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New iPad Vs. Windows 8 Tablets: 8 Considerations

Buy a new iPad now, or wait for a Windows 8 tablet later this year? Here are some factors to consider.
5. PROCESSOR

New iPad: New iPad is powered by Apple's ARM-based A5X chip, which is basically a souped-up version of iPad 2's A5. The A5X is dual core and runs at 1 GHz.

Windows 8 tablets: Microsoft has tapped three chipmakers to produce WoA processors--Nvidia, Texas Instruments, and Qualcomm. All of them will produce chips based on the ARM reference design for Windows 8 tablets.

Considerations: Apple's A5 architecture is getting a bit long in the tooth. The A5X is significantly larger than the A5, and has been blamed for the heat problems afflicting new iPad. Windows 8 tablets will benefit from having chips available from three ARM specialists that have proven themselves in the Android market. WoA on Nvidia's new Kal-El quad-core architecture, in particular, could be one to watch.

6. CAMERA

New iPad: Apple is taking heat for its decision to include a camera on new iPad that checks in at just 5 megapixels and has fairly limited optics, when the company already has an 8-megapixel camera in iPhone 4S. For HD video recording, however, Apple has increased output from 720p to 1080p.

Windows 8 tablets: Microsoft's wide ecosystem of hardware partners use a variety of camera technologies. Of note is the fact that Nokia, with its use of Carl Zeiss optics in Lumia smartphones, has chosen to make cameras a point of differentiation. It's likely that Nokia will pursue the same strategy with Windows 8 tablets.

Considerations: Tablets aren't what most people use for taking pictures, but the bottom line is that when Windows 8 tablets hit stores later this year, you'll likely be able to find one that has a better camera than new iPad.

7. BOOT TIME

New iPad: Apple hasn't released an official boot time for new iPad, but this somewhat unscientific video on YouTube seems to show that it boots in about 21 seconds. Fritz Nelson, VP and editorial director of the InformationWeek Business Technology Network, says it takes 30 seconds for his new iPad to boot up, compared to 25 second for his iPad 2.

Windows 8 tablets: Another factor that has doomed previous Windows tablets, those based on the Intel x86 architecture, is that they suffered from the same, drawn out boot times that afflict Windows PCs. Windows 8 systems, by contrast, will fully boot in as little as eight seconds. Microsoft said it has achieved this in part by not completely closing the kernel session when the system is switched off. Instead, the kernel session is hibernated so that memory contents and system state is saved.

Considerations: 10 or 12 seconds difference in boot time doesn't make much difference in the real world, but many users view boot time as a proxy for overall system performance. Super snappy boot times on Windows 8 tablets could go a long way toward helping Microsoft shake its reputation for delivering bloated, bulky software.

New iPad
(click image for larger view)
New iPad

8. APPS

New iPad: Apple and third-party developers have to date produced more than 200,000 iPad-specific apps, and that doesn't include iPhone apps that have been blown up (usually not very attractively) to fit the iPad. If you want or need to do something on new iPad, there's probably an app for that.

Windows 8 tablets: Microsoft has adopted Apple's closed-loop approach for WoA apps. They'll only be available preinstalled, or as downloads from the new Windows Store. Microsoft has taken this approach to ensure that its tablets have the same ecosystem stability and security as iPad. The killer app for Windows 8 tablets could be the new, touch-enabled version of Office, Office 15, which will come pre-installed on every WoA tablet. It's likely that Skype will be offered as a preinstalled app on many Windows tablets. And for tablets aimed at business users, Office 365 may be an option.

Considerations: The success or failure of Windows 8 tablets could largely be determined by app selection. Some major publications, like USA Today, have already committed to Windows 8. And Microsoft has added tools to Visual Studio 11, now available in beta, to make it easier for developers to create Metro apps. Still, it's going to be difficult for Microsoft to match the vast ecosystem of apps that has grown up around the iPad.

CONCLUSION

More details about Windows 8 tablets are expected to emerge in the coming weeks, and most market watchers expect actual products to hit the stores in October. By then, many gadget fans will have opted for new iPad, but Microsoft and its partners are counting on the fact that a good number will wait until they can do hands on comparisons in stores. At the very least, buyers should have a lot more options this holiday season.

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