoC) hardware and information about legacy Windows application support.

Renee James
Renee James

Renee James, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Software and Services Group, said to expect a "Windows 8 Traditional" for the x86, which will have a Windows 7 mode for running legacy applications, and to expect a Windows 8 for ARM, which appears to be intended more for an app-like experience. (James called the OS Windows 8, although Microsoft has continued to be cagey about the term, even as a code name.)

"[Windows 8 Traditional] means that our customers, or anyone who has an Intel-based or an x86-based product, will be able to run either Windows 7 mode or Windows 8 mode. They'll run all of their old applications, all of their old files -- there'll be no issue," The Register quoted James as saying.

"On ARM, there'll be the new experience, which is very specifically around the mobile experience, specifically around tablet and some limited clamshell, with no legacy OS," James is quoted as saying. "Our competitors will not be running legacy applications. Not now. Not ever."

James also expanded on Microsoft's announcement from January that Microsoft would support Cambridge, U.K.-based ARM Holdings' SoC architecture. ARM-based processors are especially known for their low power consumption, a key feature for highly portable devices. At the Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft had announced that it is working with three partners leveraging the ARM architecture -- Nvidia Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Texas Instruments, and noted that it was working with Intel and AMD on presumably non-ARM SoCs.

In an effort to highlight Intel's advantages over the ARM systems, James contended that the ARM-based systems would be balkanized.

According to The Register, James said, "There will be four Windows 8 SoCs for ARM. Each one will run for that specific ARM environment, and they will run new applications or cloud-based applications."

It was unclear from reports about James' remarks whether the fourth SoC version of Windows 8 would be from AMD or another vendor.

While Microsoft regularly notes that OEMs sell several models of Windows-based tablets, the momentum and excitement in the market is in the media tablet segment, which Apple dominates.

The multi-SoC plan, and plans to roll out similar editions for Intel, underscores Microsoft's seriousness about re-engineering its platform to compete in the media tablet space. Microsoft isn't talking much, but the tenor of Jones comments raises the possibility that the user interface of all versions of Windows 8, not just tablets, will represent a major break from the Windows of the past.

UPDATE (5/19): Microsoft has issued one of those non-denial denials in response to Intel's presentation about Windows 8. You can find details here, but the upshot is Microsoft is saying some of the Intel statements were factually inaccurate without, of course, specifying which ones. Intel is clamming up now as well.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 19, 2011 at 11:58 AM


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