Microsoft details Windows RT ARM-based laptop features

August 14, 2012 // 10:17 a.m.

Tags: #active-sleep #active-standby #arm #connected-standby #microsoft #nvidia #qualcomm #texas-instruments #windows-8 #windows-for-arm #windows-rt

Microsoft has released additional details regarding its efforts with Windows RT, the ARM-compatible spin-off of Windows 8 due for release this October - including promises of some impressive battery life boosts.

Mike Angiulo, vice president of the ecosystem and planning team at the software giant, has made some claims in a post to the Building Windows 8 blog which - if true - mean that laptops featuring all-day battery life and up to 17 days of connected standby are just around the corner.

As well as Microsoft's own Surface tablets, which are to launch in ARM-powered Windows RT and Intel-powered Windows 8 flavours, the company claims to have signed up Asus, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung as hardware partners for Windows RT-based devices. Tablets won't be the only things on offer, either: as promised by Qualcomm, whose chips have been selected to be among those certified for use with Windows RT along with Nvidia and Texas Instruments, ARM-based laptops running the cut-down operating system will also be available.

According to figures shared by Angiulo, these ARM-based laptops will have much to offer over more powerful x86-based counterparts. Despite a maximum weight for the first production models of 1,200g in an 11.6-inch version, battery life of thirteen hours - while playing back hardware-accelerated HD video, no less - has been recorded on early production hardware.

If that wasn't impressive enough, the 'connected standby' time - during which the laptop is technically in standby, but still connected to a wireless network and constantly updating messages received via email or social networking services for immediate access upon resume - is quoted as being between 320 and 409 hours, or up to 17 days.

'To provide context on the significance of the measurement, it is important to understand how the scenario was measured. In this case, the PC was playing back in full screen a local HD video at full resolution with a screen brightness of 200 nits,' Angiulo explains. 'It was also configured for one email account using the Microsoft network. Finally, these numbers are also influenced by the different PC form factors themselves, which include both tablets and laptops, screen sizes that vary from 10.1" to 11.6", and battery sizes spanning 25Whr to 42Whr.'

Angiulo has also offered additional details regarding the touch integration available on both touch-screen and touchpad devices. For Windows RT-based laptops that come with a touchpad, the usual single-finger slide and single- or double-finger tap-to-click features will be available along with two-finger horizontal and vertical scrolling. Additional touch-based gestures supported as standard include pinch-to-zoom and swiping from the right edge to reveal the charms menu, top edge to toggle application commands and left edge to switch to the previous application.

While intuitive gestures and excellent battery life may help Windows RT laptops succeed, Microsoft and its hardware partners still have an uphill struggle thanks to a lack of compatibility between traditional x86 applications and drivers and the ARM system-on-chip processors used in the new devices. Angiulo, however, claims that's less of a problem than detractors claim. 'We've purposely built thousands of reference design hardware systems to develop and test the OS and apps, collectively seeding over 1,500 Windows RT reference systems to ISV [Independent Software Vendor] and IHV [Independent Hardware Vendor] companies in preparation for launch. The results are starting to show, as we’ve seen over 90% of the RTM [Release To Manufacturing] applications in the Windows Store support Windows RT, as well as the Windows Hardware Certification requirements working to ensure every Windows RT PC is indeed compatible with a broad set of peripheral devices such as printers, webcams, and mobile broadband modules.'

The first Windows RT devices, including Microsoft's own Surface tablet-cum-keyboard, are expected to appear on the market in October.

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