LAS VEGAS—Microsoft Corp. said Wednesday (Jan. 5) that the next version of its Windows operating system will support ARM-based chips, confirming months of speculation that the software giant would broaden support for Windows beyond x86 platforms.
The next version of Windows—presumably to be called Windows 8—will run on ARM-based SoCs from Microsoft partners Nvidia Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc., as well as x86 architecture products from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Microsoft announced at a press event on the eve of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
"Windows support for SoCs is an important step for Microsoft and for the industry," said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, in his annual pre-CES keynote address Wednesday (Jan. 5). "Increasingly, people want a Windows experience on all of their devices."
Microsoft had for years resisted calls for the company to add support of ARM-based devices to Windows—though Windows CE has supported ARM devices for some time. Lack of Windows support was once seen as limiting the growth potential of netbooks and other lower cost devices that use ARM-based devices. However, the emergence of Google Inc.'s Android operating system—and its subsequent momentum—changed the equation, and likely persuaded Microsoft to act to stem Android's momentum and open the door for the company to new kinds of low cost, low power products like tablets.
On Wednesday, Microsoft executives showed demonstrations of a still-in-development form of the next Windows running on machines powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon, Nvidia's Tegra and TI's OMAP. Microsoft did not say when the next version of Windows would be available, or disclose any other features of the forthcoming operating system. The demonstrations of the next generation windows running on computers with ARM-based SoCs used the same user interface as Windows 7.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivers CES keynote Wednesday.
Windows support for ARM is considered a game changer that could cut into Intel's dominant position in the microprocessor market and further ratchet up the competition between Intel and ARM. But it is believes that x86 will still have a leg up running Windows, as many applications and tools have hooks into the x86 that would give Intel—as well as AMD and Via Technologies—advantages in some markets. On Wednesday, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Mike Angiulo showed demonstrations of Windows 7 running on systems with Intel's recently launched second-generation Core processors that take advantage of the graphics acceleration technology offered by those chips.
"We are entering a new era for consumers where you can use Windows anywhere you go from the small screen to the big screen," Ballmer said Wednesday.
Dr. MP Divakar, I could be wrong about the desire for a Windows environment. But what I am very confident about is that users will not want to up and down convert files going from one platform to the next. Regardless of what the environment is (HW or SW), users will want complete interoperability.
I used a number of CE devices in years past and I really found them useful, except for the fact that the formats had to be converted and the CE applications were significantly feature stunted. Not just reduced feature set, but stunted. The version of "Word" for CE was only slightly more usable than is notepad. That's not going to cut it.
@Duane Benson: I have to disagree on your observation that most people would like to see window's environment on tablets. Windows including CE-version is an OS that was never optimized for haptics-based instructions to the processor. As some one else remarked in this forum, I hope Microsoft guts most of the bloated OS blocks and writes new, optimized (& more importantly crash-proof!) code for the handhelds.
The last thing I want to see is a blue screen with text on my tablet! My Windows7 on a Toshiba laptop crashes so often that I use my backup desktop with XP!
Dr. MP Divakar
So anyone who complains about anything is a "hater"??? How odd. Or is this reserved for those of us who want to see Microsoft fail? Either way, Microsoft has made thousands of claims and statements about what markets they are going to enter and dominate, and most of what they have said has been shown over time to be false. Microsoft is destroying the US and world economies with their do nothing operating system software that costs $320 a license. Microsoft is destroying the US by their tight fisted monopoly that is taking software development in the wrong direction. Microsoft's illegal business practices have cost the US and world economies trillions and I'm not happy about it. The media is also to blame. For years they claimed Vista was a great success, but now we find out Vista never had more than 14% of the desktop PC market. And for all the current lies out of Redmond, XP still holds supreme on over 60% of desktops. So if I'm a hater, then let's just apply the label "liar" to Microsoft.
I have never actually met anyone who wanted a Microsoft Windows experience at all. People greet the names "Microsoft" and "Windows" with curse words. No we don't want anything with Microsoft in it. What we want is for any and all other companies to continue to thrive in the tablet, netbook, or smart phone market. We can learn to use whatever interface is provided but what we can't stand is for the company that has destroyed worldwide productivity for over a decade to continue their shameless act.
I use Windows on almost every computer I have, so I'm not a MS hater - but what's the point of doing this? Only some software will be recompiled for the ARM architecture so you won't have the huge range of software we already have for the x86 platform. We already have numerous Linux and Android builds that run well on ARM and x86, with a huge amount of software available. This is just wasting time and resources.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.