Microsoft Windows lead Steven Sinofsky's Windows 8 tablet demo at the D9 show next week could show it off on a non-Intel chip, a trio of insiders said Thursday. An NVIDIA Tegra chip, presumably a dual-core Tegra 2, would power a prototype tablet demonstrating the new interface. Few other details were picked up in the Bloomberg leak, but the event would represent the first instance of Windows 8 on ARM being shown since Microsoft's CES keynote in January.
A decision to pick a Tegra processor would reflect Microsoft's well-publicized intent to make Windows 8 competitive with the iPad and Android 3 tablets. Until Windows 8 ships, all Windows tablets have to use x86 processors that are historically larger and more power hungry than their ARM rivals. HP's Slate 500 was at one point promoted as a rival to the iPad but was limited mostly to business buyers as its relatively thick, heavy design and five-hour battery life led it to stack up poorly relative to an iPad's slim shape and 10-hour runtime.
Windows 8 itself can behave like a traditional OS but is being optimized with a tablet-native interface, nicknamed Immersive, that would borrow heavily from the Metro interface in Windows Phone 7.
The Sinofsky demo won't necessarily help Microsoft in the near term. CEO Steve Ballmer recently, if inadvertently, confirmed many rumors that Windows 8 would launch in 2012. Most anticipate the release happening only later that year, 2.5 years after the iPad and after the iPad gained dominance of the tablet market in less than a year.