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long-term strategy

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ARM, the company responsible for practically every mobile processor base design out there, just took the wraps off of a new chip design today. Called the ARM Cortex A72, the new reference chip is claimed to sport twice the performance of its Cortex A57 chip, as well as 3.5 times the performance of 2014's Cortex A15. Additionally, ARM says the new design also reduces energy consumption by 75 percent over last year's devices.

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Microsoft really wants consumers to put down their iPads and pick up its own ARM based Windows RT devices. So far, we have seen aggressive campaigning against Apple’s portable computing tablet. Now, Microsoft plans to cut the cost of Windows RT licenses and make tablets running the operating system even cheaper; this intel comes from anonymous sources, as the exact pricing for Microsoft’s Windows RT operating system is confidential.

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Yesterday, a source within HTC announced that the company's plan to design full-sized tablets running Microsoft’s Windows RT operating system would be called off. The anonymous tipper stated that low demand for Windows RT devices and high cost are a reason for its cancellation.

HTC reportedly still has plans to release a 7 inch ARM tablet running the Windows RT operating system, but analysts are pointing at the company’s possible recent decision as a foreshadow for Microsoft’s future – I disagree.

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It seems like only last week we were writing a little editorial about Google and its lack of support for Windows Phone and Windows 8. In short they said they didn’t see the audience for these operating systems as being big enough to invest in. Here we are a week on and talking about an update.

Of course they had already invested in the Google search app and this is no sign they will commit to any further projects. Google Search on Windows 8 does actually give you basic access to much of their web offerings and makes us consider if this is perhaps all they need. Read on past the break for the low down.

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Angry Birds Space app for Windows 8 now available

Lost in the fuss over the launch of Windows 8 news we overlooked this the other day. Angry Birds in space is now available in the Microsoft Store.

Can you be an “app store” without at least on version of Angry Birds being present? If that’s the yard stick then many will breathe a sigh of relief to see the game pop into the store right from launch day!

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Microsoft will be unveiling its Windows RT Surface tablets this coming October with a price tag of $199, according to an Engadget source. Microsoft first unveiled the Surface family of Windows tablets earlier this year, and pricing rumours have been flying all around the room. The tipster reportedly revealed details from a session at Microsoft's recent TechReady15 conference and notes that the Surface Windows RT tablet will launch on October 26th.

Should Engadget's source be correct, this will definitely put the Surface on the map as an affordable tablet experience compared to competing Android and Apple offerings. With the low-end Windows RT version sporting 32GB storage, Office 2013, a variety of connectivity ports, and weighing in at just 676g, $199 would be an excellent launch price. For comparison sake, the Apple iPad 2 starts from $399 for the 16GB WiFi model (or $499 should you desire the new Retina iPad). Too good to be true?

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Microsoft has so far been rather coy when it comes to the actual performance characteristics of their forthcoming WinRT tablets. That’s to have been expected due to the new ARM requirements but many have wondered how frugal with battery and weight a Windows RT tablet could really be.

Windows on ARM devices are designed to compete with existing tablets currently available in the market. So far the iPad has been leading the way with great all-day performance and setting the bar for its competition. The good news is some of these initial performance specs look good, even when based on non-final firmware.

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Another rumor we want to squish is that there will be a new version of Windows Phone for "low-end" devices called "Neon".

The information first popped up on TWiT's Windows Weekly with Paul Thurrott, Mary Jo Foley and Leo Laporte.  On Episode 264 (June 7th) at around 1:47:45, Thurrott brings up some developer documentation pertaining to Windows Phone 8 with four main points:

  • Avoid free for all multitasking, aka Android and Windows Mobile
  • Allow Mango customers to upgrade to Apollo (later mis-reported as "A lot of Mango customers won’t get upgraded to Apollo")
  • Allow Mango apps to support Apollo resolutions
  • Lower end devices support for Neon

The site Insideris then received an "anonymous tip" on the 13th with the same list and they reported that "Neon" may be the next version of Windows Phone for non-Apollo devices. This resulted in numerous emails here at Windows Phone Central and various people contacting us to comment on it.

So true or false?

False. For one, the current code-name schemes for Windows Phone all have the milestones ending in "O": NoDo, Mango, Tango, Apollo, etc. So "Neon" does not fit with that history. Second, Neon here is referring to ARM® NEON™ a "general-purpose SIMD engine" for ARM chipsets. 

Let's head back to MIX 2011. Back then, Microsoft pre-announced support for ARM NEON for Windows Phone Mango. NEON is basically high-end multimedia support or in technical jargon it can  "...accelerate multimedia and signal processing algorithms such as video encode/decode, 2D/3D graphics, gaming, audio and speech processing, image processing, telephony, and sound synthesis". 

Funny thing though--it never happened (evidently NEON is there, though it is unclear if it works in Tango or early builds of WP8). A smart reading is that Neon support is coming for "low end" devices which is a good thing. That's actually very interesting news. But it is not a code-name for a new version of Windows Phone, sorry.

As a side note, Insideris reported the second point as "A lot of Mango customers won’t get upgraded to Apollo" but if you listen to Thurrott, he says "Allow Mango customers to upgrade to Apollo" and that seems more credible.

To paraphrase Ned Stark: "Brace yourselves, silly season is coming"

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