Windows RT represents a sort of merging of the mobile ecosystem that’s been enabling “always on, always connected” devices with Microsoft’s more traditional PC ecosystem. This migration and Microsoft launch begin a new and exciting journey for consumers and businesses alike into the future of computing.
One Journey Completed – Delivering a True Mobile Experience for the PC
ARM as an architecture began years before ARM as a company. In fact, the first ARM 32-bit microprocessors (ARM1 and ARM2, of course) were developed by Acorn Computer Ltd for use in its own computers. In the late 1980s, Acorn developed everything on its own, from main boards, I/O cards, graphics, OS (operating systems), applications and even their own chips. Much of ARM’s success has come from the vast ecosystem of silicon and software partners that has grown since its beginning. Starting as a joint venture of Acorn Computer Ltd, Apple and VLSI in 1990, ARM has become the leading provider of microprocessor designs across the electronics industry, powering more than 95 percent of the smartphones and tablets in the world today.
Intense competition, driving differentiation and innovation, is what fuels this ecosystem. Delivering more than 1 billion devices means we need to create products that meet the personalized needs of more than 1 billion people. It has been a near continuous pace of innovation from this broad group of companies that has driven the mobile industry. Consider that not much more than five years ago the smartphone was just being defined. Operating systems such as Android did not exist. Apps were still Java-based games on feature phones. A two-inch, black-and-white screen was the norm. And a tablet was a $1,000 custom-built device used in industrial or vertical applications. Just five years ago!
During these past five years, healthy competition and continuous innovation have rapidly evolved the mobile experience from the keypad world we once enjoyed on our Nokia phones and Blackberrys to the vibrant touch-screen world of today. The experience we expect today is touch-enabled. It is always on and connected, while delivering a broad range of apps and services for what we want to do. It is context aware, taking advantage of a growing number of sensors and position information. It is seamlessly connected to our digital world in the cloud, delivering the latest news or a favorite book or TV show and enabling us to relax when time permits or get some work done when required; allows us to pick the right device or devices for a specific circumstance. It is always new, exciting and just keeps getting better.
Clearly, Microsoft must have seen this momentum and rate of innovation when it started porting Windows to the ARM architecture. During the past 2 years, Microsoft has shared with the world the thought process and progress it has made. From the first announcement at CES 2011 to the magnitude of the effort to the delivery of full Microsoft Office and the changes required to make it a true mobile application, Microsoft has made a major commitment to delivering a differentiated mobile experience. Microsoft has often mentioned the close integration of the software and the hardware, and thus worked hand in hand with NVIDIA and Qualcomm, as well as with Asus, Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung. These Windows RT devices have been designed in close collaboration with Microsoft to deliver the best mobile experience possible on a Windows PC, leveraging the mobile heritage of the ARM ecosystem.
Another Journey Begins – The PC Re-imagined
With the launch of Windows RT, we are now seeing a true mobile experience delivered to the PC. Microsoft’s (and its hardware partners’) multi-year investment has now been released and based on some of the initial reviews, it is a great start on this next journey for PC users. Now, there are devices which offer the best of what we love with our mobile devices and the best of Windows. Looking at the devices shown today, I think Windows RT addresses the key features and functionality:
The Mobile Experience Checklist:
- Intuitive touch enabled interface – Check
- Always on, always connected (never turn it off) – Check
- Personalized through a choice of ultra-thin and light form factors – Check (some of the slimmest and lightest)
- Context aware leveraging sensors – Check
- Great battery life delivering all-day use and more – Check (and without a huge battery)
- Choice in products – five really great devices with some innovative configurations
- App-based content and service delivery – Check (A good start and growing)
- Integration with Social Networks – Well-enabled for developers. Need to see how well they have taken advantage of it
- A safe and secure platform from initial boot through the life of the device – Check
- Consistent experience without having to reboot, reinstall and rebuild – Check
- Microsoft Office – Check (huge boost for productivity)
- Multi-tasking – Check (split screen is perfect balance)
- Multiple user accounts – Check
- Broad range of peripherals that just work – Check (USB class drivers)
- Microsoft robustness, branding, support, reliability and testing – Check (highly collaborative development with manufacturers)
Windows RT offers most of the requirements from both the mobile world and the Windows world. The use of the SoCs from NVIDIA and Qualcomm enabled high-performance hardware with all-day battery life in an always on, always connected device. Close integration with Microsoft has delivered an uncompromised experience including productivity with the inclusion of a full touch and battery-optimized version of Microsoft Office. The focus on the Windows 8 UI and application framework ensures all apps are power aware to maximize your battery and that all personal data and information are safe and secure from malware or other threats.
The best part of the mobile experience today is that it is rapidly evolving and improving. With the launch of Windows RT, a new ecosystem has emerged which now delivers a mobile experience in a PC with Windows. It will be exciting to see how the future unfolds over the next few years: The growth of the apps and services; new devices and form factors; and new features and capabilities.
Just think about how much the mobile industry changed over the last five years, and imagine the possibilities moving forward.
Jeff Chu, Mobile Computing Director at ARM, has been on the forefront of ultra mobile computing for over 10 years now. From webpads to smart displays to UMPC there has always been the criticism that it's not a real PC. Well, now with smartphones sales exceeding PCs and tablet shipments blowing by 10M on the way to 100M, the computing world has flipped and low power mobile products are the preferred way to consume content, communicate and interact with the web. To quote Victor Hugo, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
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