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Three ARM chipmakers support Windows 8 beta

Qualcomm, Nvidia and TI, as well as Intel, will drive test devices as W8 goes into beta release with 'consumer preview'


Published: 1 March, 2012

READ MORE: OS | Processor | Windows Phone

Microsoft used Mobile World Congress to offer a detailed outline of its Windows 8 plan and announce the first consumer preview. It will be providing test PCs for its new OS, initially using Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Nvidia chips on the ARM side, while also supporting x86.

Qualcomm has been increasingly close to Microsoft in recent years and has invested heavily in optimizing its Snapdragon platform for Windows Mobile and Windows Phone (it is currently the only chip supplier for the latter). So it comes as no surprise that it will be a lead partner for the ARM implementation of W8, targeted mainly at tablets, and this will give it a headstart advantage in the space. The advantage will be shared with Nvidia and TI, as well as Intel on the x86 side.

In Qualcomm's case, a pre-release version of Windows on ARM will run on a PC with a Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor with hardware accelerated Adreno graphics, GPS, sensors and peripherals. "These test PCs are not representative of commercial form factors or the final Windows on ARM experience; they are designed to give developers early access to building and testing Windows Metro-style apps on Qualcomm's latest technology," the San Diego firm said in a statement. Nvidia's version will run on its Tegra 3 quad-core mobile processor. TI and Intel did not announce test devices but Microsoft said the W8 beta would run on the former's OMAP processor and the latter's Cloverfield.

Microsoft's session in Barcelona was packed, and the key phrase used by Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows division, was "fast and fluid". The seamless approach borrows heavily from Windows Phone's user interface, and according to Sinofsky, is the first real "generational change" since Windows 95.

The firm released the first Windows 8 beta, which it named a "consumer preview" and is available now as a free download. Microsoft demonstrated how the same experience can be delivered using a touchscreen or a mouse/keyboard and CNet reviewer Seth Rosenblatt was convinced, saying: "It's impressive how well Microsoft has been able to replicate the touch workflow with the mouse and keyboard." During the preview phase, all apps are free. The same code can be used for x86 and ARM devices.

Microsoft showed off several W8 devices during its two-hour showcase, including an Acer Aspire A5 with a motorized door that opens to reveal ports, although most had previously been seen at January's Consumer Electronics Show. While the event focused on consumer capabilities, Microsoft said it will detail enterprise functionalities in a preview at this month's CeBIT show in Germany.

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