Windows 8 tablets and touch-enabled laptops haven’t really taken off the way Microsoft had hoped for after tailoring its operating system for finger input. But Intel CEO Paul Otellini believes things are bound to change later this year when the next generation Atom chip arrives, codenamed Bay Trail, bringing along a new wave of devices with prices as low as $200.
Otellini contended that people are attracted to touch devices but the price points today are still fairly high. He also noted that there’s an adoption curve for Windows 8 and that it “requires a bit of training.”
The platform enabling these new affordable Windows 8 devices will be a true single chip SoC built on Intel’s latest 22-nanometer process with Tri-gate transistor technology. Bay Trail is a complete redesign of the Atom micro-architecture, bringing a quad-core part for the first time, as well as out-of-order execution, and up to three times better graphics performance with support for DirectX 11 and up to 2,560 x 1,600 resolutions.
In terms of processing power they’re also supposed to offer an improvement of 50 to 100 percent over previous generation Atom processors, along with improved security and all-day battery life.
Whether that will be enough to offer a compelling Windows experience remains to be seen, however. As you may recall, there was a time when cheap netbooks were all the rage, but the race to the bottom in terms of pricing also meant tighter profit margins to the point that only Microsoft and Intel were making any money out of them. We all know how that ended. With little room to differentiate themselves and customers’ focus shifting to tablets and smartphones, PC manufacturers began to pull from this market one by one.
With Windows 8 failing to reinvigorate PC sales it seems the focus will be on price once again -- not just for Atom devices, as Core i-equipped ultrabooks are also promised to hit the $600 price point this year. All signs point to a challenging year for PC manufacturers but in the meantime consumers will at least see cheaper price tags.