Microsoft did a pretty good job at their Build conference to put their best foot forward when unveilingWindows 8. They demonstrated the upcoming OS on everything from ultrathin laptops (I refuse to call them ultrabooks), massive watercooled desktops, and the amazing Samsung developer tablet. Now that the developer preview is out, many users are downloading Windows 8 and installing it on familiar systems. Virtual boxes, laptops they seldom use, maybe even their personal computers are all testing the mettle of Windows 8 this morning. With that in mind, I decided to install Windows 8 on a less familiar device, the EXOPC Slate. This Windows 7 tablet did not get a whole lot of love when it came out, and with good reason, but I think Windows 8 might change that some.
The EXOPC Slate is a 1.66Ghz Atom processor with 1GB of RAM. It’s not nearly as powerful as the Samsung developer preview device, but still exceeds the minimum system requirements. Take a look at the brief walkthrough of the UI.
Many aspects of this early Windows 8 build work well. The keyboard is nice and the primary animations are smooth even on the EXOPC’s hardware, though background ones (see 2:39) do need work. Many of the UI components are in place and are quite functional when using the slate’s touch/gesture-friendly screen. While the boot up is quick and many operations are snappy, some are slow, clearly missing the Samsung developer tablet’s Core i5 processor. Almost all drivers worked well with the EXOPC though, though the front-facing camera did not and the touch-response was very slow in the drawing program.
As you can see, the road to Windows 8 being completely ready is a long one. Over the next few weeks, we’ll start to see more and more third party additions to the MetroUI system and Microsoft will undoubtedly be offering updates very soon. Windows 8 needs to succeed where Windows Phone has decidedly failed up to this point, in being able to allow the MetroUI to be a complete experience. Once the Microsoft store is available on Windows 8, the OS will begin to take shape.
Android’s march on the living room continues, with Echostar Europe announcing the HDx-200 set top box. Among the new unit’s operating system options is none other that Google’s little green robot.
The HDX-200 is designed for IPTV providers, and it’s fully DLNA compatible. It’s also SlingLoaded — that is, ready to placshift thanks to built-in Sling Media technology. It features a 1500DMIPS application processor (possibly the Broadcom BCM7420), 1GB of NAND flash and 512MB RAM, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, HDMI output, 10/100 Ethernet, and a single USB 2.0 port. There’s also a 10-pin mini DIN connector that enables RCA and SCART hook-ups.
Since Android is on board, the HDX-200 also includes the Webkit-powered Android web browser — and Flash 10.1 comes along for the ride as well. Operating power is less than 10W, and the HDX-200 sips less than a watt in standby mode. While Echostar’s spec sheet says that the box “enables the delivery” of apps, it doesn’t specifically say whether or not you’ll actually be installing any. Content providers could certainly get on board and deliver tweaked versions of their existing Android apps (like Netflix and the BBC iPlayer) — they’d simply need to make them play nicely with a remote control instead of your fingertips.
No word yet on pricing or availability, but if your broadband TV provider has used Echostar hardware before there’s a good chance you might have an Android upgrade option in the near future. While we find out whether those Google TV 2.0 boxes really are a big upgrade over the original, we can hold out hope that the folks building our satellite, cable, and broadband boxes are all working on more modern hardware like the HDX-200.
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