One Possible Explanation for Why Windows 8 Tablets Are Hard to Find

Last week, I wrote about how hard it was to find Windows 8 tablets on store shelves, even though Microsoft's latest operating system launched nearly a month ago. Here's one possible explanation.

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Last week, I wrote about how hard it was to find Windows 8 tablets on store shelves, even though Microsoft’s latest operating system launched nearly a month ago.

Here’s one possible explanation: Intel is reportedly having trouble supplying its Clover Trail-based Atom chips to hardware makers. Those chips are featured in several Windows 8 tablets due to launch this year.

The news is tucked into a larger report from InformationWeek about the supposed “disarray” of Microsoft’s tablet plans:

The problem is Clover Trail. Intel just doesn’t have it ready for mass production. Insiders say that, among other things, there’s a problem with the chip’s power management software. Intel ignored my request for a comment yesterday.

There are some puzzling elements in InformationWeek’s report. The story claims that Microsoft’s Surface with Windows 8 Pro tablet is facing a “delay,” when in fact Microsoft always said it would ship the tablet 90 days after the launch of Windows 8. As far as we know, it’s still on schedule. InformationWeek’s speculation that the departure of Steven Sinofsky is somehow tied this situation seems like a leap to me.

Still, the article rightly points out that pinning down release dates from other tablet makers has been difficult. The Acer Iconia W510, for instance, was supposed to launch on November 9, but retailers like J&R still say it’s in pre-order. Dell originally had a November 13 ship date for its Latitude 10, but now Dell’s website says December 12 at the earliest.

A delay in Clover Trail processors makes sense as an explanation, and looking into it further, this isn’t the first report of problems on Intel’s end. In October, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Intel was behind in delivering software that conserves battery life in its Clover Trail processors, which in turn caused holdups in Microsoft’s approval process.

Intel’s Clover Trail-based Atom chips are supposed to be competitive with ARM-based processors, the type that appear in most phones and tablets as well as in Microsoft’s Surface with Windows RT. Tablets with Clover Trail inside promise long battery life and support for connected standby, which lets them keep e-mail and other apps up to date while resting. Best of all, they don’t have the software limitations of ARM-based Windows RT devices.

But in the past, Atom has been known for sub-par performance, so potential buyers will need to get their hands on these new devices to see whether they’re adequate as tablets and, in the case of hybrid devices, as thin and light laptops. I’m curious about this myself, as I’ve yet to test any Clover Trail-based Windows 8 computers.

These are still early days for Windows 8, so I’m not sure if “disarray” is the right word to describe the situation. But for shoppers looking to see what Microsoft’s operating system can do, it’s definitely a letdown.

8 comments
SarVar
SarVar

Acer W510 is the best for me because it is the lightest and smallest Windows 8 tablet and got Intel Clover Trail, currently in stock at Newegg.com, amazon.com and ebay.com. Acer W510 without dock is just 1.3 lbs which is much lighter than iPad 1.44 lbs, I already purchased 2 Acer W510 for my family to replace my iPad and my family member's Samsung Galaxy Android Tablet.

Lenovo Thinkpad 2 is another similar small and light 1.3 lbs Windows 8 Intel Clover Trail tablet but Lenovo moved release date from 16-Nov to December

HP envy X2 is the best looking tablet with NFC that will be available in December but 11.6 size is big for me because last 2 years I am used to iPad.

iamajimm
iamajimm

I dunno, I happened to be talking to a Best Buy manager out here in SoCal and he mentioned that Win8 stuff was 'walking out the door'; they couldn't get it fast enough.  Just saying.  Maybe the stuff is spotty because their sold out eh?

CraigGivant
CraigGivant

Just the information I have been searching for. The "availability" of these Win 8 Pro tablets is spotty at best. Thanks for the article.

I was actually trying to determine if ANY of these slates had been released and the only information I could find listed availability as "Pre-Order" or "Back-Order". I'm surprised that a few posters below have indicated that they have one in-hand. Is the Sammy 500T the only one that has been released even though it appears to have been done so in very limited quantities?

I purchased the Surface RT even though I knew a "Pro" version was what I ultimately wanted. The hardware was nice and the tablet was fairly responsive but I have since pre-ordered a Dell Latitude 10 (ships December 12) and returned the RT. When the RT couldn't even find drivers for a Windows Mobile Device, I quickly realized that it was mainly just a toy.

Out of all the Pro Tab's I was able to "see" almost all of them rely on the Clover Trail. Lets hope that whatever "bugs" are occurring with this chip are worked out or this is going to be a hugh debacle. It is certainly going to be interesting to see how the Clover Trail performs because running these devices on an Atom processor will be the only way to keep the price in the 6-7 hundred dollar range.

The specs on the Microsoft Pro are certainly much more robust but I'm sure the price point will be as well. What doesn't make any sense is why here should be a further delay because this device is NOT based on the Clover Trail. It's pretty frustrating that Microsoft has been virtually mum on the Final Price / Release date. This could potentially cost them buyers who may be tempted to wait an extra month considering they have waited this long already.

mitchells
mitchells

I love mine but I can understand why iPads are outselling them. Yes, they are hard to find (I luckily found them in stock only because somebody called me), but to be honest, it is a bit different and not loving the interface. I'll get used to it.

JohnColeman
JohnColeman

I got lucky and found a Samsung 500T (clover trail based) table at my local Staples.  They had literally just unloaded it off the truck, and it was the only one on the truck.  The first few days with it were pretty rough, several blue screens, video lockups, etc.  There were a slew of BIOS updates, firmware updates, and video driver updates at the end of last week and it's much more stable now.  Battery life is fantastic, I use it throughout the day at work and then use it heavily in the evenings until bed.  When I plug it in it's usually around 50% of the battery remaining.

GaryMcCray
GaryMcCray

As if Microsoft didn't already face an uphill battle with Windows 8.

Checking the upgrade-ability of my 2 Windows 7 computers indicated that each of them have 14 incompatible programs about half of which could be upgraded or get a (paid upgrade including Microsoft development software) with no real option at all for the rest.

Many of them are programs I use every day, you can bet I am in no rush to upgrade.

And of course, RT is moving smack into the territory of already highly developed IOS / IPad Apps and almost as highly developed Android Apps with zero experience.

And worse, they have foisted off a sort of brain dead version of "Classic" Windows onto desk and laptop users that for no real reason actually makes things harder for them.

They could have included the whole original interface with no difficulty or cost in performance, but they didn't.Microsoft just might have out Apple Mapped Apple.

The fact that now it turns out they can't even get their tablet processors on to the market sure isn't going to help either.

And if the Surface Pro is already looking at delays beyond it's original 3 month delay, not a good year for Microsoft.

GaryRMcCray
GaryRMcCray

@GaryMcCray 

BTW I (wisely) bought a 32 gb Nexus 7 and I was originally planning on waiting for the Surface Pro to come out and possibly going to get one of those, but from what I have seen of Windows 8 now they have a lot more convincing to do before I'll make that commitment.

skyledavisbooks
skyledavisbooks

Thank you Jared. It's nice to see someone point to the one bit of insight in that article and skewer the rest. Hopefully Intel can get its act together. If Clover Trail ends up failing somehow, it would be disastrous to Microsoft's Windows 8 plans, and leave everyone scrambling to figure out if Hondo works. Surely they'll figure it out somehow... right?