Microsoft Previews Tablet with Quad-Core ARM Chip

Microsoft previewed a new quad-core media tablet identified as a Windows "Slate" at the Tech Ed 2011 conference in New Zealand on Friday. Microsoft principal architect Patrick Hevesi said the software giant is currently working with its OEM partners to produce next-generation tablets that make better sense from a business perspective.

"We are seeing people bringing in iPads with a Bluetooth keyboard, a mouse, a pen, and all this other stuff," Hevesi noted. The goal at Microsoft is to "find that middle ground" that will enable business users to have "all this other stuff [in a] hybrid form factor [that] is a lot more critical [to business users]," he said in a Tech Ed video interview.

For example, Microsoft is working with selected partners to bring "instant on" PC capabilities to next-generation Windows tablets, Hevesi noted. What's more, Windows-powered mobile devices are already available that offer eight to 14 hours of battery life.

Even better, Hevesi expects ultrathin notebooks and tablets running Windows to be able to operate for up to 24 hours from a single battery charge by late this year or early 2012. The new Windows slates also will sport "brilliant HD screens in a very thin form factor" and be equipped with quad-core processors, he added.

TI's quad-core OMAP Chip

Several chipmakers are poised to launch quad-core chips based on the ARM architecture that will offer support for Microsoft's next-generation Windows 8 operating system. For example, the 1.8-GHz OMAP4470 quad-core chip announced by Texas Instruments in early June will integrate ARM CPUs with enough moxie to run Windows-style applications and offer support for Microsoft's DirectX technology for gaming applications.

TI's chip will feature HD user interfaces for connecting the host machine with as many as three high-definition screens simultaneously, and also integrate HDMI technology for supporting stereoscopic 3D. Mobile devices running TI's new chips are expected to arrive in the consumer marketplace in the first half of 2012.

"Fast and crisp web browsing, HD and liquid UIs, support for the latest applications -- these are the elements consumers judge and buy their devices on," said TI Vice President Remi El-Ouazzane. "The OMAP4470 processor delivers the maximum experience possible with an unmatched, power-efficient architecture."

Quad-Core Tegra Chip

Rival chipmakers such as Nvidia and Qualcomm also have developed quad-core chips based on the ARM architecture that will be able to run Windows 8 by the time Microsoft is ready to launch the next-generation OS. Nvidia showed off its next-generation Tegra processor at the Mobile World Congress last February.

"This is the first mobile quad-core processor, [and it] contains a new 12-core GeForce GPU," noted Michael Rayfield, the general manager of Nvidia's mobile business unit. He said OEMS received samples of the new quad-core chip earlier this year. So the first consumer products with the new chip might arrive in time for this year's holiday shopping season.

Windows 8 isn't expected to launch until the latter half of next year, which will hamper Microsoft's ability to gain market share for Mango -- the company's fledgling Windows Phone 7 mobile platform released to manufacturers last month. Still, some analysts believe the evolving Phone 7 platform will benefit in the long run from its compatibility with Microsoft's next-generation OS for desktop PCs and notebooks.

"Microsoft will claw its way to success and market share over the next couple of releases," said Al Hilwa, director of applications development software at IDC. "Its chances will be helped significantly with a successful Windows 8 release in 2012, which will create synergies between the PC and the phone in new ways."

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