The next version of Microsoft’s (MSFT) Surface RT tablet will use Qualcomm’s (QCOMM) Snapdragon processor, according to a Bloomberg report citing people familiar with the company’s update strategy for the sluggish-selling device.
Surface RT’s currently run on Nvidia’s (NVDA) Tegra processors but the Qualcomm Snapdragon will upgrade the device’s performance and might mean it will support 4G LTE. According to Bloomberg’s sources, not all Surface RT tablets will incorporate the Snapdragon processor, with at least one version still running the Tegra chip.
Both Qualcomm and Microsoft currently are mum on the subject and, of course, it’s unclear at this point about when an upgraded version of Surface RT deploying the Snapdragon processor will hit the market. However, the companies already have set the stage to partner on Surface RT, when Qualcomm two weeks ago said that its Snapdragon 800 processors will include support for Windows RT 8.1. The Snapdragon 800 features an integrated multimode 3G/4G LTE modem and CPU speeds of up to 2.2 GHz per core. Microsoft will offer a free software update to Windows RT 8.1 available in the Windows Store later this year.
With Surface RT holding less than 1 percent of the tablet market and looking up at Apple’s (AAPL) 40 percent stake in the segment, based on researcher IDC’s figures, Microsoft may be looking to pull out all the stops to up the unit’s presence in the market. The vendor just kicked off an aggressive campaign to move Surface RT’s into K-12 schools and universities, discounting some models as much as 60 percent to $199 through August 31, 2013.
That followed the company’s pledge at the recent Computex show in Taiwan to stand behind the device, after reports that it had cut OEM prices for Windows RT for small tablets to prod sluggish sales and lure more OEMs to the OS.
With key manufacturers such as Acer and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) shunning Windows RT-based devices and others, including Samsung and Toshiba backing off, it’s clear the midnight oil is burning at Microsoft to try to figure out how to gain traction for the ARM-based OS. At this point, Microsoft’s Surface RT is kind of out there on its own in the marketplace, although Dell (DELL) has a unit in the works and HTC has confirmed it will come out with a 7-inch tablet running the OS.