Whenever Microsoft releases a new version of Windows, there’s always a flurry of new hardware announcements to usher in Microsoft’s flagship product. Last week AMD CEO, Lisa Su, and accidently announced that Windows 10 would arrived at the end of July, just in time for the back-to-school rush. I can’t imagine the leak pleased Microsoft brass, although leadership within the Windows group had been dropping hints of a summer launch.
There appears to be a good deal of excitement around this Windows launch, and for good reason. Windows 10 looks to be a solid upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8. Microsoft listened to customers and brought back an updated START menu which both consumers and business customers will appreciate.
As much as Microsoft would like everyone to upgrade to Windows 10, a lot of purchasing decisions are based on new new processor releases that drive new form factors, products, and new capabilities. This week I want to take a look at some new products I’m excited about over the next year or so, starting with the Intel Core M processor.
At the end of 2014, we began to see a handful of lightweight and slim laptops emerge running Intel’s latest Core M processor. Four years ago, Intel’s most advanced mobile CPU needed 18.5 watts to operate. Similar chips from last year required just over 11 watts. Core M slices that number down to 4.5 watts which means it’s an ideal chip for ultra-thin laptops and tablets such as the Lenovo Yoga 3, Dell Venue Pro, and the new Macbook.
Core M enable fanless design that’s ideal for 2-in-1’s such as the Yoga 3 Pro. It also provides a better than 2x reduction in TDP compared to similar Haswell chips as well as being 50% smaller and 30% thinner. In theory, these improvement should increase battery life. It’s worth keeping in mind that Core M is really tailored for the lightest and thinnest devices on the market. They sacrifice raw CPU performance for thin and lightweight design. I suspect many people will wait for Broadwell U to arrive in Intel’s i3/i5/i7 processors that will power most new ultrabooks in 2015.
Intel Compute Stick
The first time I saw a beta Compute Stick, it was sticking out of the side of a monitor. I assumed it was a chubby USB drive. But it was connected via HDMI and was powering a set of security monitors at Puget Systems. The Compute Stick is an amazingly powerful device. It packs a quad-core Atom processor, 2 GB of memory along with 32 GB of on-board storage into a tiny that’s only a bit larger than an Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick. Future versions could run Intel’s Core M processor.
The beauty of the Compute Stick is that you can plug it into any monitor that supports HDMI, and you have a fully functional computer running Window 8.1 ($149) or Ubuntu Linux ($89). It’s not hard to imagine companies using them to power email/browsing stations, security cameras, or streaming media boxes.
Windows Server 10
While Windows 10 for desktop PCs is expected to garner most of the attention, don’t underestimate the significance of Microsoft’s Windows Server 10. Unfortunately, it looks like we may not see it until 2016. As you’d expect, Windows Server 10 largely builds on virtualization, storage, networking, and management capabilities introduced with Windows Server 2012.
But it also includes some welcome features such a revamped START menu and virtual desktops. Microsoft hasn’t forgotten about sysadmins either because they’re building a more robust PowerShell and making it easier to administer servers from the command line. The biggest feature in PowerShell 5 is OneGet, which brings package management features to Windows Server.
Microsoft is also bringing enhancements to Hyper-V, storage and networking, but it’s still early. We’ll take a look at this in more detail once Windows Server 10 hits the streets.
Just when you thought your SSD was fast, along comes the M.2 SSD that just might knock your socks off. M.2 is a new form of connectivity that allows a SSD to connect directly to the PCI-E bus rather than through SATA. By bypassing the SATA controller a M.2 drive is only limited by the speed of the drive itself and the generation/number of PCI-E lanes it uses. By using just four PCI-E 2.0 lanes, a M.2 drive can theoretically have a maximum throughput as high as 2GB/s. To put this into perspective, that is over three times faster than the SATA III limitation of 600MB/s.
We are still in the early stages of M.2 adoption, and while it’s a promising technology, it comes with a few challenges. M.2 allows for a variety of physical dimensions, connectors, and even multiple logical interfaces. What this means is that performance can vary widely across models based on SSD size and connection types. I believe 2015 will be the year M.2 challenges get sorted out and we can begin to enjoy the blazing speeds these drives allow for.
These are just a few of the new things I’ve looking forward to over the next year or so. What are you looking forward to in 2015?