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TheStreet Open House

Microsoft's Laptop Advantage Over Apple

Stock quotes in this article: MSFT, GOOG, QCOM, AAPL, INTC, AMD

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Let's say you could buy an Apple MacBook Air -- but with twice the battery life, at half the price. Does that sound attractive?

Duh!

What is this -- a so-called "ultrabook" that Intel is pushing through its usual OEMs? Nope. Ultrabooks may be slightly less expensive than a MacBook Air, but that's par for the course for the usual multi-decade Microsoft-Apple comparison anyway. Nothing new there. Just predictable linear progression.

No, the laptop that will fit this bill is another new class of Microsoft-based product hitting the market simultaneously with the "regular" Windows 8 this October-November. And it's not based on Intel or AMD.

Microsoft published a lot of details about this new class of laptop Feb. 9:

I thought that the world would quickly absorb this detailed description of Microsoft's plans. However, in the two months that has passed, I find that few people have drawn any conclusions from Microsoft's great revelation.

It's all hiding in plain sight. Just read it.

Side by side with Windows 8 for Intel and AMD, Microsoft is making a version of Windows 8 available for use on devices using CPU/GPU SoCs (Systems-on-Chip) from Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments. These will fit almost any "large" (i.e., non-handheld) form factor, including tablet, laptop and desktop. The focus is on tablets, laptops and "hybrid" laptops/tablets.

Just consider, for a moment, some of the key reasons the Apple iPad became so popular: Instant-on availability, great battery life, great security, easy manageability. Those attributes also apply to Windows 8 on ARM. Here's the difference: It's an unsuccessful struggle to make your iPad as productive as your laptop. People try all the time, but nobody has shown me that it can be done successfully, for a variety of software and hardware reasons that are not likely to be overcome anytime soon.

What's the upside here?

1. Form factor: These new chips draw a lot less power and generate less heat than x86, so they don't need a fan -- just like your iPad doesn't need a fan. This means they can be made thinner, lighter, fit a bigger battery and yield better battery life. Also: instant-on boot-up.

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