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Microsoft bakes a bigger Pi to cook Windows slabs

'Sharks Cove' board will let you byte into Windows mobility

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Microsoft is looking for a footprint in the mini-single-board-computer market dominated by the Raspberry Pi, with the launch of the Intel Atom-based 'Sharks Cove' machine it hopes will attract developers with an interest in tablets.

That's an interesting move: the tablet market is hotly contested, with vendors entering and exiting (some of them, like HP, more than once), and margins so slim that any vendor currently in the tablet market is subject to endless speculation that it's about to get out.

At US$299, Sharks Cove* is well out of the Raspberry Pi price range, but that's unsurprising, since the board has to be fat enough to run Windows. And fat it is, with specs that include a quad-core Atom Z3735G running at 1.33 GHz or 1.83 GHz clock speeds, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB of Flash storage, and a bunch of interfaces.

The project's target environments are “any Windows or Android based system which uses the ATOM processor”, the Sharks Cove site states. Interfaces include GPIO, I2C, I2S, UART, SDIO, USB, and MIPI for display and camera.

Microsoft reckons it's a good buy: “That price not only covers the cost of the hardware, but also includes a Windows 8.1 image and the utilities necessary to apply it to the Sharks Cove. When you additionally consider that the Windows Driver Kit 8.1 can pair with Visual Studio Express and are both free with a valid MSDN account, the initial outlay for Windows driver developers is a lot less cost prohibitive than it once was”, writes Redmond's Michael Fourre.

CircuitCo partnered in the project, along with Intel, which earlier this year threw its own horseshoe at a similar stake with its Galileo dev board.

Microsoft is also plotting a series of events, kicking off in the US on August 7 with a get-to-know-the-product developer showcase.

It's probably fairer to put Sharks Cove next to the Intel Galileo rather than the Raspberry Pi, at that. Chipzilla's US$100 dev board runs a 400 MHz Quark SoC and 512 MB RAM, an optional 32 GB of micro SD storage, on-board Ethernet and USB. But if you wanted to put Windows on it, you'd have to shell out separately.

Sharks Cove will begin shipping from the end of this month. ®

* There's no apostrophe so the crime against punctuation is Microsoft's.

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