Windows 8 Tablets Overpriced Thanks To Intel?

Report suggests that Windows 8 tablets with Intel chips could cost significantly more than Android-based devices. This could push tablet makers to favor Intel rival ARM.
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Tablets powered by Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 8 operating system and Intel processors could start as high as $600, a price point that could make them uncompetitive with popular Android-based devices such as Amazon's hot-selling Kindle Fire.

That could drive OEMs to favor ARM-based chips over Intel in Windows 8 systems, even though Microsoft has imposed some strict limitations on ARM-based hardware.

Taiwan-based publication DigiTimes, which closely tracks manufacturers of PC and mobile components, cited unidentified sources in reporting that prices for Wintel-based Windows 8 tablets could run from $600 to $900 as a result of Microsoft and Intel's unwillingness to budge on prices for the Windows 8 OS and Clover Trail-W chips.

Such pricing would make Intel-based Windows 8 tablets considerably more expensive than the $199 Kindle Fire. Even a brand new iPad 2, with 16 GB of storage, can be had for $499.

[ Contemplating a switch to Microsoft's upcoming operating system? Don't miss Windows 8: What IT Needs To Consider. ]

The report suggested that unless Intel cuts its chip prices, even notebook vendors might opt for ARM-based chips from vendors like Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Texas Instruments. Microsoft has said it plans to offer a version of Windows 8 designed to run on the ARM architecture, but that was with an eye to the tablet market.

Microsoft has not officially released any pricing information on Windows 8 tablets or PCs. The company, however, this week revealed more details about Windows 8, including additional information about a security feature called Secure Boot, which is designed to block the installation of malware.

Secure Boot works by confirming that all programs contain the appropriate security certificates before they are allowed to launch. To meet Microsoft's Windows 8 certification requirements, PCs must ship with Secure Boot enabled. Critics have said Secure Boot would allow Microsoft to block the installation of software it views as a threat, such as Linux, on Windows 8 systems.

New information Microsoft released would appear indicate that that's true, but only in part. The certification requirements show that on Intel-based Windows 8 PCs and notebooks, users will have the ability to effectively switch off Secure Boot. Also, software vendors will be allowed to include their own certificates with their products that can get the green light from Secure Boot.

On ARM-based Windows 8 tablets, however, there is no option to bypass Secure Boot, and only Microsoft can issue certificates, even for third-party software. That's consistent with other moves that Microsoft is planning to create a tightly controlled ecosystem around Windows 8 tablets. Applications for such devices, for instance, will need to be approved by Microsoft for inclusion on its applications store.

Such policies may rile Linux advocates, but aren't that much different from what Apple enforces when it comes to the iPhone and iPad ecosystems.

Ready to catch the Metro? Windows 8 is a major shift, with features borrowed from desktop gadgets and mobile devices, and it brings a slew of new paradigms for developers. Our report, IT Pro Impact: Windows Developer Road Map, shows you what you need to know. (Free registration required.)

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Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer