Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday finally confirmed that its next-generation Windows 8 operating system will be able to run both on traditional x86-based microprocessors designed by Advanced Micro Devices, Intel Corp. or Via Technologies, but also on various of ARM-architecture chips developed by tens of companies around the world.
During the announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft demonstrated the next version of Windows running on new system-on-chip platforms from Intel running on x86 architecture and from Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments on ARM architecture. The technology demonstration included Windows client support across a range of scenarios, such as hardware-accelerated graphics and media playback, hardware-accelerated Web browsing with the latest Microsoft Internet Explorer, USB device support, printing and other features customers have come to expect from their computing experience. Microsoft Office running natively on ARM was also shown as a demonstration of the potential of Windows platform capabilities on ARM architecture. Quite naturally, third-party applications tailored for x86 were not a part of the demonstration.
“With today’s announcement, we’re showing the flexibility and resiliency of Windows through the power of software and a commitment to world-class engineering. We continue to evolve Windows to deliver the functionality customers demand across the widest variety of hardware platforms and form factors,” said Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft.
Even though Microsoft Windows for smartphones and personal digital assistants support ARM processors, versions of Windows for desktops and notebooks have never supported ARM. The decision of Microsoft to enable support of non-x86 architecture can be explained by the fact that ARM-based SoCs are getting more powerful and eventually they will not only be able to be used inside tablet PCs, but also inside of laptops or even desktops.
The Dutch subsidiary of Microsoft posted a note in late October, which reads that the world's largest software maker is working on Windows 8, but that the new operating system is not to be released for about two years. This is by far not the first time when Microsoft itself or its alleged employees reveal launch timeframe of Windows 8. Back in late 2009 it transpired that Microsoft planned to release Windows 8 in 2012 and information that emerged in early 2010 claimed that the new operating system was due in mid-2011.
One of the key features of Windows 8 will be very fast boot time or even instant-on feature, reports Neowin.net web-site. In addition, Microsoft plans to implement various performance optimizations in order to make the operating system (OS) more responsive. Considering that more and more computers now integrate web cameras, Windows 8 will feature facial recognition technology. Also, the next-gen OS will leverage usage of Bluetooth 3.0, USB 3.0 and other high-speed interfaces.
Microsoft will target four PC form-factors – desktop, laptop, all-in-one desktop and slate. It can be expected that Windows 8 graphics user interface will either be customizable or will be generally very flexible to satisfy completely different users. Given that tablets are already getting popular, it may be crucial for Microsoft to release Windows 8 rather sooner than later.