Windows 8 Tablets Due in November: Should You Wait It Out?

Tablets and tablet/laptop hybrids running Windows 8 and Intel chips will be here for the holidays. Despite many challenges in the tablet market, a beautifully designed Windows 8 hybrid device could be a game-changer.

Attention Windows 8 shoppers: Windows 8 tablets and tablet/laptop hybrids built on Intel architecture will be in retail stores in November, according to a CNET story that cites a source close to Windows 8 device makers.

These devices will be using Intel's newest Atom chips, named Clover Trail, which are the chip-maker's first dual-core Atom design based on 32-nanometer processing. Windows 8 devices will be powered by chips from both Intel and AMD and will be able to run older "legacy" applications.

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It's worth noting that these devices are different from planned tablets running Windows RT, Windows 8's cousin OS that will run only on ARM-based architectures from suppliers such as Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments. All the current popular tablets such as the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Kindle Fire are built around ARM architecture.

Windows RT tablets will not run older Windows applications, which could hinder their use in the enterprise. Last week, Intel CEO Paul Otellini criticized Windows RT for not supporting Windows legacy apps.

No release date has been set for Windows RT devices.

It's been a foregone conclusion that Windows 8 will arrive in the fall. October has been the assumed month. So CNET's source calling for November Windows 8 tablets is consistent, though some analysts are saying that November may be too late.

The CNET source said that half of the Intel chip-based Windows 8 tablet devices will be hybrids. As someone sitting on the fence between laptop and tablet use, I'm intrigued by the idea of a Windows 8 hybrid model where an ultrabook with a traditional physical keyboard folds seamlessly into a touch-screen tablet.

This is easier said than done, of course. Attempts at this hybrid model so far have been heavy Windows 7 devices and they've landed with a thud. But unlike Windows 7, Windows 8 was designed from the ground up to work with touch screens. One good example of this model is the pending Windows 8 Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga (pictured below).

11LenovoIdeaPadYoga.jpg

Tablet users are accustomed to lightweight iPads and even smaller and lighter models such as the Kindle Fire. So as much as possible, Microsoft and its partners will need to reduce the weight and bulk of a Windows 8 tablet/ultrabook hybrid. Nothing will hurt Windows 8 tablets more than if they are too thick, awkward, heavy and pricey, with mediocre battery life. The IdeaPad Yoga is comparatively bulky with its 3.1 pounds and 13.3-inch screen. Estimated retail price is a hefty $1,199. But for that you do get the physical keyboard and PC-level processing power and storage.

Despite the obvious design and hardware challenges, Microsoft and partners do have the advantage of an established Windows base, especially in the business world. If a Windows 8 tablet or hybrid can run the same software and apps that business users and consumers use on their traditional PCs and make the experience fast and fluid, Windows 8 tablets have a chance to transcend the tablet pack.

There are still lots of unknowns such as price and form factor design, but it's worth it for CIOs to keep an eye on Windows 8 tablets and consider waiting until November before investing in tablets.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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