Microsoft Set to announce plans for ARM at CES

Bloomberg has reported that Microsoft may announce, and perhaps demonstrate (WSJ), a version of their Windows OS for ARM chips at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  While Microsoft is officially not commenting before the official event, it is expected their efforts will target low-power devices and adds support for a range of both ARM and x86 (both Intel and AMD) based chips.

ARM support would be significant for portable devices, as the company’s chip designs provide both a cost and power efficiency advantage over x86 based systems.  This allows for significantly longer battery life and more competitive price points that would finally let Microsoft compete with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android in portable devices such as Smart phones, Tablets/Slates, and potentially other devices like netbooks.

Microsoft’s long term plans for ARM have been in question since they established a licensing agreement with ARM back in July, but there is no question they are taking development in the ARM device field seriously.  But whether this will be an actual version of  MS Windows, or another variant of their already ARM-compatible Windows CE or Windows Embedded Compact 7 operating systems remains to be seen.

The company has been offering Windows CE-based operating systems such as Pocket PC, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone 7 for more than a decade, and while these operating systems run quite well on ARM-based chips, they can’t run most apps developed for the desktop version of Windows.

A full OS implementation will likely take at least another two years as they develop the required driver database and go through the normal OS development phases. So in some ways, it seems likely that anything Microsoft would be ready to announce next month would be Windows CE-related. On the other hand, ARM chips have come a long way in the last few years, offering multicore processing and high clock speeds. Maybe it is time for a full-fledged Windows OS that can run on ARM-based systems.

  • Guest 2

    Whatever it is, it shouldn’t be Windows Phone 7 or Embedded. It has
    to be Windows 7.

    I’ve been using MS’s OSes for handheld devices for a very long time.
    They are NOT the same as Windows for desktop/laptop PCs. There
    have been file compatibility problems between programs running on
    such devices and the “real deal” running on desktops/laptops. So
    for the most part, using these handheld devices has been a PITA
    (pain in the a–).

    The only way to get around this annoying file compatibility problem
    is to run the exact same apps on both the mobile device and the
    main desktop/laptop. That way, you don’t need to worry about
    syncing (unless the program is the type that requires syncing, such
    as a PIM or personal information manager, but that’s another story
    for another day), or even worse, translation.

    If both platforms run the exact same software, ust copy the file onto the digital media card of the mobile device, and stick that card in the main desktop/laptop.

    Or better yet, stick the device in a USB port of the main desktop/
    laptop, and have that device show up as a hard disk and just
    drag and drop.

    • Anonymous

      Actually, the unofficial idea running around is that MS may plan Windows 8, which is due out sometime in 2012, to be either cross platform or offer a version that will run on ARM. But until MS makes their official announcement it’s all speculation at this point but CES is just about 2 weeks from now and then we’ll know what they’re actually planning.

  • John Morris

    So will we see consistency when these (assuming a full port is in the works) ship and every review remind us that no existing Windows app will run on them? Because they won’t, even if ports appear all existing catalog is 100% certain to be left behind..

    And don’t bet on much getting ported anytime soon because this ain’t Microsoft’s first rodeo when it comes to ports. They have done MIPS, Alpha, PPC, Itanium and X86_64 so far. IE is ported to x86_64 but still not recommended for use because none of the plugins are available. Office has yet to be ported to anything. A few third party apps have been ported in the past but mostly limited to a few vertical and server apps. Unless the Microsoft toolchain starts building multiple arches automatically there won’t be many general purpose applications ported.

    Then there is the bigger problem. Microsoft is highly unlikely to port Windows, they will, if they do anything, do a semi port that will kinda run Windows but in an Xbox/iPhone locked environment with an app store where they can get in on the action of taking a share of the retail price of every application sold.