“Taiwanese computer maker Acer is putting off the launch of tablets using Microsoft’s new Windows RT operating system to give itself time to see how Microsoft’s own Surface tablet fares. The world’s No. 4 PC vendor by shipments initially planned to roll out Windows RT tablets based on ARM chips early next year. However, the launch of Microsoft’s tablet last week and the mixed reviews it has drawn has prompted Acer to wait and see until at least the second quarter of 2013.” Whatever the reason, this doesn’t send a very promising message about Windows RT. Or, not entirely unlikely, Acer and other OEMs just can’t measure up to Surface RT.
Acer delays Windows RT tablets
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2012-10-31 3:56 amquackalist
Smart? Seems a no-brainer not to throw money at an epic fail in the making.
2012-11-01 1:04 amze_jerkface
Don’t worry, Microsoft fanboys are standing by to explain why you really want to pay $500 for a Windows tablet that can’t run Windows programs and doesn’t have Outlook.
Oh and there are bugs as well.
If Ballmer ran Ford:
Ford today announced a new F150 4×4 that can’t actually haul anything or go off-road. There also might be some engine issues that you have to deal with.
Only $30,000, get in line today!
2012-11-01 9:50 ambassbeast
Exactly, we ALL know this thing has fail written all over it, especially with the new Atom and Hondo tablets coming out with REAL Windows on it, and Acer doesn’t want to end up with an HP Touchpad sized fail on their hands.
Personally I think its another Vista, I really do. I have had Win 8 running in the shop since Feb for people to play with and NOBODY liked the new UI, nobody. I thought maybe the teens would like it but their answer was “I already have a smartphone, what do I want this for?” and as the pundit on Money Matters said the other day “What brain dead moron priced this thing higher than an iPad? What are they insane?” and I have to agree.
No apps, lousy third party support, its another WinPhone and we ALL saw how well WinPhone 7 went over.
2012-10-31 9:19 amLennie
I wonder if they’ll market x86 Windows 8 tablets for the consumer market also or just the business market.
2012-10-31 1:02 pmBill Shooter of Bul
I think its kind of both problems:
Windows RT is questionable
They won’t be able to match surface style at a simular price point.
I’m not sure what I would be doing if I were a windows OEM these days, except maybe resurrect the swivel neck laptop/tablet.
I wanted one of those, but not at the $2200 price point they originally sold for.
2012-10-31 1:51 pmAlfman
Bill Shooter of Bul,
“I wanted one of those, but not at the $2200 price point they originally sold for.”
I’ve always wanted one of those too, but not at the ridiculous price points they were going for.
Imagine how different tablets would be today if those had been affordable for consumers at the turn of the decade. The tablet market would have grown before walled gardens could take off and we would not have this artificial divide between open desktop/laptops & restricted tablets.
2012-10-31 2:38 pmBill Shooter of Bul
EXACTLY!! MS pushed tablets as an ultra expensive luxury item with terrible performance and was shocked when they didn’t take off. The same computer guts that went into the convertible I linked to, was available at less than half the price without the touch screen.
2012-11-01 1:10 amze_jerkface
Fujitsui lifebooks are mostly targeted at medical workers and engineers. It’s a low volume / pay high because you have cash strategy.
But yea Microsoft should have moved faster on tablets and touchscreen phones for consumers. They sat on their hands and still seem unable to accept the reality of their situation.
2012-11-01 9:59 ambassbeast
They never stopped making swivel tablets, they are just crazy priced so nobody buys ’em..
As you can see they are a thousand bucks and only running a dual core i3 with Intel graphics, they just aren’t a good buy. Dell tried selling convertable Atom tablets at $600, they ended up on Woot! for like $300 and still had trouble moving them.
The simple fact is there is NO point in WinRT, as the only reason people buy Windows is to run Windows X86 programs, which just don’t work on WinRT. And the swivel convertibles end up too high so you do what most people do, they have a Windows desktop or laptop AND a tablet or smartphone. Frankly MSFT just doesn’t seem to understand that desktops and tablets are too radically different when it comes to function and form factor to use the same OS, what you end up with is “jack of all trades, master of none” and a device that doesn’t make anybody happy.
It doesn’t run X86, so it can’t take the place of your laptop, yet at the same time it has practically no apps and the ones it does have are half baked, so it can’t take the place of a good droid or iPad tablet…its just not a good product, any way you slice it.
Or, not entirely unlikely, Acer and other OEMs just can’t measure up to Surface RT.
This is expected and not surprising. Microsoft can undercut the OEMs by the $85 or so which the Windows RT license costs. And they had the ability to develop the tablet and the OS together.
So an OEM who wants to compete against the Surface RT starts at a $85 disadvantage and is behind in development.
Margins are so thin today that only M$SOFT can afford to lose money (a la XBOX); even HP wanted at some point to sell their PC business division!
What an OEM already knows is that mid next year we’ll see Haswell X86 at some 7W TDP; so, in the Windows space, ARM built machines are doomed to fail. Or, why would they succeed where AMD failed?
The argument that ARM’s are more energy efficient is eroding day after day. But thanks to ARM for waking Intel up!
I’ve got a Surface RT for testing and I knew what I was getting into… I’m still disappointed that you can’t install anything on the desktop, especially for now when there’s so few native Windows Store apps.
Windows 8 gives you compatibility by installing other browsers, plugins, and existing Windows apps; Windows RT arbitrarily chooses not to give you that, even though Microsoft reserved it for themselves by making the desktop available (and then limiting it to core Windows apps and Office).
It promises to be a ‘dockable tablet’ that turns into a ‘real PC’ when used with a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, but unless IE and Office are your life it’s going to be pretty limiting.
On the plus side, if Intel keeps improving their power efficiency, we may simply see Windows RT fade into irrelevancy as the tablets and micro-laptops switch to Intel.
This makes me a bit sad, as ARM *should* work great on these devices… it’s only Microsoft’s choice to limit the ARM version that makes it limited; there’s nothing inherent to a processor switch that makes it impossible.
(Rumor mill: ARM MacBook Airs in the next couple years with x86 app emulation and native ARM apps as fat binaries? Wouldn’t surprise me one bit.)
2012-11-01 1:16 amze_jerkface
This makes me a bit sad, as ARM *should* work great on these devices… it’s only Microsoft’s choice to limit the ARM version that makes it limited; there’s nothing inherent to a processor switch that makes it impossible.
Yes it is Microsoft’s choice to only allow Win32 for them and no one else.
You see actually porting Office to WinRT would be a huge undertaking so the brought just enough of Win32 for Office. So their stance is basically Win32 for me but not for thee. Everyone else has to start from scratch.
Yea good luck with that Sinofsky.
Oh and I think Sinofsky doesn’t want anyone to know about the secret Win32 stash that only Microsoft has access to. We should not talk about it.
2012-11-01 1:17 amAlfman
“On the plus side, if Intel keeps improving their power efficiency, we may simply see Windows RT fade into irrelevancy as the tablets and micro-laptops switch to Intel.”
I know what you mean, it’d be good for Windows RT restrictions to fade away into history, but like you say it’d be unfortunate if ARM were to loose out on the desktop on account of microsoft’s divisive politics.
“Rumor mill: ARM MacBook Airs in the next couple years with x86 app emulation and native ARM apps as fat binaries?”
I would very much welcome that on the condition that the device were open. But with apple that’s far from a given.
Edit: I would absolutely love apple right now if they came out and said “You know what guys, the walled garden was a lousy thing to do to our customers, from now on we’re going to open our devices and allow customers to choose what they can run on their devices. We believe our customers will *choose* our application store because it’s superior to the alternatives, not because we’ve locked users into our services.”
This would earn apple a tremendous amount of good faith in the market, apple fanboys would still love them, but more importantly the rest of us would too. I think the tables would be turned on microsoft instantly, who would be caught with their pants down. It’d be a shocking move, but apple would totally redeem themselves in my book if they did it to become champions of open computing.
Edited 2012-11-01 01:37 UTC
2012-11-01 10:07 ambassbeast
The problem with ARM is it just doesn’t scale well and it has lousy IPC. Companies like Nvidia have spent crazy money on ARM R&D and still can’t overcome the weak IPC and the scalability problem, which is why Tegra is up to 5 cores now.
Meanwhile Intel has truly insane levels of IPC, so frankly its easier for them to scale down than it is for ARM to scale up. What we are seeing is the same thing that happened in X86, only instead of a thermal wall its a battery wall and ARM is butting up against it more and more. If the rumors are true the next die shrink and arch refresh is gonna have the Atom duals at pretty close to first gen Core levels of performance while having sub 5w power limits, and that is at native speed, they can always underclock to get the numbers even lower.
So while i’m all for competition as long as people crave performance over battery life intel is gonna end up in the better position, they have the fabs, their chips have insane IPC, and they have the processes down cold. Frankly they could sit on behind and just wait for the market to come to them but the fact that Intel is still coming up with new designs means it’ll just get the market that much faster.
An Atom dual that gives you all your Windows programs in a Transformer style convertible? Sounds like a winner to me.
2012-11-01 2:45 pmAlfman
“The problem with ARM is it just doesn’t scale well and it has lousy IPC. Companies like Nvidia have spent crazy money on ARM R&D and still can’t overcome the weak IPC and the scalability problem, which is why Tegra is up to 5 cores now.”
I don’t know, I think most engineers would claim that being able to support many cores IS an example of good scalability. There’s been a long debate over having very deep complex logic gates required to run serial logic in parallel pipelines versus having more cores on the same die space. Also, ARM has some advantages on the opcode level which can significantly reduce branching for free.
Not to dis intel though, I’m impressed with how they can essentially recompiling code on the fly to get more parallelism out of sequential instructions, it’s truly an incredible feat. But this complexity has a cost, it requires more gates and power. This may be somewhat mitigated by the fact that intel has die fabrication advantages. But these pipeline gates could have gone to parallel cores instead, which theoretically should perform even better with software that can take advantage of it.
Serial programming is not scalable and deep pipelines cannot increase single thread performance any longer. The more prevalent concurrent programming becomes, the better ARM processors will perform per gate compared to x86 counterparts. More so if they use the same manufacturing technology (since ARM lags behind).
Here are some benchmarks comparing various mobile x86 and ARM processors, unfortunately they haven’t included any x86 server processors for reference. Never the less, even with a faster clock, the atom does not win on all performance tests, and it consumes much more power!
Edited 2012-11-01 14:47 UTC
2012-11-01 8:33 pmbassbeast
Uhhh..your own link shows the Atom 2 generations behind curbstomping the ARM chip, and again we are talking about a downclocked single core from TWO generations ago, which is like a decade ago in mobile terms. this merely illustrates what i was talking about, that Intel has a high enough IPC that even on underclocked chips they are getting crazy numbers, now imagine what they are gonna get with Haswell, which rumors place at having damned near first gen Core performance with a sub 5w envelope?
And the fact that you can’t keep adding cores again plays into Intel’s strength, because as your own charts show the IPC of even the two generations behind Atom single core gives great performance. Nvidia is already up to 5 cores trying to get the IPC that people want from modern mobiles and you are right, you can’t keep piling on cores, nor can you keep covering up for weakness in the ARM design with “helper chips” like the Broadcom decoders.
I just think the future doesn’t look bright for ARM in the smartphone and especially the tablet, where people want high quality graphics, and gaming, and HD videos, and everything they are used to in a laptop, because ARM’s IPC just isn’t high enough and so far nobody has been able to get ARM cores to run with a high enough IPC without blowing the budget.
2012-11-02 12:15 amAlfman
“Uhhh..your own link shows the Atom 2 generations behind curbstomping the ARM chip, and again we are talking about a downclocked single core from TWO generations ago, which is like a decade ago in mobile terms.”
This was a 2011 benchmark that showed some relationships for both power and performance, if you have a better one from 2012 I’d be happy to use that instead. Anyways, in your preceding post, you explicitly said Atom should underclock the core to get a lower energy footprint, which I agree with, but now your complaining that this benchmark actually did that.
For the record, the VIA ARM Nano was 1.8GHZ underclocked to 44%, whereas the Atom was 1.67GHZ underclocked to 60%. The intention was to test at the same clock speed, but the Atom wouldn’t run below 1GHZs, I quote: “Unfortunately, it was impossible to downclock the 1.67GHz Atom N450 below 1GHz, but, as you will see, the results we obtained are still very interesting.”
I’d wager a guess that for native speeds at that time, the Nano’s CPU-bound results would get multiplied by 2.25 and the Atom’s by 1.67, such that the Nano core would increase 35% relative to the Atom core. I don’t have a predisposition for ARM, that’s just what the data tells me.
“And the fact that you can’t keep adding cores again plays into Intel’s strength, because as your own charts show the IPC of even the two generations behind Atom single core gives great performance.”
These tests were for single cores, so no advantage was given for having more cores.
“I just think the future doesn’t look bright for ARM in the smartphone and especially the tablet, where people want high quality graphics, and gaming, and HD videos, and everything they are used to in a laptop, because ARM’s IPC just isn’t high enough and so far nobody has been able to get ARM cores to run with a high enough IPC without blowing the budget.”
Why do I feel like that’s a sales pitch for intel more than an objective analysis? Intel does a great job at high end performance where energy isn’t factored in, but every report I’ve come across showed ARM leading on efficiency, which is why they’re so popular in mobiles. While it’s conceivable for Atom to close the gap, I haven’t seen any data that shows that, have you (*)?
* Edit: Obviously, if so, please post!
Edited 2012-11-02 00:17 UTC
2012-11-02 8:26 ambassbeast
Actually I prefer AMD over Intel, but sadly the former CEO practically executed the company so they will probably be out for at least a couple of years, if they survive that long.
As far as numbers I’ve simply been reading up on new chips, its something I like and since I build some HTPCs and other low power units i like to know what is coming down the pipe. Here is a good overview of what we are looking at with Haswell.
Basically it appears they have solved a good portion of the power by having “active sleep” which will allow it to idle while still doing useful work, like say getting calls and emails.
And as you can see they are taking a SERIOUS active role in not only the speed side but even sinking money into the IGP, something Intel has been pretty poor for most of its history.
So in either case it should be interesting. You think ARM will win, I think the combo of tick tock and just plain old fashioned throwing brains and money at the problem with pull Intel ahead, in any case it’ll be great for us users, its a win either way.
2012-11-02 3:36 pmAlfman
“As far as numbers I’ve simply been reading up on new chips, its something I like and since I build some HTPCs and other low power units i like to know what is coming down the pipe. Here is a good overview of what we are looking at with Haswell.”
That’s fine, but we cannot just assume intel will make progress while ARM will remains stuck in the mud. They’re both moving targets.
“So in either case it should be interesting. You think ARM will win, I think the combo of tick tock and just plain old fashioned throwing brains and money at the problem with pull Intel ahead, in any case it’ll be great for us users, its a win either way.”
I’m not emotionally attached to either architecture, I just haven’t seen any data putting intel in the lead on this front. I don’t want to continue to spout common knowledge about ARM’s superior efficiency if it’s not true, which is why I ask for data showing otherwise.
Do I think intel/x86 can catch up? Well, they have the most advanced fabs in the world, should that be factored out or should that be tabulated as an advantage for x86 as an architecture? It’s controversial…
From a technical standpoint, the x86 architecture has some glaring disadvantages no matter what intel does. Instruction decoding is inherently complex due to instruction being inconsistent in size and formation, ranging from 1 to 15 bytes. Prefixes, variable length opcodes, etc all imply that information contained in the instruction (such as a memory address) might be found at nearly any offset from the instruction pointer. This inherently takes more transistors to parse than a RISC instruction set, which is why x86 machine code gets reconstructed in the processor to a risk instruction set that’s far easier to handle. To the extent that x86 can have dedicated transistors to do this, it may not add too much latency, but it will consume more power doing so.
General purpose register constraints on the x86 imposed such a severe bottleneck that both intel and amd needed to resort to complex out of order execution pipelines to compensate. Luckily AMD64 added another 8 registers and so intel was able to drop the out-of-order execution on Atom processors to improve the power consumption. But it is an example of the crazy lengths engineers went to in keeping the legacy x86 architecture around.
Speculative branching, although not architecture specific, is used by all x86 cores, whereas fewer ARM cores have it. Not only does it need more transistors, but it implies the core will consume energy computing values that will be thrown out on branch misses. It’s a tradeoff between performance and power consumption. But my guess would be that the negatives are more pronounced in multi-core setups where a bad branch on one core might actually delay good branches on other cores due to cache/memory contention. At least in theory, cores with no branch prediction should be more energy efficient that those without since 100% of the work gets used.
So in conclusion I think that intel may have some speed advantage per core, but it’s going to be very touch for them to bring down power consumption while maintaining their speed advantage. Conversely, I think that ARM chips will contain more cores while consuming no more power than x86 counterparts.
2012-11-02 11:25 pmbassbeast
Actually I’d say the X86 instruction set is another advantage to Intel, since ARM is having to bolt MORE instructions on, such as ARM64, whereas Intel and AMD can go the other way and begin shaving instructions off. Lets face it, no software in the past 10 years is using the ancient 386 stuff anymore, Intel can drop a LOT of that for the mobile chips and just say “Its a mobile chip, its not designed for legacy, if you have legacy code run one of our desktop chips” which, again if rumor is true, not like I’m gonna try to load Windows 386 onto my netbook to find out, is what AMD has already done with Brazos and Hondo, dropping some of the legacy stuff like 3DNow and the older instructions to make it a lighter powered chip. And if you haven’t tried one they did a smashing job, I have office boxes running Brazos and its got great performance and sub 18w under load, just nuts.
And while I don’t honestly CARE which “side” wins, as my business is not heavily invested in mobile products, speaking strictly as an outsider and looking at the trends the combo of tick tock, the fabs, and the truly insane levels of IPC are gonna be hard to beat. Just look at the new games companies like Epic are working on for mobile, they are wanting Crysis levels of physics and graphics, you have the TV manufacturers getting ready to start pushing 4K sets, the demands in mobile are simply going nowhere but up. Can ARM possibly find a way to scale without blowing the power budget? Sure anything is possible but so far Nvidia and the other companies haven’t found it. Even the ARM Holdings group has been talking about “dark silicon” for its new designs because flipping all the chip on at once would just kill your battery dead.
So in the end its gonna be those insane levels of IPC that decide this thing, and Intel is frankly so damned far ahead of the rest it isn’t even funny. Again wish it weren’t so, I think having AMD and ARM and maybe even MIPS and PPC in the race would be better for innovation but you look at the benches on the Atom and CULV Core chips and its just insane the amount of performance Intel is getting with less and less power. People want their mobiles to be “gamer rigs in their pockets” and that kind of performance is right up Intel’s alley, that is what they do best. Again they could probably shave a good 40%+ of the old instructions off for those mobile chips and not effect any software written in the last 5 years and nobody is gonna be running legacy on a tablet anyway.
2012-11-03 3:54 amAlfman
Like I said, I don’t have head to head benchmarks for the latest Atom vs latest ARM processors, but I don’t feel like letting you get away with such blatant bias. So, with the help of some hand waving and numerical conversions, here’s my best attempt at working with the data we have.
Find the most recent benchmarks comparing Atom and ARM:
I’m very disappointed the benchmark compares Atom N570 (which is 2011Q1) with Exynos 5 (which is 2012Q3).
Never the less the benchmarks show the ARM processor beating out the Atom processor by 40-60% (atom is far worse with graphics benchmarks, but that’s out of scope).
Now we can attempt to get a performance ratio between the 2011 atom chip in the benchmark and the very latest atom processors in intel’s database:
Exynos5 dual core 1.7GHz 2012Q3
Atom N570 dual core 1.66GHz 1MB cache 8.5W 2011Q1
Atom D2550 dual core 1.86GHz 1MB cache 10W 2012Q1
Atom D2560 dual core 2GHz 1MB cache 10W 2012Q4
Find benchmarks for the x86 CPUs (these benchmarks are linear)
N570 – 639
D2550 – 689 (7.8% faster than N570)
D2560 – n/a, lets approximate by multiplying the clock ratio -> 741 (16.0% faster than N570)
Now, with a bit of handwaving, we can say that even the latest Atom processor would still be beaten by the latest Exynos 5 ARM processor by 20-40%.
“So in the end its gonna be those insane levels of IPC that decide this thing, and Intel is frankly so damned far ahead of the rest it isn’t even funny.”
I’m a bit surprised myself actually, I expected intel to pull out ahead slightly. But even if you’d like to attribute the difference to benchmark conversion anomolies, I think it shows that you are wrong to *assume* that intel has such a huge lead. Note that the ARM had better performance even though the Atom’s clock rate is actually faster, so where ever you heard those claims about Atom’s superior IPC, it’s probably baloney.
I’m willing to look at other numbers, any other numbers at all…give me *something* to back your view because from where I’m sitting it looks like pure prejudice.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say they might be waiting to see how many RT tablets are returned due to confused consumers thinking they got a full version of Windows that’s compatible with all the existing Windows software.
Maybe the plan is to let Microsoft spend the marketing dollars to sell Windows RT (albeit on Microsoft hardware) and the customer support dollars to explain why Windows RT won’t run existing x86 software. Then, once Windows RT is established, they could come out with their own device and only spend marketing dollars instead of customer support dollars.
Whatever the reason, I think it’s smart to wait and see what happens with Microsoft’s Surface before putting out a Windows RT device. If Windows RT and/or Surface fails to gain traction, they could probably just ship the hardware with Android instead (assuming they think it would be profitable to do so).
In the end, though, who really knows?