SAN JOSE – Microsoft's move to put Windows on ARM processors will result in a fragmented set of four environments, none of which will run legacy PC Windows apps, said Intel executives. Separately Intel said it will roll out this fall software from McAfee to enable a new level of security on its processors.
Supporting Windows 8 could cost ARM companies billions, said Intel chief executive Paul Otellini at an annual analyst meeting here. Microsoft announced in January its next version of Windows will support ARM chips.
"Yes, the ARM guys are getting a port to Windows, but it's really four ports [because] every OS has to be written to a chip so Microsoft is really doing four ports of Windows to ARM," he said.
Otellini did not describe the four versions of Windows for ARM. He showed slides suggesting they could be targeted to specific versions of the ARM core or SoC implementations of the cores from ARM licensees.
Renee James, general manager of Intel's software and services group described two major variants of Windows 8—a traditional PC version and for versions for ARM SoCs.
The PC version will support legacy PC apps and have a Windows 7 compatibility mode, she said. The ARM SoC versions deliver a new mobile experience optimized for tablet and clamshell systems and "will not be running legacy apps not now or ever," James said.
The ARM SoC version of Windows 8 will also run on Intel's x86 chips, she said. Intel has no intentions of using its license to build ARM chips, added Otellini.
Separately, Intel will roll out in the third quarter software from McAfee for creating trusted operating system or virtual machine environments. The software resides below the level of the OS or hypervisor and extends to those environments the hardware root of trust built into Intel's chips.
Intel has long supported the hardware root of trust defined by the Trusted Computing Group, an industry standards alliance. But to date major operating systems such as Windows have not enabled extending that level of security beyond the hardware.
"We can harden the system architecture to dramatically minimize the growing malware threat," said David DeWalt, president of Intel's McAfee subsidiary, officially acquired in late February. "There is no way we can watch malware growth with the same security model" in use today, he said.
Enabling the CPU-based security model was on rationale for Intel's $7.68 billion bid to acquire McAfee, a deal announced in August. The group now makes up 34 percent of Intel's 9,000-person software and services unit.
McAfee is also moving quickly to extend its software with Intel's help into new x86 and embedded designs. Intel already announced it is embedding McAfee security agents into the kernel of VxWorks and other products from its Wind River subsidiary.