updated 06:50 pm EDT, Thu September 8, 2011
Samsung may be behind mystery Windows 8 quad slate
The mystery quad-core Windows 8 tablet due to show at the Build event next week has been identified as a Samsung model and could signal Samsung's reduced dependency on Android. First caught by the Chosunilbo and later supported by WSJ sources, the unnamed design is expected to be a showcase for Windows 8's touch-native interface. It will be a reference version intended as a guideline and not a full production model, the Korean newspaper said.
If one and the same with a tablet briefly shown at Tech Ed New Zealand, the tablet will use a quad-core ARM processor, possibly either NVIDIA's Kal-El (Tegra 3) or one of Samsung's own making. Little else is known, but it's likely designed to be proof that it's possible to have a slim, long-lived Windows tablet with a truly optimized interface.
Windows 7 is already on some tablets, including Samsung's, but sales are often poor as the OS isn't designed for finger touch and many of the Intel-based systems by necessity have to either be slow or else thick, heavy, and expensive. ASUS' Eee Slate has been tried as an iPad rival, but its 2.7-pound weight, $1,000 price, and roughly 2.5-hour real battery life have largely ruled it out.
Samsung is likely to have a real production Windows 8 tablet, but it may only show the real design closer to when it ships in mid-2012 or later.
The Korean firm has often been one of Microsoft's loyal partners and has put out Windows-based products even when there was little expectation of meaningful sales. Samsung may have extra impetus to embrace Windows 8 tablets, however, as it's facing a widening range of preliminary bans on its Android line. Apple has so far had much of the success in its lawsuits and not only has short-term bans in Australia and Germany but has managed to get a pre-release tablet out of a show.
A Windows 8 tablet will give Samsung a genuinely different and likely lawsuit-resistant option. Its success may depend heavily on Microsoft's timing and skill. Windows 8 won't start shipping until more than two years after the iPad it was partly designed to beat and, on ARM chips, will have to start from scratch for apps, abandoning one of Microsoft's advantages. Battery life and prices dictated by Microsoft's requirements will also have to come close enough to Apple that prospective buyers don't feel that using Windows 8 is sacrificing portability for theoretical power.