Microsoft unveiled its Windows 8 operating system Tuesday to developers at the BUILD conference in Anaheim, Calif., impressing some reviewers with the system's speedy boot up and live tile interface.
But what investors saw was a little different.
Microsoft's dreadful history of sitting out the mobile computing era finally may be coming to a close. And while that is a welcome shift for Microsoft, the prospect of a strong third player in the market is huge news for chip and device manufacturers that have seen limited action.Apple (AAPL - Get Report) and Google's (GOOG) Android have pretty much locked up the phone and tablet market with compelling, though somewhat underpowered, touchscreen controlled devices. Now, with the promise of Windows 8, there's an opportunity to bring a beefier PC capability -- call it laptop-like computing -- to small devices. In this brave new scenario, there are some clear winners and losers. Intel's (INTC - Get Report) frustration in mobile isn't going to change for the better. HP's (HPQ) disastrous flirtation with exiting the PC market certainly doesn't put it in a leadership position. But outfits like ARM Holdings (ARMH), the braintrust behind low-power mobile processors, is looking sharp. And the various ARM-based tech mates like Qualcomm (QCOM - Get Report) and Nvidia (NVDA) are in a particularly sweet spot to capture whatever bounty Windows 8 can deliver. Some analysts see Microsoft's entry in mobile as a potentially key turning point for the chip industry. JPMorgan's Rod Hall, in a research note Wednesday, wrote that Windows 8 "adds yet another reason to be bullish on Qualcomm's long-term story as we see the company as best positioned to benefit from a transition off Intel and toward ARM for personal computing devices." Qualcomm shares were up 1% to $52.86 in premarket trading on Wednesday. --Written by Scott Moritz in New York.
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