Co-opetition with Microsoft, ARM
Newcomers to the x86 world like China's ZTE are quickly finding out that it’s easy to get into the Wintel world, but hard to differentiate yourself. “Microsoft is not as fast-moving or flexible as Google Android, but we hope they are able to grab this opportunity because there is not too much time left,” said Yong Chang, a director of software engineering at ZTE.
ZTE is also planning a WinRT tablet based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon and supporting cellular and Wi-Fi as well as one using Nvidia’s Tegra, initially just supporting Wi-Fi. “It’s a very challenging design ecosystem trying to align with Micosoft, Intel, Nvdiai and Qualcomm,” said Chang.
The Asus tablet is unique in supporting an 11.6-inch LG display.
For Asus, the Win 8 Atom tablets represent a fourth tablet line. It already makes two Android-based tablets, including the Nexus 7. Asus also plans a WinRT line using Nvidia's Tegra.
Product managers shrug their shoulders when asked how various tablets will play in the market. Performance should not be an issue with the WinRT tablets, said Stanley Wang, an Asus product manager who has tried out prototype models.
“We will know in six months or so whether or not consumers will opt for Windows-based tablets based on ARM without some of the legacy capabilities you get with Intel systems—but right now, we just don’t know,” said analyst Brookwood.
"Until pricing is available and performance and battery life are tested by independent reviewers, it will be a tough call, said analyst Moorhead.
As for Clover Trail, also known as Atom Z2760, the 32-nm chip is up upgrade from the single-core Penwell used in Intel’s Medfield smartphone platform. Intel claims 20 tablets as thin as 8.5-mm will ship this year using Atom processors. Other models will use its Core processors to provide greater performance.
In demos, the Clover Trail notebooks performed smoothly on a range of desktop and tablet apps including media playback and multitasking jobs.