Microsoft has announced that five manufacturers will release Windows RT PCs following the launch of the operating system this October. Two systems have already been announced in the form of Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet and the recently unveiled Asus Tablet 600. In addition to this, three new hardware partners were announced, with Dell, Samsung and Lenovo all planning releases for Redmond's stripped back OS.
Windows RT is the version of Microsoft’s upcoming OS release that provides access to the company’s new app-based Start screen (previously known as the Metro UI). Unlike the full version of Windows 8, the RT version does not provide users with the traditional desktop workspace. Microsoft and Lenovo have previously announced tablets PCs that run the full Windows 8 OS (the Surface Pro and ThinkPad 2). These devices should not be confused with Windows RT tablets which won’t provide all the benefits of a full operating system, but will come in at a significantly lower price point.
The post on the company’s Building Windows 8 blog provides details on how Microsoft has been working closely with its hardware partners, with the goal of producing thin and light devices that feature responsive touch interfaces and long battery lives. The project has also worked to develop a new connected standby mode for Windows RT PCs that provides mobile phone-like “always on” functionality without significantly affecting battery life. This low power mode will allow devices to stay up-to-date when not in use, as well as turning on in less than a second.
Microsoft also revealed some statistics on the battery life of the early production versions of the new Windows RT PCs. While playing HD video at full resolution with a single email account connected, the systems collectively managed between 8 and 13 hours on a single charge. The various PCs were also tested in the new connected standby state, clocking in at between 320 and 409 hours. The first of these stats is comparable with Apple's popular iPad tablet, which manages around 10 hours of constant heavy-duty use, such as browsing the web or watching video.
Significant work has also gone into the functionality of the devices that feature full keyboard and touchpad solutions, such as the company’s own Surface RT tablet. A number of touch gestures will be supported when using a touchpad, including two-finger scrolling, pinch-to-zoom and edge swiping. Other details revealed in the post include the integration of Android Beam-like NFC data transfers (instigated via the physical touching of two Windows RT PCs), as well as the work that Microsoft has done to achieve its goal of 60 fps on all UI animations within the OS.
This hands-on approach to hardware design including careful integration with the OS, marks a notable break from convention for Microsoft, a company that usually plays little or no part in third-party hardware creation. Further details regarding the Samsung, Lenovo and Dell devices will be unveiled closer to the October 26 launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT.