Analyzing the Week: October 3rd

AMD, Microsoft, and HP…

Flaming WaferThis week we saw the release of a new set of WHQL drivers from AMD. The 14.9 driver set contains a number of improvements over the 14.4 driver set which was the last Microsoft certified graphics driver release from the company. These improvements include better performance in 16 games, more Eyefinity options, accelerated JPEG decoding support on the AM1 platform, an improved version of the Mantle driver, and a variety of resolved issues. If you’re getting a bit of Deja vu listening to this features list fear not because everything in the 14.9 WHQL driver set has been in AMD beta drivers prior to this week.

For AMD this release is an important milestone as it proves that it their choice to move away from a monthly driver release schedule wasn’t a mistake. That said waiting five months between WHQL driver releases is excessive. A quarterly WHQL driver release would go a long way towards instilling some confidence in AMD’s more risk averse customers.

Our friends in Redmond had a little event this week where they announced the latest iteration of their flagship operating system, Windows 10. Why Windows 10 rather than 9? Well as they say, “Seven ate nine.” Thus we’re getting 10. Or perhaps it could be because of the way that Windows 95 and 98 identify themselves as Windows 9. Either way Windows 10 looks to be a mildly tarted-up version of Windows 8.1 that includes a start menu and configures its UI to suit the screen size and input devices that you’re using. On tablets you get the full start screen and touch experience and on desktops you get the traditional desktop and the start menu by default. Of course you can enable or disable whatever UI elements you’d like, so the choice is yours.

We’ve been playing with Microsoft’s new OS for the past couple of days and should have a full review later this week. But for those of you wondering where Windows is going look no further than the re-implementation of that menu as proof that Microsoft is for better or worse listening to its customers and turning away from its modern UI.

HP has been in the news this week for a variety of reasons including a proposed break up of the company. But more interesting than HP’s PC and Printer business breaking off from the company is a couple of new tablets they just announced. The HP Stream 7″ and 8″ tablets priced at $99 and $149 respectively come loaded with Intel Atom SoCs, 720P screens, and what appears to be passable build quality.  These are x86 Windows 8.1 with Bing tablets and given their bargain basement price it’s hard to fault them for much. Thanks to Microsoft’s decision to offer a version of their OS for free on devices under 9 inches and Intel’s contra revenue strategy Windows devices appear to have more or less achieved price parody with Android tablets. This is good news for consumers as we’re no doubt entering a new era of competition in the tablet market now that Google and Microsoft have finished the traditional race to the bottom. For HP’s PC division this is a promising moment as the company has yet another chance to make itself a player in the tablet market. Hopefully the impending split won’t result in any awkward product cancellations like the disheartening story of the WebOS laden HP TouchPad.S|A

The following two tabs change content below.
Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.