Report: Next-gen Microsoft Surface RT to be powered by Qualcomm chips

Microsoft’s decision to start offering deeply discounted Surface RT tablets to schools this week has prompted some to ask whether the company is giving up on its Windows RT tablet. But a report from Bloomberg news suggests another possibility: Microsoft may be clearing out existing inventory to make way for a new, faster model.

Bloomberg reports that Microsoft plans to launch new Surface RT tablets with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors.

Microsoft Surface RT

The news comes from anonymous sources that have “knowledge of the company’s plans,” which is usually a good reason to take a report like this with a grain of salt. But it’s been over half a year since Microsoft introduced its first Surface RT tablets, and I’d be surprised if the company wasn’t looking to upgrade or kill the product line.

The original Surface RT features a 10.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display and an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor. It runs Windows RT software which looks almost identical to Windows 8. But it can’t run desktop-style apps designed for earlier versions of Windows since most older apps were designed to run on devices with x86 chips, not ARM-based processors.

Qualcomm is one of the top producers of ARM-based chips for smartphones and tablets, and the company’s upcoming Snapdragon 800 chip is expected to be one of the most powerful ARM chips for mobile devices to launch this year.

While sales of Windows RT devices don’t appear to have been stellar so far, Microsoft has invested a lot of time and money in porting its software to run on ARM-based hardware. It’d be silly to scrap the project without a fight (although some companies have been known to take that approach).

  • Arrdee

    I just hope they ditch “The ADHD Dancers” clacking away trying to reattach the falling off keyboard covers in future TV commercials.

  • Dave Boutilier

    As soon as I read “Take that approach” I knew KNEW it was a link to the HP/WebOS article. hahaha.

  • Michael Thompson

    So it won’t be able to do what it can’t now, only faster!

  • Jeff Bailey

    I hope the next Windows RT tablets are actually Windows 8 tablets running on Qualcomm chips. Otherwise, I’ll be getting a Windows 8 tablet running Bay Trail that will eventually run a Linux distro.

    • CyberGusa

      It’ll depend on a number of factors for the next gen RT tablets… Besides better performance, the next gen ARM SoCs can offer things like hardware virtualization that could make things like offering legacy desktop support a lot easier… So less reason to lock RT down that MS could take advantage of now…

      While RT is being included with the upcoming Windows 8.1 update… So, we’ll have to see how much of a improvement, as well as what changes that will bring to RT as well…

      At the very least they’ll be offering things originally left out like Outlook, and the app store has had time to be better developed and they’re going to be finally leveraging their gaming market with things like the upcoming Halo game Spartan Assault for WP8 and Windows 8/RT… with potential feature tie ins with the next gen XBox One console they can probably leverage as well…

      While the 8.1 update should better leverage the BYOD market potential… But again, it depends on exactly what they changed and improved with the update and we’ve yet to fully vet it…

  • CyberGusa

    Well, lets be clear that all this is still rumors… According to the Bloomberg article it’s a leak from people who may be in the know but is not official… The Bloomberg article also pointed out that apparently Nvidia will continue to supply MS with Tegra, including a upcoming new model but that could of course change in the future…

    Mind that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 and Nvidia Tegra 4 are pretty closely matched… But the main advantage for Qualcomm is the integration of LTE…

    So it depends on how much MS will want to push cellular capability with the next Surface and whether they will continue to offer WiFi only models… Or they could possibly just offer both, Tegra 4 for WiFi only and 800 for the LTE models…

    Though, if MS goes through with the other rumor about releasing a smaller Surface tablet, it would be more likely to be with a Qualcomm Snapdragon…

    While MS is also not likely to drop RT anytime soon… They’re already on record promising over 4 years of support and they’re already including RT with the Windows 8.1 update and releasing Outlook and other updates to RT as well.

    We’ll just have to wait and see if the next gen RT devices are enough of a improvement to turn thing around for them or not… MS could still possibly drop RT but only if it does really terrible over the next year… They’re too heavily invested and need a stronger presence in the mobile market too much to just drop it quite yet…

  • Bob

    I assume the big BYOD issue is ability to join Domains?

    Ok, I see a longer list of Big Brother and other features that might make 8.1 RT more attractive to the BOFH brigade.