Windows 8 on ARM would be a win/win for both companies and could open up the computer market in ways we haven't seen in years.
SAN JOSE, Calif. – I know the bits on Windows 7 haven't even cooled yet, and here I am speculating on the next big thing already. But the fact is there hasn't been a version of Windows with anything truly hot in it for years and ARM support could be the juice Redmond badly needs.
Windows 8 and ARM is a marriage made in heaven. It would open doors for Microsoft to new kinds of low cost, low power products ranging from consumer tablets for Office weenies to Internet café systems in African villages. At this stage, a new market for a franchise like Windows is manna from above.
It's a good deal for ARM, too. The company has already been pushing beyond the smartphone with its quad-core ready A15 Eagle design that will be available in chips about the time Windows 8 ships.
Recently ARM trumpeted a desktop-like SoC from China. The startup's processor uses a 1.6 GHz dual-core Cortex A9, Mali graphics block and 64-bit memory bus and supports PCI Express, USB and serial ATA. All that's missing is Windows.
It would not be hard for Microsoft to run Windows on ARM. It has runs its Windows CE on ARM for years, so it has intimate knowledge of the hardware.
Microsoft licensed the ARM core recently, but didn't say why. One reason could be it wanted to get intimate knowledge of what a 64-bit ARM implementation would be like for Windows 8.
With ARM pushing toward desktop and even server markets, it will need to deliver a 64-bit core. Again, the Windows 8 timeframe would be about right.
I asked Jeff Chu, director of mobile computing for ARM what he thought about Windows 8 on ARM. "It would be a fantastic thing to see," he said.
Of course Windows on ARM doesn't erase the advantages of the x86, ARM's archrival. Many applications and tools would still have hooks into the x86 that would give Intel (and AMD and Via) an advantage in some markets.
But Windows 8 on ARM is the next major step to leveling the playing field between ARM and Intel in a market where they are bound for head-to-head competition.
So, I fully expect this software will emerge from the oven in about three years. But who knows, by that time a new generation addicted to iOS and Android gadgets might just ask, "What's Windows?"