In October 2013 Intel promised that their CPUs would show up in $99 tablets by Christmas, and they (mostly) kept that promise when HP launched the Mesquite Android tablet on Black Friday.
Speaking last week at the Intel Developer Forum 2014, Intel VP Hermann Eul made a similar boast about $99 tablets, only this time he wasn't talking about Android. Intel is expecting to see manufacturers release upwards of 90 Windows tablets this year, including models with price tags in the $99 to $129 range.
Intel is taking advantage of the recent Microsoft decisions to offer Windows free of charge to smartphone makers and tablet makers and to lower the hardware requirements for Windows (now only 1GB RAM and 16GB of storage). While Windows probably won't run very well on the new minimum requirements, it does bring that OS one step closer to Android's minimalist requirements.
At least some of the cheaper tablets are probably going to feature Intel’s recently introduced low-power, low-cost Bay Trail chips, but will they be any good?
Android runs quite adequately on a dual-core chip with 1GB of RAM, and you can even cut it down to only 512MB RAM if you don't mind sacrificing responsiveness and performance.
But a Windows tablet with 1GB of RAM strikes me as a recipe for disappointment. I wouldn't even run Windows XP on only a single GB of RAM, and that OS came out over a decade ago. And what with each version of Windows requiring more resources than before, I seriously doubt that Windows 8 can make do with such low requirements.
I know from personal experience Windows 7 cannot; right now I am running Windows 7 with 8GB RAM, with over 5GB in use.
Microsoft had better have some amazing memory management tricks up their sleeves, otherwise the $99 Windows tablets are going to flop just as badly as Windows RT tablets, which are only being made by Microsoft and MS Junior (Nokia).
But I don't expect most US consumers to notice; the cheapest Windows tablets are probably going to be produced by Chinese gadget makers, with only the more expensive models showing up in the US. At best we might see a single $99 Windows tablet hit the US market, just like the HP Mesquite last year.