While CES was awash in Windows 8 devices, Windows RT was a complete and utter no-show. Adding even more insult to injury, Lenovo's follow-up to the Yoga 11 -- the Yoga 11S -- is swapping out ARM for Intel's Core processors. Microsoft itself was showing off the Intel Core i5-powered Surface Pro behind closed doors, with nary a public announcement of Surface RT and its roadmap.
ARM advantages? What advantages?
Even if Microsoft had spent more of its reported $1.5 billion advertising budget explaining the differences between Windows RT and Windows 8, the message wouldn't be all that enticing to consumers, because frankly, Windows RT sucks right now. "It's like Windows 8, except it won't run desktop apps, and, oh yeah, the Windows 8 apps in the Windows Store aren't all that good," isn't exactly a killer pitch.
Although they can't run legacy desktop programs, the ARM processors powering Windows RT tablets generally offer better power efficiency and cost less than the x86-based processors made by Intel and AMD--hence their presence in so many Android and Apple tablets, where battery life and competitive pricing are two major concerns.
However, these two ARM benefits are already being challenged by x86 processors, specifically Intel's Atom Z2760 "Clover Trail" CPU. In fact, Intel's tablet-focused chip is so energy efficient, the Z2760-based Samsung ATIV Smart PC lasted a whopping 9 hours, 14 minutes in PCWorld's battery life test, besting the time of ARM-powered Windows RT slates like the Asus VivoTab RT and Microsoft's own Surface RT. The Atom Z2760 lags far behind Intel's Core processors in sheer performance, but delivers decent pep compared with ARM's offerings.
Cost-wise, Windows 8 tablets still tend to be priced a bit higher than their Windows RT counterparts, but budget options like the Dell Latitude 10 ($499) and the 32GB Acer W510 ($549 on the street)--both of which run Intel's Z2760--are already offering the full Windows 8 experience for the same price as a Windows RT tablet. The entry-level Lenovo Yoga 11S will sport the same $799 starting MSRP as the current Yoga 11 Windows RT tablet.
In other words, Windows RT tablets are burdened by all the limitations of Windows on ARM, but the supposed energy and cost advantages are disappearing rapidly.
Samsung's crushing body blow to Windows RT was followed by two solid right hooks from AMD and Intel at CES. AMD spent the week showing off its "Temash" tablet system-on-a-chip, which sports full DirectX 11.1 compatibility, thanks to its Radeon graphics cores. Both Temash and "Bay Trail"--Intel's Clover Trail successor, allegedly offering twice as much performance as Intel's current tablet-focused processor--will appear in tablets in the second half of 2013.