Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

Summary: PC maker Asus has let the cat partially out of the bag regarding its Windows 8 tablet plans. It seems apparent, however, that there are at least two Win 8 tablets coming from Asus before the end of next year.

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There've been a number of rumors as to exactly when Microsoft's PC partners would deliver the first Windows 8 tablets.

But one of those partners, AsusTek, has spelled out -- at least to some degree -- in its own Q3 2011 Investor Conference slide deck from October 31, what's coming and when. (I believe the original report on this comes from netbooknews.de.)

Here's the slide (page 31):

(click on slide to enlarge)

WoA means "Windows on ARM.". GTM is "go to market."

I'm not sure what the "ticket for selling Windows 8 tablet" is.  Maybe it's the typical Microsoft upgrade/tech guarantee coupon -- the chit Microsoft gives customers who buy new PCs close to the date when a new operating system is released, allowing them an automatic upgrade to the later OS. (But on ARM-based Windows tablets, such a coupon wouldn't make sense since there are no ARM tablets running Windows 7. Hmm.)

My read on this slide is Asus will launch two new "hero products" in tablet form in Q3 that will be designed to run Windows 8. Will these be ARM-based Windows 8 tablets or Intel-based ones -- or both? I'm not entirely sure, and I'd argue you can't tell definitively from this slide. (The same slide in the deck also mentions two other "hero products" running Android coming from Asus in Q1 of 2011.)

The growing bet among Microsoft watchers is Windows 8 will be generally available by the fourth quarter of next year (which assumes a Windows 8 Q3 release to manufacturing date, I'd speculate). And those dates jibe with this slide.

Microsoft and its partners still have yet to deliver to testers an ARM-based version of Windows 8. Most of my contacts are expecting Microsoft to launch all versions of Windows 8 (Intel/AMD and ARM) at the same time next year, rather than on a staggered basis. But that mention of a "ticket for selling Windows 8 tablet" that is listed underneath the mention of Windows on ARM (WoA) has got me wondering if this will be the case, after all.

What's your read on this slide?

Update: One of my contacts familiar with Microsoft's OEM policies and procedures e-mailed me his take on Asus' slide. The "ticket" reference, he says, "means they are a premiere partner."

"They get first access to Win8.  Q3’12 is likely the earliest a hardware OEM can release Win8.  If they aren’t part of the 'WoA Alliance,' they’d get second dibs on access to Win8 which would delay their rollout until after RTM launch," he said. He also wondered whether the ARM version may be available to partners earlier, as it will be an OEM-only deliverable.

Topics: Processors, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Someone has to explain how Win ARM tablets make sense

    The only reason to run windows is for windows APP compatibility. If MS doesn't provide a compatibility layer (they said they won't) then all you end up with is a brand new software eco-system that is starting from scratch. And with multitasking limited to two onscreen apps, it's like good old DOS days...

    I don't understand what the point of buying one will be; for better or worse, the software ecosystem is all about IOS, followed closely by Android.

    I'm sure not going to buy a Win 8 ARM tablet and then look at my iPad friends who'll have millions of apps to pick from. It's no different than the issues Blackberry is facing - how to attract developers to a marginal ecosystem.
    croberts
    • I believe the compatibility is for the other direction

      @croberts <br>I believe that applications written for Windows 8 ARM tablets will run on Windows 8 PCs. So while you are correct that this is a new ecosystem, it is a new ecosystem with a billion compatible devices in it.<br><br>"I'm sure not going to buy a Win 8 ARM tablet and then look at my iPad friends who'll have millions of apps to pick from."<br><br>Very good point and I agree with you. The question is, how quickly will devs start writing Win 8 ARM tablet compatible applications knowing that their $0.99 app will run on a billion devices? Time will tell but I suspect that within a year, there will be tens or hundreds of thousands of compatible apps, assuming MS can approve that many.

      Edit: Let me correct the "billion" devices before anyone complains since of course there are not a billion Windows 8 machines out there. There will almost certainly be over a hundred million Windows 8 PCs out there within a year of release if we go by even Vista's slow uptake numbers. The main point still stands though: Windows 8 ARM tablet apps will run on an incredibly high number of devices making it an appealing platform for developers.
      toddybottom
      • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

        @toddybottom

        Actually, I'm pretty sure there's well more than a billion Windows machines out there...
        x I'm tc
      • &quot;applications written for Windows 8 ARM tablets will run on Windows 8 PCs&quot;

        @toddybottom No they won't. Because Windows PCs don't use ARM chips, they use x86 chips. So Windows vendors wanting to support both now have <I>double</I> the support burden, having to redo <I>all</I> their testing and development--and ongoing maintenance--for both architectures.

        We saw how this panned out with multi-architecture support for Windows NT back in the day--it failed. Proprietary software vendors simply cannot afford the cost, when their software is so expensive to develop as it is.
        ldo17
      • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

        @toddybottom Well, I will be skipping Windows until they ditch the stupid looking tiles! I am perfectly fine running Windows 7 for awhile longer and with the revolt from the desktop community I would not be surprised to see the tiles gone by Windows 9.
        slickjim
      • Ido17: That is the reason for using WinRT

        Java apps don't need to be recompiled for different platforms because they don't access the hardware directly. This is the same approach with Windows 8 tablet applications. They will not access the CPU directly so ARM or x86 doesn't matter.

        Windows 8 isn't out yet so there is no way of being absolutely sure how things will work but if things are going the way MS is advertising, Windows 8 tablet applications will run on Windows 8 PCs using the exact same techniques that allow Java apps to run on any platform.
        toddybottom
      • Re: Ido17: That is the reason for using WinRT

        @toddybottom "Java apps don't need to be recompiled for different platforms because they don't access the hardware directly"--irrelevant, because one thing we know for a fact is that Microsoft <B>won't</B> be using Java to write its apps.

        "This is the same approach with Windows 8 tablet applications. They will not access the CPU directly so ARM or x86 doesn't matter." Unfortunately that's no help to all the tens of thousands of existing Windows apps already written in C++ and the like. What are they supposed to do? Throw it all away and start again? That's a recipe for the destruction of Microsoft.

        So, to make it clear again: multi-architecture support is something Microsoft and its proprietary third-party software vendors have already tried, and failed to get working. They simply cannot afford the development and support costs.
        ldo17
      • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

        Software written for the WinRT API (the Metro style apps) will run on all platforms without any change (it is CPU agnostic) and therefore have a fairly large device base on day one.

        If the Windows Phone Marketplace is any indication of the application catalog velocity (35 000 apps in less than a year), one can expect a rapid growth on this front if Microsoft opens it for publishing before launch (which is likely to occur).
        TheCyberKnight
      • Ido17: I can see this is a waste of time

        "we know for a fact is that Microsoft won't be using Java to write its apps."

        Considering I never suggested that MS was using Java, I have no idea where you came up with this. My point, clearly lost on you, is that many platforms are CPU agnostic, java being one of them. For you to say that an application can't run on both ARM tablets and x86 desktops is clearly incorrect since java apps can run on both ARM tablets and x86 desktop and x64 desktops and itanium desktops and PPC servers, etc. MS has made quite clear that the WinRT API will be implemented on both x86 and ARM so it is fairly certain that WinRT apps will run without recompiling and without redesign on both Windows 8 x86 desktops and Windows 8 ARM tablets. Will it work well? Who knows, we'll have to wait and see.

        "multi-architecture support is something Microsoft and its proprietary third-party software vendors have already tried, and failed to get working"

        Yes, .NET is clearly a failed platform. There are only a few million .NET developers.
        toddybottom
      • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

        @toddybottom - More to the point, most managed .NET code will run unmodified on x86, x64 and ARM. Any managed code that IS platform-specific is pretty easy to isolate and customize.
        bitcrazed
      • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

        @ldo17 - Windows didn't "fail" as a multi-platform OS because 3rd parties couldn't port their code to other platforms - it "failed" because nobody bought Alpha/MIPS/PowerPC machines upon which to run NT.

        The same will not be true for ARM-powered devices. There is a pent-up demand for machines that will last 10+ hours of continual use on a single charge.

        That fact that most ISV's have already done a lot of work to make their code non-platform-specific in order to create 64-bit versions of their apps will only make them easier to port to ARM.

        ISV's who've written their apps using .NET will largely have little/nothing to do for their apps to run on ARM.

        And, no, it doesn't double support and maintenance costs to port an app to ARM. It costs SOME (time*resources*effort), but it's nowhere near double. If the vendor sees enough demand for their products to be ported to ARM, they'll be able to afford to do so.
        bitcrazed
      • Re: Ido17: I can see this is a waste of time

        @toddybottom "Considering I never suggested that MS was <B>using Java</B>" ... and then you go on to talk even <B>more</B>. about <B>using Java</B>. Make up your mind, whether you think <B>using Java</B> is relevant to this discussion or not!<br><br>"Yes, .NET is clearly a failed platform." Glad we agree on something! Does Microsoft's own Office use Dotnet? No. Does Adobe Photoshop use Dotnet? No. Do any PC games use Dotnet? No. So what possible interest is Dotnet to the average Joe/Joanne who is supposed to be buying Windows 8 on ARM? None whatsoever. Theoretically it was a good idea, but in practice it has failed. QED.
        ldo17
      • Re: &quot;nobody bought Alpha/MIPS/PowerPC machines upon which to run NT.&quot;

        @bitcrazed Oh, they bought Alpha, MIPS and PowerPC machines, all right--lots of them. But you are right, they didn't buy them to run NT, because there weren't many apps available. And of course the proprietary Windows software vendors couldn't be bothered to port their apps to the RISC machines because there was no market for them. Do you see the chicken-and-egg dilemma here?

        The same thing will happen with ARM.

        "There is a pent-up demand for machines that will last 10+ hours of continual use on a single charge." Unfortunately, Windows isn't going to be the one to provide that. Didn't you see that clunky Windows 8 tablet they were handing out at BUILD? Overweight, underperforming, and no doubt overpriced if they weren't getting it for free--just like any Windows tablet released over the last 10 years, right back to when Bill Gates proclaimed that tablet PCs would be "the most popular form of computing in America in 5 years", in that Comdex keynote he gave in 2001.

        Windows on ARM will be a failure. Just like all previous attempts at cross-platform Windows, and for exactly the same reasons.
        ldo17
    • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

      @croberts <br>Sure, if you don't need, then don't have to, simple. But there will be good number of apps to begin with because apps written for .NET Framework would run smoothly, ok, UX of them may not be as great, but those app developers could easily fix the UX to meet Metro requirements, very easy path to migrate in fact.
      Ram U
    • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

      @croberts
      I agree with you completely. Compatibility with legacy apps is of no value.
      jeffs0413@...
    • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

      I like how in light of the success of iOS and its inability to run Mac apps, someone decides to complain that ARM tablets have to be able to run legacy C++ apps in order for them succeed.
      scH4MMER
  • 32 vs 64-bit

    You're going to have to look at whether or not MS will bother to use 32-bit ARM chips, also.

    There's confusing information out there about that.

    Some sources say "no 32-bit ARM for Windows", supposedly because it will cause fragmentation.

    If true, you'd have to wait for the 64-bit chips, which aren't due until 2014! (annoucement 2 days ago)

    The Asus memo implies 32-bit Windows on ARM, since 2011 launch.

    I'm as confused as anyone.
    Win8AnUglyDisaster
    • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

      Oops: I meant "32-bit Windows on ARM, since 2012 launch"
      Win8AnUglyDisaster
    • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

      @johndow1 - ARM have only just announced the details of their 64-bit port. Volume availability of SOC's with 64-bit ARM cores are still a couple of years away. 64-bit ARM SOC's are most likely to first appear in servers and server blades.

      Windows 8 will run just fine on 32-bit x86 or 32-bit ARM.

      New Metro-style apps written in C#/VB.NET/Javascript should run unchanged on ARM devices. C/C++ code will require recompilation to generate ARM binaries, regardless of whether the app is a Metro-style app or a traditional Windows app.

      As such, only native code is impacted by a change from 32-bit to 64-bit and even then, most cleanly written code should port with the minimum of fuss. This is especially true today because apps that <b>need</b> to be ported to 64-bit have already been ported and have, therefore, had most of their architecture-specific code cleaned up already. Porting most code to ARM (be it 32-bit or 64-bit) will largely just require a recompilation.
      bitcrazed
    • RE: Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

      @johndow1
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