Windows RT is a very different from Windows 8, and it all starts with those ARM internals. When Microsoft laid out the ground rules for manufacturers, it was clear that everything about the RT experience would be very tightly controlled. So tightly controlled, in fact, that Microsoft required chip makers to partner up with only one or two system builders.
Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments have apparently chosen their collaborators. Nvidia will be working with Asus (who already has a good amount of experience with convertible ARM devices) and Lenovo (the world’s second biggest PC maker). Texas Instruments selected Toshiba, still a major force in the PC market despite seeing shipments slide an estimated 20% last quarter.
Qualcomm’s choices were Samsung and HP. Recently, it was reported that HP had decided to step back from Windows RT initially. The company still planned on delivering a Windows 8 tablet, but it was going to run an Intel processor — ensuring that customers would still be able to run legacy Windows apps. HP has left the door open to a future Windows RT device, but in the meantime Dell is reportedly looking at taking the open spot with Qualcomm.
Microsoft will open the platform to additional manufacturers in January 2013, though they’ll still be looking to keep a tight grip on things. They’ll want to see devices that are just as compelling as the Surface and Surface Pro in order to compete with the iPad from all sides.