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Windows 8 tablets: what you need to know

Microsoft's been pushing tablet computers for the best part of a decade, so you can imagine how happy the iPad's success makes them.
But Microsoft doesn't give up easily, and Windows 8 tablets will be with us later in the year. One such example, that we saw at CES from Lenovo, is a wrap-around convertible tablet that becomes an ultraportable laptop.
Unless you've been under a rock for the last few days, you'll know that Microsoft has now released the Consumer Preview of Windows 8, so you can check it out for yourself.
The Windows 8 release date is late 2012, so let's see what Windows 8 tablets will have in store for us.

Windows 8 tablets will run on ARM, Intel and AMD chips

As well as traditional x86-based AMD and Intel machines, Windows 8 can now run on ARM-based hardware - the same type of kit as the iPad or any Android tablet. Expect plenty of interesting kit to hit the streets after the launch of Windows 8.
Windows 8 for ARM tablets will come out at the same time as Windows 8 for x86 PCs, if everything goes according to plan.
Nvidia's Tegra 3 chip has been confirmed to be one of the test beds for new ARM-based tablet devices.
"Microsoft is excited to partner with Nvidia to bring developers leading edge Windows on ARM test PCs to support the creation of compelling Metro style app and device experiences for Windows 8," said Aidan Marcuss, head of the oddly-named business planning department at Microsoft.
Windows 8 tablets

Windows 8 tablets will have the new Metro interface

As we saw in our Hands on: Windows 8 review, Windows 8 tablets will have a marvellous new interface that looks rather like Windows Phone 7, called Metro.
"Fast, fluid and dynamic, the experience has been transformed while keeping the power, flexibility and connectivity of Windows intact," says Microsoft's head of Windows Experience Julie Larson-Green.
Windows 8 screenshots
"Although the new user interface is designed and optimised for touch, it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard. Our approach means no compromises - you get to use whatever kind of device you prefer, with peripherals you choose, to run the apps you love. This is sure to inspire a new generation of hardware and software development, improving the experience for PC users around the world."
In late October 2011, Microsoft was forced to talk about how Windows 8 tablets would deal with portrait orientations - all the demonstrations thus far have been of Windows 8 tablets in landscape.

Windows 8 tablets desktop

In February Microsoft confirmed that new ARM versions of Windows 8 tablets would have the traditional desktop as well as the new Metro interface - but it will only allow third-party Metro apps.
On ARM, the Windows desktop, with familiar apps like Explorer, Internet Explorer and the Windows Live apps, plus Office – but everything else will be Metro.
Windows 8 tablets

Windows 8 tablets Start Menu

Microsoft is also facing somewhat of a backlash as Windows 8 loses the Start Orb, better known as the Start button - it's replaced by the Metro interface.
Microsoft has had to defend the decisions it's made with the Start Menu in Windows 8.
Desktop

Windows 8 tablets manufacturers

A Samsung Windows 8 tablet was shown off at Microsoft's Build conference on 13 September 2011. Check out our Hands on: Windows 8 tablet review
After it confirmed that it was to keep making PCs in late October 2011, HP also said it would be making Windows 8 tablets.
It has also been widely reported that Dell is pinning its hopes on Windows 8 and that it will be launching tablet products featuring the OS.
On 9 May 2011, we reported on a rumour of a forthcoming Nokia Windows 8 tablet. The info comes from phone commentator Eldar Murtazin, who wrote on the Mobile Review forum that Nokia will launch a tablet in 2012, possibly pushed back to 2013. Nokia said at October 2011's Nokia World that Windows 8 represents a "broader opportunity" for the company, (reported by TechCrunch).
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop later said that the company was looking at the tablet market and is considering just how to take on the might of the iPad.
"There's a new tablet opportunity coming... Unquestionably, that will change the dynamics [of the tablet market]." It would appear the Nokia Windows 8 tablet could be slated for June 2012.
A leaked slide from Netbooknews.de indicates that Asus will begin selling Windows 8 tablets in Q3 2012.
Windows 8

Windows 8 tablets will have a lot of support

During an earnings call in mid-August, Nvidia's Jen-Hsun Huang also said: "I'm very bullish about Windows 8," adding: "I think it's going to be an amazing operating system. Windows 8 tablets and Windows 8 clam shells that Tegra is going into, I hope will translate into real growth for our company in the second half of next year."
"We're not leading the charge on Windows 8, but as we become comfortable that [Windows 8] is a viable ecosystem [and] that the quality of innovation and quality of services and quality of capabilities [are] being delivered there, we will certainly be open to that," he said in response to a question.
As we now know, Nvidia is seeding Windows 8 ARM tablest with developers.
Motorola has also said it is "completely open to Windows as a platform" according to Cnet.
Australian site Smarthouse.au claims some vendors will even move away from Android tablets in favour of Windows 8.

Windows 8 tablets will be thin and light

While Dell makes some unusually shaped tablets already, the Samsung tablet is "similar in size and shape to the Apple iPad, although it is not as thin." Unlike the iPad, "it also includes a unique and slick keyboard that slides out from below for easy typing."

Some Windows 8 tablets will be designed for business

"The company believes there is a huge market for business people who want to enjoy a slate for reading newspapers and magazines and then work on Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint while doing work," the NYT says, quoting the inevitable "person familiar with the company's tablet plans".

Windows 8 tablets will have apps and an app store

Apps are a big part of Windows 8, with Microsoft convinced that "app development will move to the web" and it has built a Windows Store with manufacturer-specific entrances. Again, we saw a lot more detail on this in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.
Windows 8 will come with a number of pre-installed Metro apps, which look set to include things like a camera, messaging, mail, calendar, SkyDrive, people, photos, video and music.
The apps will be in the Windows Phone Metro style and some, like messaging may incorporate mobile aspects like SMS support.
Windows 8 tablets

Windows 8 tablet prices should be similar to Android ones

Windows 8 tablets will be up against iPads, Android tablets and Chrome OS netbooks, so if they're not priced very aggressively they're going to be a tough sell..
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