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.
Regardless of what we feel about Microsoft and it's products, the statement: "Increasingly, people want a Windows experience on all of their devices" is largely true for the vast majority of computer users. I wouldn't extend that statement to phone users, but for future tablets and netbooks, I certainly would.
Given that ARM devices are approaching traditional PC territory, Microsoft doesn't really have a choice but to port Windows to the ARM platform. It will likely not be the most efficient, most secure or most reliable, but I would bet that it will be the biggest selling.
Re: "The next version of Windows—presumably to be called Windows 8"
As far as what it will be called, I wouldn't put money on "Windows 8" right now. Let's see. We had: Windows 1.X, Windows 2.X (renamed Windows 286), Windows 386 (renamed Windows 3.0), Windows 3.11, Windows 95, CE (renamed Windows Mobile at somewhere around V6), 98, NT, 2000, Me, XP, Windows Tablet PC, Windows Media Center, Vista and 7.
Given that sequence of names, I think it's pretty obvious that the next name in line is "Windows Bunny Rabbit."
Vaporware - more hot air from a company that excells at hot air, smoke, and mirrors. Microsoft's bloated and buggy code base will hardly run on a 3 GHz dual core desktop PC. They will never strip out enough of the bloat to make it operate on an ARM processor in a reliable manner. Microsoft's software is a nightmare of unreliability and security holes that should be kept from spreading like the virus that it is. As far as presuming that Microsoft's next living dead software will be called Windows 8. Ha! Maybe it will be called Vista 2 or Windows You. Their marketing people are not only deceptive, ala the unveiling of the latest XBox which was modified for the demonstration, they also have no concept of what a positive image consists of.
nteresting blog below by Bill Dally, Professor at Stanford University and Chief Scientist at nVIDIA... With WINDOWS now supporting ARM, existing ARM cores can power tablets and netbooks, but there is opportunity to develop a high-performance ARM core/chip for desktops, higher-end notebooks and servers. nVIDIA is doing it today, and I expect others (eg TI, Marvell, maybe even Apple or IBM, in partnership with ARM) to do the same. Processors for Windows PCs is a huge, profitable market!
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.