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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RE: A question
By mforce on 12/22/2010 10:26:43 AM , Rating: 2
Current Windows apps are compiled to run on x86 CPUs. Apple had this problem when they made the switch from PowerPC to X86 and yes there are solutions like Apple had with Rosetta which is based on this
You do need some special software to translate from one instruction set to another.

RE: A question
By Flunk on 12/22/2010 10:48:57 AM , Rating: 2
Well, it is possible that .NET apps might. .NET is meant to be platform agnostic but based on the difference in interface I expect they will probably need some code changes.

RE: A question
By PsychoPif on 12/22/2010 12:42:26 PM , Rating: 2
MS would need a new Just-In-Time compiler, but I doubt developers would have to change much.

There is already a .Net framework for Windows Phone 7, which run on ARM, and you don't need any recoding to port your application from the phone to the PC. You just have limited fonctionality.

RE: A question
By omnicronx on 12/22/2010 1:02:38 PM , Rating: 2
.NETCF is a subset of .NET, so yes you can obviously port from phone applications to full blown desktop applications, just not the other way around.

As for JIT.. I'm not sure what you are talking about.. .NET in general heavily depends on JIT.. i.e why would they need a new JIT compiler? (in fact they already have two, standard JIT for optimized, and EconoJIT for unoptimized code with obvious speed increase)

RE: A question
By Shadowself on 12/23/2010 9:13:41 AM , Rating: 2
Apple had a version of OS X (and before that OS 8 & OS 9) running inside Apple on Intel based platforms for many years under the various code names (StarTrek was the biggest project). Apple admitted this openly when they announced "the switch" to Intel processors. The conversion to an Intel based platform from a Motorola/IBM platform (PowerPC) took several years. Not two.

And for those thinking of the Apple iOS... Apple once owned a significant fraction of Advanced RISC Machines (ARM). Apple sold of most of its stake in ARM back when they were nearly bankrupt just to stay afloat. Apple used an ARM chip in the original Newton. Apple spent many years working on variants of its operating systems for the ARM platforms. Additionally, Apple bought PA Semi to help fine tune the ARM processor for its mobile devices.

Developing for a new architecture -- even if you're basing the software on existing code -- is one hell of a lot of work.

Two years? I doubt it. Microsoft was late with XP and late with Vista (even after jettisoning many of the new core features). I find it very hard to believe they will ship a new mobile OS based on the ARM processor in two years.

RE: A question
By ekv on 12/23/2010 10:46:50 PM , Rating: 2
Two years? I doubt it.
Two points: we don't know how long MS has been considering this. However, they appear to be shooting for a release in two years. Secondly, MS already has some experience developing a "mobile OS", in fact a couple: CE versions (ala "kin") and WP7. [You could almost throw min-Win in as well, and who knows what other research versions there are].

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