A couple of the stands in the exhibition at Microsoft’s BUILD conference last week were showing Windows on ARM. This one was on the NVIDIA stand and was most likely running its Tegra 2 SoC (System on a Chip) though Tegra 3 (code-name Kal-El) is apparently now in production. The tablet was displayed under a plastic shroud which could only be lifted when someone from Microsoft was present, though I was able to get this snap of the machine sans shroud. I was not permitted to handle the machine.
I have blanked out part of the background because it was black on black.
My main observation: it looks just like the Intel version. This screen shows a Metro app running side by side with the Windows desktop, and showing the “charms” on the right.
Gartner reports that Apple will have the tablet market almost to itself in 2011 (73.4% market share). I believe Windows on ARM is critical to Microsoft’s strategy to compete. In principle, it should be cheaper and more efficient than an Intel device, and one that is more locked-down in the style to which Apple has made us accustomed.
If Microsoft and its hardware partners can get the size, weight and design details right, I suspect I would rather have a Windows 8 tablet than an iPad. One advantage is the ability to have two apps side by side. Microsoft’s new user interface works really well with touch. I will expect to find a Windows remote desktop client there by default, and better support for Microsoft Office and SharePoint than I find in the iPad.
By the time Windows 8 comes out though, we will likely have iPad 3 with who-knows-what improvements; Apple has all the apps; and breaking into this market will not be easy.