New Windows RT tablets raise competition among ARM chip makers

Samsung and Dell have announced Windows RT tablets with ARM-based Qualcomm chips, bringing competition to Nvidia

By , IDG News Service |  Consumerization of IT, Dell, Samsung

Dell XPS 10

Dell's XPS 10 tablet on show at IFA Berlin on August 30, 2012

Martyn Williams/IDG News Service

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.

Samsung and Dell announced Windows RT tablets with Qualcomm's dual-core Snapdragon S4 APQ8060A processor, which is built on ARM architecture. These are the first Windows RT tablets using Qualcomm's chips, while tablets announced earlier in the year, such as Microsoft's Surface and Asustek's Vivo Tab RT (previously called Asus Tablet 600), were based on Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor.

Microsoft is working only with ARM-based chip makers Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments for Windows RT on tablets and PCs. Toshiba previously showed a Windows RT tablet based on Texas Instruments' OMAP processor, but the device was scrapped due to a component shortage. Microsoft has also announced Windows 8 for tablets and PCs based on Intel and Advanced Micro Devices chips. The Windows operating systems will become available Oct. 26, at which time devices like tablets and hybrid laptops are also expected to ship.

Much like Android, the Windows RT ecosystem is fragmented with the OS divorced from the hardware, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. Hardware makers are offering unique features in Windows RT devices, and key differentiators could be connectivity, performance and form factors, McCarron said.

Windows RT devices on Qualcomm's S4 chip may provide a better blend of performance and connectivity, while Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 chip may deliver faster overall performance and better graphics, McCarron said. ARM processors are power efficient and will bring long battery life to Windows RT devices, McCarron said.

Windows RT has the look and feel of Windows 8, but Microsoft says that RT has been re-engineered with mobile features like power consumption and instant connectivity in mind. Chips with ARM processors are used in most smartphones and tablets that ship today, and Qualcomm and Nvidia are pitching different features on their chips in order to capture a larger share of the future Windows RT device market.

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