Print 35 comment(s) - last by ekv.. on Dec 23 at 10:46 PM

Microsoft will reportedly announced in a couple weeks a new version of Windows, which runs on ARM CPUs, like Apple's iOS. The OS will be put on new Windows tablets, geared to compete with the best-selling iPad.
Intel can't be happy with this news

While Windows Phone 7 runs happily on ARM-architecture processors, suffice it to say that no traditional version of Windows has ever run on an ARM CPU.  But according to reports, Microsoft Corp. is preparing a full fledged ARM-based Windows in an attempt to capture tablet market share.

According to 
Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft has reached an understanding with ARM Holdings Plc. and will announce the coming operating system at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, likely during CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote.

The shift seems a logical one.  For mobile applications, ARM is a particularly good fit.  It features much lower power consumption and similar clock speeds versus the rival x86 architecture.  While Intel has come a long way with its low voltage x86 Atom platform, it still lags behind ARM's designs in power efficiency.

In the long run, the announcement of an ARM-based Windows could spell very bad news for Intel, and to a lesser extent smaller competitor Advanced Micro Devices. 

The irony there is that Intel used to produce ARM CPUs, but in what now looks like an unwise move, it divested itself of those holdings.  After purchasing the Digital Equipment Company (DEC), Intel continued to design and produce the company's ARM-based "StrongARM" processors for mobile devices.  In 2000 it transitioned to a newly named line of ARM CPUs called XScale.  

But in 2006 it sold its XScale mobile processor unit to Marvell.  An XScale processor is found in the Blackberry Torch, among other devices.  To this day Intel and Marvell still co-own some XScale processor lines -- but only network processors, embedded processors and their ilk.  Intel firmly passed away its rights to mobile ARM designs -- a move it likely is now beginning to regret.

Furthering Intel's troubles has been its laggard pace at pushing out improvements to its Atom platform.  Microsoft had hoped to release Windows tablets this year, but delays to Intel's Windows-compatible Oak Trail (Atom) platform dashed those hopes. 

Currently the biggest ARM CPU makers are Qualcomm Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., Marvell Technology Group, and Samsung Electronics Co.

Robert Breza, a Minneapolis-based analyst for RBC Capital Markets, estimates that an ARM-powered Windows tablet would be as cheap as the iPad and could take 10 to 20 percent of an estimated 50 million unit tablet market last year.  But he says the company has to deliver, commenting, "They've got to come back with a product that’s better than 'me too' and is equal if not better in features.  A lot of tablets today are inferior to PCs."

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Well this half explains microsofts tablet strategy
By DanNeely on 12/22/2010 9:46:44 AM , Rating: 2
They've still got the problem that 99% of 3rd party windows 7 applications are borderline unusable on a touch screen, but if the upcoming generation of ARM CPUs can run Win7 at an acceptable performance level (I'm skeptical) than the battery life gap should be greatly reduced.

By MonkeyPaw on 12/22/2010 10:08:42 AM , Rating: 2
That's the thing, WM7 already has 4000 apps, and these should be as scalable as iPhone apps (if MS did their homework). Also, x86 has so much legacy baggage that keeps it from being a low-power efficient architecture. That's probably what has delayed Atom improvements. Intel is probably missing thier power goals. Even still, you can get 7-10 hours on properly designed x86 notebooks and netbooks today, so I don't see MS having a problem making a W7 tablet to rival iPad. I would see the OS look something like a W7 meets WM7. If nothing else, a tablet with a highly functional office suite would be downright awesome.

By DanNeely on 12/22/2010 2:34:13 PM , Rating: 2
Intel's Oaktrail platform is in manufacturing now and due out Q1 2011, and should have idle power consumption levels slightly higher than top end ARM devices which isn't unreasonable since the sample Anand got to play with over the summer was significantly faster than any arm SOC in used at the time. The issue is that it was built around the first low power optimized process that Intel has ever used. I'd put likely delays on that, not the chip design itself (which was mostly adding a zillion extra power gates).

RE: Well this half explains microsofts tablet strategy
By Flunk on 12/22/2010 10:50:11 AM , Rating: 2
This will not be Windows 7, but a new Windows focused on touchscreen tablets. It will probably be closer to, if not based on Windows Phone 7.

By phatboye on 12/22/2010 3:07:04 PM , Rating: 2
How do you know that? What are your sources? As WM7 is already able to run on ARM chips and has been designed around Phones and tablets it sounds to me that this is a port of Windows OS itself and not WM7 but we will not know until MS makes the announcement.

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