conference kicks off tomorrow and is expected to present world+dog with our first panoramic view of Windows 8, including details on the OS's embedded virtualization technology (baked into all versions), its improved boot times, native USB 3
support, and a host of other technologies. Several companies will be on-hand to demonstrate Windows 8 tablets and devices as well--including a rumored Samsung tablet that'll be powered by Intel hardware, rather than the ARM-based equipment that's grabbed headlines throughout 2011.
Any prototype Samsung
devices will likely feature Intel's upcoming 32nm Cedar Trail at the least--it wouldn't surprise us if the company opted to include a more advanced, lower-power 32nm SoC based on Intel's Medfield. Regardless, for Intel, this is more about PR than actually demonstrating a shipping product. We're as curious as anyone to see how 32nm Atom performs against ARM or ARM-class solutions from the likes of Nvidia or Qualcomm, but pre-launch versions of Windows 8 running on early hardware aren't going to settle that question.
Thus far, Intel's smartphone/tablet plans for Atom have failed to materialize. Medfield may change this.
With Windows 8 not actually expected to launch until the end of 2012 or early 2013, the ARM hardware facing off against 32nm Medfield could be a full generation more advanced than what's currently on the market. By the time Windows 8 launches, 28nm Cortex-A9 and brand-new 28nm Cortex A-15 CPUs will be in the field. Medfield itself will be in full production by then, but even if Atom continues to lead ARM CPUs in terms of raw performance, battery life could prove to be the CPU's Achilles Heel.
With that said, it'll still be interesting to see what sort of form factor and battery life Samsung can squeeze out of Atom, and how well it compares against the ARM solutions of today. Thus far, Intel tablets running Windows 7 have turned in battery lives around the 5 hour mark, roughly half of the industry-leading iPad 2. Moving that bar forward, particularly at this early date, would be a noteworthy achievement. Intel could potentially steal the show if it could demonstrate any particular advantage to using an x86 product over an ARM
-based processor, but any such demonstrations are likely months in the future.
MS and Intel are likely to find themselves at odds over this point--while Intel has a definite interest in promoting Atom as the "real" Windows 8 solution, Microsoft will be wanting to allay any fears that consumers who opt for the ARM flavor will somehow miss out on applications or performance.