The Computex tradeshow in Taiwan is just getting rolling, but Windows RT devices have already been spotted in the wild. I had a brief chance to try out a Qualcomm reference tablet running Windows RT, and should get a closer look at devices from Asus and others later this week.
The next version of Microsoft Windows, which is due later this year, is designed to run on two different types of hardware. Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro will run on systems with Intel or AMD processors based on the x86 architecture. Windows RT will run on devices with processors based on the ARM architecture, which is currently used in smartphones and tablets (among other devices).
My first impression of these Windows RT devices is that it is Windows 8. It looks exactly the same, it has the same Metro apps, and it seemed stable and responsive, though it clearly isn't complete yet. This is a good thing since it means ARM-based devices will be competing with x86 on a reasonably level playing field though there are differences (here's my post on this from last week). These early devices even have the classic Windows desktop, though you can't do too much with it since the version of Microsoft Office, which will be bundled with Windows RT, doesn't appear to be on there yet.
Qualcomm is one of three companies that will be offering ARM-based chipsets for the first Windows RT devices (Nvidia and Texas Instruments are the other two). At a media party, the company was demonstrating several tablets using its Snapdragon chipset and Windows RT. These were reference designs--and it isn't clear which Snapdragon chips they were using--but Qualcomm should be providing more details later this week.
Asus announced two Transformer-like tablets: the Tablet 600 and the Tablet 810. The Tablet 600 uses an ARM processor and Windows RT; the Tablet 810 has an Intel chip and Windows 8. The 600 has a 10.1-inch display (1366x768), Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 2GB of memory and 32GB of storage. The 800 has an 11.6-inch display (1366x768), Atom processor, 2GB of memory and 64GB of storage. Both have the mobile dock that converts the tablets into clamshell ultraportables, with a keyboard, trackpad, extra USB ports and a second battery.
The convertible tablets were among several new devices Asus announced at its Computex press conference. Perhaps the most unusual was Taichi, a Windows 8 ultraportable with displays on each side of the lid. When it is open, Taichi works like a standard ultraportable laptop with a keyboard and trackpad. When it is closed, you can use it as a slate with a multi-touch display with a stylus. Both screens can be used independently at the same time. Despite the two displays, Asus says Taichi weighs about the same as its Zenbook Prime Ultrabook. The company hasn't released details on the configurations, but it will offer 11.6- and 13.3-inch versions of Taichi with Intel's 3rd generation Core processors (Ivy Bridge) and solid-state drives.
Asus also announced a new line of conventional convertibles with detachable multi-touch displays. The Transformer Book will be available with an 11.6-, 13- or 14-inch Full HD display. Unlike the Tablet 810, the Transformer Book is a full Windows 8 laptop with an Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB of memory , discrete graphics, and both hard drives and SSDs. The other Transformer is an all-in-one desktop with an 18.4-inch multi-touch display that runs both Windows 8 and Android using BlueStacks' virtualization technology. The wrinkle is that the display can be removed from the base and used as wireless remote display. The remaining products included an 802.11ac wireless router and two new displays.
Acer announced several new Windows 8 devices including tablets, laptops and an all-in-one (more on those in a separate post) at its press conference. But Acer chairman JT Wang said the company will wait until early next year to release its first ARM-based Windows RT devices.