Windows RT tablets are on the way from Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and Asus, according to Microsoft, as well as Microsoft's own Surface RT. But the really big news? RT and Windows 8 devices will be always on--no more boot up, shutdown, or suspend. In the meantime, beware imitations that claim to be always connected but aren't.
A Monday blog entry by Mike Angiulo, VP of Microsoft's ecosystem and planning team, announced that Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung are building Windows RT devices. It also added details of some new capabilities in Windows 8 and Windows RT devices. The most exciting? The elimination of the much-hated shutdown feature in Windows, which eliminates the dreaded boot-up process. Both Intel System on Chip (SoC) and ARM devices running Windows 8 and RT devices will support a feature called connected standby, which means they never need to be shut down, suspended, or rebooted.
These devices will stay on for over 320 hours at a time without a charge while connected to the network as if they were smartphones on battery steroids. According to this Microsoft BUILD conference presentation last year, connected standby devices must pass stringent hardware requirements. For example, all connected standby capable devices must have less than 5% battery drain over a 16-hour period in connected standby state and they must have less than 300-millisecond exit latency from the power button press to display on. By comparison, it's a vast improvement over the 100% battery drain on some buggy iPhone 4S smartphones in the same 16-hour period.
Beware fake always-on, connected standby
Don't fall for the numerous products being marketed today as having always on, instant on, or connected standby capabilities. They're fake, because they all need to be shut down or suspended and booted or reawakened.
Google's Chromebook, for instance, claims to have instant on capability but it really means roughly a 15 second boot.
Apple touts connected standby in its new Mac OS X, code-named Mountain Lion, but those MacBooks are merely waking every 15 minutes to update email and sync to the cloud. They still need to be suspended or shut down and they are not connected to the network. That means they don't turn on as quickly and don't respond to instant message calls such as Facetime or Skype.
HP markets a connected standby feature on some of its notebooks running Windows 7. But it's only running a scheduled wake feature based on Intel's Smart Connect Technology. Like Mac OS X Mountain Lion, you still need to suspend or shut down the devices.
These distinctions are crucial because according to Microsoft's telemetry data a significant percentage of PC users shut down their systems. Perhaps people are worried about battery drain or fear that their systems won't wake correctly from the ACPI 5.0 S3 suspend state. This shouldn't be a problem on Windows 8 connected standby devices because they won't need or have an off or suspend option and they must be certified to operate on less than 0.078 watts of total standby power drain.
Why Windows 8 should be a tablet winner
The iPad was a huge success because it was the first always-on mobile device with a sufficiently large screen that offers media consumption, Web surfing, and light data input. The iPad was the first device good enough for most casual computing needs but it has rarely replaced a full computer. Those who try to use the iPad as a primary computing device like corporate sales staff end up demanding keyboard docks like the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. They also demand features such as printing but can't get full hardware support. iPads can't run the software that the majority of the computing world runs and it can't run Microsoft Office.
In contrast, Windows 8 on Intel SoC will be the first full-fledged computing device in a truly mobile form factor rather than just a "media tablet" like the iPad. It will run all Windows applications and run existing and future versions of Microsoft Office. This explains why surveys in the United States and China have shown that customers prefer and are waiting for a Windows tablet. This is why I argued in June that Windows 8 running on Intel SoC will be an iPad killer. That might sound overly optimistic but consider the fact that there were roughly 350 million PCs sold last year and roughly 300 million of them were sold with Windows. If only one third of them become tablets--which is not unreasonable because SoC systems should be affordable--Windows easily becomes the tablet market leader.
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