Windows 8 and Windows RT and the new touch-centric Metro interface will be upon us before you know it. So, which has the most promise?
Windows 8 on Intel: These tablets and convertibles will run the full-blown Windows 8 operating system. Tablets from device vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Acer will use Intel's upcoming "Clover Trail" Atom processor. Some convertibles will also tap higher-performance Ivy Bridge processors. And, of course, chips from Advanced Micro Devices.
Upside The biggest upside (barring unforeseen glitches) is the breadth of compatibility with existing Windows applications and the ability to use Metro mode or revert to a more traditional Windows interface to run older applications.
Also, Windows 8 Pro will be more corporate-enterprise friendly, including features like PC management, domain connectivity, and remote desktop.
Downside The downside is expected to be price: some of the corporate enterprise-targeted designs, for example, will likely be somewhat pricey, at least relative to Windows RT devices.
(See Microsoft's chart for a detailed comparison of Windows 8 and Windows RT.)
Windows RT: Windows 8 on ARM (WoA) -- officially renamed to Windows RT by Microsoft -- will run on processors from Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Texas Instruments, marking the first time a mainstream Windows operating system will be powered by chips from these ARM silicon suppliers in addition to those of Intel and AMD.
Upside will be price, battery life, and size. These devices will likely be inexpensive, boast good battery life, and be plenty thin and light.
Another tasty upside is that Windows RT will come with Microsoft Office. You'll have to purchase Office separately for Windows 8.
Downside Look no further than Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky for an explanation. ARM will not run Windows 7, and older, stuff. "If you need to run existing x86/64 software, then you will be best served with Windows 8 on x86/64," Sinofsky said.
And you'll have to buy the complete package. Device makers will work with ARM partners to create a device that is "strictly paired with a specific set of software (and sometimes vice versa), and consumers purchase this complete package, which is then serviced and updated through a single pipeline...this is all quite different than the Windows on x86/64 world," Sinofsky said.
And Windows RT won't get Windows Media Player or Storage Spaces.