“Epic” is a rare word to use on a Monday, especially to describe the week ahead in the chip industry, but this week may be one that actually warrants it.
With Apple preparing to launch its expected low-cost iPad mini tomorrow and Microsoft preparing to release the next version of Windows to the public by end of week, the battleground for holiday shopping is set.
While to some Apple’s success seems a foregone conclusion, with its fanatical base of diehard fans willing to camp out on sidewalks just to be among the first to own its latest offering, we’re left to ponder what happens with Microsoft.
The Redmond-based software giant is blazing a new trail in an attempt to stay relevant in an increasingly Apple/Google-centric device world. While the rationale for Microsoft’s change is sound, the two divergent paths being taken is turning the PC eco-system on its head, as the firm prepares for war not only with Apple, but with the very customers who helped build its software empire.
The Windows 8 launch will roll out in two phases. The first component will be the launch of Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, with countless PC OEMs launching waves of devices in all shapes and form factors.
We’ll see a large number of touch-enabled Ultrabooks, tablets and convertibles, all hoping to spice up PC life once again, mainly by borrowing and integrating tablet features and functionality.
These (X86 based) devices will run the new Windows 8 UI (the artist formerly known as Metro) as well as the full complement of existing applications and peripherals.
On the other hand, there is the Windows RT camp and the long, winding, convoluted road Microsoft has taken to launch its ARM-based product and its flagship platform, Surface.
The road to Windows RT has been a painful one, wrought with confusion and secrecy, as Microsoft’s Windows division attempts to take a page out of Apple’s playbook for the launch.
The problem is, Microsoft is not Apple. Nobody in their right mind could confuse the charisma of Steve Jobs with the awkwardness of Steven Sinofsky.
I’ve often thought Windows RT PR must be one of the loneliest jobs at Microsoft, given that the only vehicle to share information on the new platform is via Mr. Sinofsky’s blog posts, most of which are painfully long to read and mostly quite boring.
Despite their unnecessary length, however, we potential consumers still have no clear sense on the realities of legacy applications compatibility. Microsoft has avoided the question like the plague and has consistently spoken out of both sides of its mouth sine its BUILD conference last September.
"Aside from the well-publicized inclusion of Office in those configurations, nobody has much of an idea about features or performance. Until last week, even the pricing for most systems was a closely held secret. Given all the secrecy, it’s hard to say how well this will work out for them. It’s the biggest unknown in the launch," said analyst Nathan Brookwood of Insight64.
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