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Windows 8 ties Success to Hardware Secrets

The computing technology has abandoned the race for higher Gigahertz clock frequencies. Instead we now have multiple processor cores per physical processor. With the rise of portable devices such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets the race shifted to power saving modes in order to conserve battery power. And now that we have a whole variety of computing devices at hand, the vendors try to reduce the choices for customers again.

Intel's flagship when it comes to small and portable computers is the Atom™ CPU family. We like Atom™ CPUs. They offer sufficient performance for most applications, have a x86-64 mode for 64 bit code and feature multiple cores (or at least hyperthreading). Tablets and laptops run on Atom™ processors, too. Since the chip is part of the traditional x86 family, you can run any software on it you want to. So everything's perfect, right? Enter graphical processing units (GPUs) or graphic cards.

A processor won't be enough. You also want to see something, i.e. attach a monitor or a touchscreen. Usually this is not a problem - unless the vendor doesn't provide a graphic driver or the necessary documentation to write one. Stubborn verndors have plagued Linux developer for decades. Intel is entering the fight for being stubborn and short-sighted with the new Clover Trail-based Atom™ processor product line. These will be Systems on a Chip (SoC) and integrate CPU with the GPU on the same physical package. This saves space and power. Sadly Intel has decided only to support Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. This means that you cannot buy certain tablets and laptops for installing an GNU/Linux OS on it. This is essentially a step backwards for customers. It also shows that Windows 8 probably cannot convince by its features and usability and that it has to be pushed by hardware tricks (just as Apple does with iOS).

Developers and customers should take care when selecting a platform. If possible select a platform that is fully supported by the vendor in terms of providing documentation for software development. Since the Atom™ SoC components are aimed at end user products, the server components are not affected (yet). Intel's decision is clearly aimed at Google's Android OS in order to artificially keep it from competing with Windows 8.

Customers might want to avoid Clover Trail-based Atom™ processors and look to the Valley View Atom™ SoC for proper GNU/Linux support.