Windows RT line-up starts taking shape, but questions remain

Windows 8 logoMicrosoft has confirmed that Lenovo, Dell, and Samsung will all be producing ARM-powered devices running Windows RT. This brings the total number of vendors supporting the platform to five: the three join ASUS, which announced its Tablet 600 earlier in the year, and Microsoft's own Surface.

While not going into specifics, Microsoft's post outlines the broad parameters of the forthcoming Windows RT devices. There will be tablets, tablets with dockable keyboards, and laptops, with screen sizes ranging between 10.1" and 11.6", weights between 520 g and 1200 g (1.15 lb and 2.64 lb), and thicknesses between 8.35 mm and 15.6 mm.

Battery life on the ARM machines is measured at between 8 and 13 hours when playing HD video. In the new "Connected Standby" mode, which allows devices to maintain network connectivity while otherwise asleep, they'll last between 320 and 409 hours.

Notable omissions from this list of companies are HP, Acer, and Toshiba. HP announced in June that its first Windows 8 tablets would be x86 devices, amid reports that the company was working on an ARM device but canned it a couple of weeks before Microsoft announced Surface.

Acer, meanwhile, has been consistently critical of Microsoft's decision to enter the hardware market. In the immediate wake of Redmond's announcement, Acer senior Vice President Oliver Ahrens said that Microsoft would fail, because "you cannot be a hardware player with two products." Speaking to the Financial Times last week, Acer CEO J Wang attacked Microsoft's plans. He said that building hardware is "not something [Microsoft is] good at," warning that it would "create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem," and imploring the company to "think twice."

On Friday, Digitimes reported a slight softening in Wang's stance. Wang apparently expressed concerns about pricing; if the Surface costs around $199, it would have a "significant impact." If its price is around $499-599, the effect on PC OEMs would be a lot smaller.

Acer has said that it intends to launch Windows RT tablets of its own. However, the company does not expect them to reach the market until the first quarter of 2013, giving Microsoft and others a head start.

The omission of Toshiba from Microsoft's list is a little more surprising, as Toshiba has previously announced that it will have Windows RT devices. Speaking to Bloomberg's Dina Bass, the company said that the omission is "significant" but would not comment further, pending an official statement.

Toshiba has said that it no longer plans to have a Windows RT device ready for launch due to "delays" in accessing some (unspecified) components.

Microsoft didn't discuss launch details in its post. However, with the ARM variant of Surface—now named "Surface RT"—due to launch simultaneously with Windows 8's launch on October 26, it's likely that the other manufacturers will follow suit.

Nor did the blog post address the biggest uncertainty around the ARM devices, and Surface RT in particular: what will they all cost? With their 10" or larger screens, pricing is likely to be nearer that of the iPad family ($399 and up) than it is the Nexus 7 ($199 and up), no doubt putting JT Wang's fears to rest. But the exact pricing remains, for the time being, a mystery.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, tablets, Windows RT

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