It seems like everyone wants a stake in the mini-single-board-computer market. Microsoft has partnered with chip-makers Intel and CircuitCo to make a $299 ‘Sharks Cove’ machine. The company hopes that developers and enthusiasts will use it to try Windows on cheaper machines.
Until now, the mini computer market has been dominated by Raspberry Pi variants that run on Android and Linux. The $299 Sharks Cove seems a little pricey, but that is reasonable since you need a comparatively powerful hardware to run Windows.
"This 'Windows compatible hardware development board' is designed to facilitate development of software and drivers for mobile devices that run Windows, such as phones, tablets, and similar System on a Chip (SoC) platforms.", the company wrote in a blogpost.
And Sharks Cove is powerful. It sports a 1.33GHz or 1.83GHz quad-core Atom Z3735G CPU, with a gig of RAM and 16GB flash storage, and several input and output interfaces including USB, MIPI, GPIO, I2C, I2s, UART, and SDIO. There is a microSD card slot as well.
Interestingly, Microsoft is offering a Windows 8.1 copy alongside several utilities with the hardware. "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 Michael Fourre.
"The primary target usage of the Sharks Cove board is for development of subsystems for Intel Atom based Tablets and Mobile devices, but this development board can be used for any Windows or Android-based system which uses the Atom processor," according to the Sharks Cove. It is up for pre-orders and will start shipping later this month.