Microsoft assembles the legions – names PC and silicon manufacturing partners

14 Aug 2012

Microsoft has outlined some of the main hardware manufacturers hard at work on sleek, powerful machines powered by Windows 8 and RT, including PC makers Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Samsung, as well as silicon makers Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, QualComm and Texas Instruments.

In recent weeks, Microsoft confirmed that Windows 8 and Windows RT each reached the release-to-manufacture (RTM) milestone.

In a blog post, software chief Steven Sinofsky said that the range and breadth of machines and designs in production range from powerful all-in-one machines, tablets that include low-power chips, sleek ultrabooks and extensible workstations.

“The breadth of Windows 8 Intel- and AMD-based designs from our PC manufacturing partners will continue to push the envelope with powerful computing and innovative design,” Sinofsky said on the Windows blog.

“You can expect to see everything from ultra-thin sleek designs with stunning high-resolution displays, to beautifully designed All-In-One PCs with large immersive displays complete with touch, to high-power towers rocking multiple graphics cards and high-performance storage arrays. In addition, this broad range of PCs will provide price and feature combinations that allow every customer to find a PC that fits their needs and lifestyle perfectly.

“We are particularly excited about the new low-power x86 Windows 8 PCs that will take advantage of Intel’s SoC platform innovations to provide an always on and always connected experience (known as connected standby). Just recently, Lenovo announced the ThinkPad Tablet 2, which offers an outstanding combination of new features built on the latest Intel Atom processor,” Sinofsky said.

A new approach by Microsoft to hardware manufacturing

Clearly aware of the competition posed by machines like the Apple iPad right up to the MacBook Air, the software giant is paying closer attention than ever before to hardware and has specified tablets that vary from 10.1 inches to 11.6 inches in terms of display and capable of 8-13 hours HD video playback and 320 hours to 409 hours of connected standby.

Windows RT-based machines based on ARM system-on-a-chip (SOC) processors will weigh between 520g and 1,200g and some Windows RT PCs will come with full keyboard and touchpad solutions.

Sinofsky said that innovative ARM CPUs are being made by NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

As well as Surface and the Asus Tablet 600 (Windows RT), there will be ARM-based PC designs coming from Dell, Lenovo and Samsung running Windows RT.

“The uniqueness of our approach starts with a new way of working across partners to engineer a PC – a collaboration that brings the best of all parties together to deliver end-to-end experiences that are integrated and optimised from the chipset to the experience,” Sinofsky explained.

“It’s also worth taking a moment to describe how our collaboration on these PC efforts has been different than in any other Windows release. Our engineering collaboration on these Windows RT PCs has been strong, collaborating with the PC manufacturers, silicon partners, and operators to focus on hardware, software and services integration. Each respective partner was committed to sharing early iterations of their products, whether it was a SoC bring-up board, early builds of Windows RT, firmware and drivers, or hundreds of pre-release PC hardware samples (such as the ones featured in earlier videos and demonstrations).

“Product designs were informed and revised by our collective efforts through development and testing. As a result, all of these Windows RT PCs will have consistent fast and fluid touch interactions, long battery life, connected standby, and are beautiful, thin, and light designs. All of these are designed to make the most of the capabilities of Windows RT,” Sinofsky added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years