Microsoft Readies Windows for ARM Microprocessors - Report

Microsoft May Unveil a Windows for Tablets at CES

by Anton Shilov
12/21/2010 | 03:29 PM

Microsoft Corp. is reportedly preparing to unveil a version of Windows operating system designed for processors based on ARM architecture. The details are extremely sketchy at this point and it is unclear whether Microsoft intends to unveil Windows 7 for tablets or a flavour of Windows Phone 7 for PCs in slate form-factors. The public showcase is projected to be scheduled for CES.


According to confidential plans of Microsoft, the world's largest software maker intends to roll-out a version of Windows operating system (OS) for microprocessors featuring ARM architecture for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show, reports Bloomberg news-agency. Since Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 is indeed aimed at ARM chips that power the vast majority of smartphones, it is logical to assume that the version to be unveiled is aimed at tablets or ultra low-cost systems in clamshell form-factor.

The report states that the forthcoming operating system will be able to work with x86 microprocessors by Advanced Micro Devices and Intel Corp., which may mean that eventually Microsoft's OSs will generally be platform and microprocessor agnostic, something that has been rumoured for some time. Keeping in mind that partners of ARM, AMD and Intel either offer or plan to offer system-on-chips for tablets (and not desktops or notebooks), Microsoft's first "universal" OS may be aimed specifically at slates.

It should be noted that while Windows Windows OS may be ported onto ARM architecture, all the applications that have ever been developed for Windows are designed for x86 as well as specific extensions and they will not run in native mode on other architectures; meanwhile, ARM-based chips do not provide enough performance to run those apps using software emulation.

With all the limitations that ARM-based central processing units have, it is logical to assume that a Microsoft operating system capable of running on both ARM and x86 will be mostly designed for mobile devices, primarily slates and netbooks, that do not need additional software. But on the other hand it is not completely clear how Microsoft plans to attract attention to its tablet platform with zero amount of ARM-compatible software unless the company manages to come up with some kind of emulation technology for both Windows and Windows Mobile apps.