Microsoft is reportedly planning to refresh its Surface RT tablet with a chip from Qualcomm, according to Bloomberg. The news comes weeks after Microsoft added smaller Windows 8 tablets with free Office productivity software at this year’s Computex in Taipei.
However, this doesn’t mean that Microsoft is looking to replace Nvidia, which currently supplies its quad-core Tegra 3 processor for the Surface RT. The report indicates that only some versions of the next Surface RT will come with Qualcomm chips, while Nvidia will continue to supply chips for other versions of the tablet. This switch, which appears to apply to unannounced Surface RT devices, is likely to happen later this year.
By adding Qualcomm as a supplier, Microsoft could potentially add mobile broadband support to its Surface RT tablet, which has fallen short of analysts’ sales estimates ever since it launched back in October. Specifically, The Verge reports that Microsoft is testing Windows RT 8.1 Surface devices with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800, although this has yet to be confirmed.
Microsoft isn’t the only device maker looking to switch from Nvidia to Qualcomm for its forthcoming tablets. Just a few months ago, reports suggested that Google will opt for Qualcomm’s chip rather than Nvidia’s Tegra 3 when it comes to the next-generation Nexus 7.
Despite Microsoft’s efforts to beef up its flagship Windows RT tablet, it remains unclear whether or not this will be enough to garner interest in the platform. Major vendors such as Samsung, HP and Toshiba have backed out on plans to manufacturer Windows RT tablets, and sales of the Surface RT fell way below device orders in early 2013.
As Windows 8 begins making its way to smaller-sized tablets, the purpose and relevance behind Windows RT comes into question. At this year’s Computex convention Acer unveiled its Iconia W3 — the first 8-inch tablet to run the full desktop version of Windows 8.