Dell, HP Windows 8 'Atom' Tablets Delayed Until 2013
Dell Latitude 10 among Windows 8 systems not yet available, as tablet makers struggle with drivers for energy-efficient Intel Clover Trail chip.
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Dell and other vendors have pushed back until January the launch of Windows 8 tablets that use a new, energy-efficient Intel chip that was supposed to put Windows devices on an even footing with the iPad and Android tablets in terms of performance and battery life, but which is apparently causing big headaches for system builders.
Dell's Latitude 10, which runs Intel's Atom Z2760, or "Clover Trail" chip, was, as of early Wednesday, not available for shipping until Jan. 22nd, according to the company's Web site. Only a month ago, Dell had been advertising a pre-Christmas ship date of Dec. 12. The tablet starts at $649, features Windows 8 Pro, and is aimed at business users.
A Dell customer who contacted InformationWeek said company representatives told him last week that the Latitude 10 is delayed. The customer, who asked not to be identified, originally placed his order on Nov. 28, paid for two-day expedited shipping, and was given a mid-December delivery date. Now, Dell is telling him the system won't be available until January.
"Dell Latitude 10 is not officially launched. As soon as it will be launched it will be sent to you," a Dell rep told the customer via live chat on Dec. 11, according to a transcript of the session. Dell's Web site is continuing to accept orders for the Latitude 10, and does not indicate it is available only as a preorder. A Dell spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Dell isn't the only vendor having trouble with Windows 8 systems built around Intel's Clover Trail chip. Hewlett-Packard's site shows that its Envy x2 convertible is not available until Jan. 8. The company originally said it would ship in November, within weeks of Windows 8's launch on Oct. 26.
ASUS and Lenovo have not announced specific launch dates for their Clover Trail systems, the VivoTab Smart and ThinkPad Tablet 2, respectively. Of the top 5 PC makers, only Acer's W510 Clover Trail tablet is available for immediate purchase, but it can only be had in limited quantities from Amazon and Microsoft's online store.
[Will Microsoft introduce more hardware products beyond Surface? CEO Steve Ballmer suggests it's likely.]
Intel designed Clover Trail to take full advantage of Windows 8's capabilities, including a key feature called Connected Standby. Connected Standby is supposed to give tablet users a smartphone-like experience by ensuring that their devices are always up to date with new e-mails, messages and other data, even when their systems are powered down. Clover Trail also promises all-day battery life.
But PC makers are having trouble building Clover Trail drivers that are stable enough to pass Microsoft's Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) testing, sources say. Under Microsoft's licensing terms, Windows systems must receive WHQL certification before they can be offered for sale. Intel has not responded to repeated inquiries about the situation.
Cindy Shaw, an analyst with research firm DISCERN, said the delay could hurt PC makers that specialize in enterprise sales. "HP and Dell are conceding they've given up on the consumer, so missing
the holiday season is not that big of a deal. They're not missing that
magical time of the year," said Shaw. "But the longer it takes for businesses to get their hands on evaluation units, the longer it's going to take to translate into enterprise sales."
Most PC makers currently offer Windows 8 systems, such as the Dell XPS 12, that use Intel's older Core architecture instead of Clover Trail. Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet also runs an Intel Core chip. Core packs more power than Clover Trail, but does not support Connected Standby and consumes batteries more quickly. A Microsoft spokesperson said the company could not immediately offer a comment.
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