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Microsoft Confirms ARM Support for Windows

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 33 comments

Who's ready for some Windows on ARM action?

There was a ton of rumors about Microsoft’s keynote speech last night and unfortunately, not all of them were true. One that did come to fruition was that the next version of Windows (which we’re all referring to as Windows 8) will support ARM. Microsoft yesterday confirmed that the next iteration of the company's OS would support System on a Chip (SoC) architectures including ARM-based systems from NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

It’s big news, but it’s about Windows 8, so don’t expect too much in the way of juicy details. However, Microsoft sent out a press release with a Q&A with Steven Sofinsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft and we were afforded a smidge more information regarding Windows on ARM. Sofinsky says hardware accelerated media playback and hardware accelerated Web browsing are among the things users can expect from Windows on ARM. There will, of course, also be Office for ARM, just in case you were starting to get worried.

“We’re committed to making sure that Windows on SoC architectures is a rich Windows experience," Sofinksy said. "Microsoft Office is an important part of customers’ PC experience and ensuring it runs natively on ARM is a natural extension of our Windows commitment to SoC architectures."

"We are making this announcement now to allow greater collaboration across our expanded partner ecosystem so we can bring to market the widest possible set of PCs and devices, from tablets on up, with the next generation of Windows."

Microsoft talked a little about SoC and Windows for ARM last night at its keynote so if you missed the online stream, check out the video below (via VentureBeat) for the 411.

Microsoft shows off ARM processors running Windows (VentureBeat)

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  • 2 Hide
    hellwig , January 6, 2011 3:58 PM
    Makes sense. I'm not really sure why Microsoft was so married to x86 save for the fact that until recently there wasn't really another competitor (PowerPC maybe, but that was basically Apple's field). I'd say Intel had something to do with it, but considering Microsoft has always played nice with AMD (though AMD is pretty tied to x86 too), I'm not really sure. Either way, if the world does move to "the cloud", Microsoft needs to find some way to stay relevant.

    The problem with ARM is that there's only so much return on investment. Intel and AMD are coming out with some pretty efficient x86 processors. Sure, they aren't in a phone-size form factor, yet, but they're getting down to tablet size for sure. The fact that my ARM-based cellphone cost more than a low-end (yet fully capable) x86-based laptop tells me ARM doesn't really have much room to play with in the computer market. Intel isn't making much profit off Atom, so what's left for ARM?
  • -2 Hide
    belardo , January 6, 2011 4:02 PM
    This is MS becoming afraid... But its good for Nvidia as it means computer sales for a CPU-GPU setup. This may save Nvidia's rear-end.

    Not seeing Win8 running that good, but then again - in another year or two; ARM CPUs will be 2-3 times more powerful than they are today. Of course, the Win8 will be an ARM version, with x86 code stripped out and who knows what junk.

    Otherwise, Google will come from behind and strangle MS with Android.
  • 2 Hide
    tipoo , January 6, 2011 4:12 PM
    With Nvidia's high performance ARM core announcement, this is very exciting.. I'm thinking of a Cell like processor with one or more cores (the ARM part) that tell everything else what to do, with thousands of CUDA/cores/stream processor units doing what they are instructed. Lets face it, we all thought Huang was a bit nutty when he said x86 processors are near their demise, but with this news...I'm not so sure.
  • -1 Hide
    blueeyesm , January 6, 2011 4:47 PM
    It'd be interesting to see Windows on a SoC, independent of a HDD. Having the OS interact with storage that's faster than a ATA or SSD should be interesting to say the least.
  • 0 Hide
    ryan156 , January 6, 2011 4:52 PM
    this can't be a co-incidence, Nvidia and Microcoft must have discussed this at length behind the scenes, Nvidia building desktop ARM processors to work with a newly compatible windows.
  • 0 Hide
    ProDigit10 , January 6, 2011 5:07 PM
    became time MS started to work on this!
  • 0 Hide
    milktea , January 6, 2011 5:18 PM
    hope it doesn't draw too much power, SOC on mobile runs on low power unlike the desktops
  • 2 Hide
    rhino13 , January 6, 2011 5:59 PM
    Great, more mac-like PCs who's closest feature to a game is farmville.
  • 0 Hide
    gamerk316 , January 6, 2011 6:00 PM
    So...I think Microsoft is TICKED that Intel didn't have a processor ready for them to use for Windows Phone 7...

    Good news for NVIDIA; they just gained the ability to make a custum ARM chip, and now ARM can run Windows?
  • 0 Hide
    Prescott_666 , January 6, 2011 6:07 PM
    ARM is 32-bits. That's plenty for the present generation of phones and tablets, but it is not enough for the next generation of netbooks let alone laptops, desktops and servers. It is at most two generations away from the end of ARM. ARM will have to somehow become 64-bit to make it for another 10 years. That's not much of a future. It's going to be 64-bits or forget it.
  • -4 Hide
    bunga28 , January 6, 2011 6:07 PM
    "There was a ton of rumors about Microsoft’s keynote speech last night and unfortunately, not all of them was true." I fixed for you. Thanks for playing.
  • -1 Hide
    gsacks , January 6, 2011 6:09 PM
    This seems logical. For most of the PC era, MS has had a virtual monopoly on the operating system market, and they used it very well (questionable anti-competitive vices aside) to leverage their positions in the desktop applications and browser markets. They didn't have to worry about responding to the market. The market had to respond to them. Now all of a sudden, with Apple and Google, and Intel (MeeGo) all making significant inroads in the fastest growing part of the market (mobile), Microsoft isn't calling all of the shots anymore. The scramble now actually resembles the early days of personal computers, when every PC maker had their own flavor of OS. Just far far fewer people cared back them.
  • 0 Hide
    whooleo , January 6, 2011 6:14 PM
    The kernel is 7867, looks like "Windows 8" won't see a major kernel upgrade or that is a future windows 7 version with ARM support. Looks like the other platforms besides nVidia can't run aero only aero basic and they seem a little slower.
  • 0 Hide
    whooleo , January 6, 2011 6:17 PM
    The current kernel with sp1 RC is 7601 so that's just Windows 7 ported over lol not windows 8 looks like we may see this sooner than expected...
  • 0 Hide
    tmk221 , January 6, 2011 6:22 PM
    ryan156this can't be a co-incidence, Nvidia and Microcoft must have discussed this at length behind the scenes, Nvidia building desktop ARM processors to work with a newly compatible windows.

    yea nvidia is a major player in arm segment just becouse they have announced a project about making arm cpu, wow really?
  • 0 Hide
    ethanolson , January 6, 2011 6:45 PM
    Dude, at an internal HP conference several months ago, Microsoft showed us an iPad running Windows natively (big Apple no-no) which they setup to prove that they could already do it. They can spend more time refining than developing in the raw. They've been ahead of everybody's expectations on this.
  • 0 Hide
    jprahman , January 6, 2011 6:47 PM
    Just because windows will run on ARM doesn't mean that all our Windows programs will run on it. At the very least you have to recompile a program, at worst you have to reprogram the parts of it that assumed a certain CPU arch with respect to things like integer representation, alignment, etc.

    This also means Micrsoft will have to modify their dev tools for this, although Visual Studio already supports ARM they probably need to work on better ARM code generation.

    Quote:
    yea nvidia is a major player in arm segment just becouse they have announced a project about making arm cpu, wow really?

    Well they already had Tegra and Tegra II. Yeah there aren't alot of devices using them, but it shows Nvidia's ability to produce a ARM soc. If it weren't for external market factors I'm sure it would have been in more devices already.

    To me the what's really cool about Windows 8 on ARM is now we can have low power ARM tablets that run a full desktop OS. No omre of these tablets that are nothing more than over sized smartphones that can't make calls.
  • 0 Hide
    digiex , January 6, 2011 6:56 PM
    M$ will divorce Intel...
  • 0 Hide
    wcooper007 , January 6, 2011 8:33 PM
    hellwigMakes sense. I'm not really sure why Microsoft was so married to x86 save for the fact that until recently there wasn't really another competitor (PowerPC maybe, but that was basically Apple's field). I'd say Intel had something to do with it, but considering Microsoft has always played nice with AMD (though AMD is pretty tied to x86 too), I'm not really sure. Either way, if the world does move to "the cloud", Microsoft needs to find some way to stay relevant.The problem with ARM is that there's only so much return on investment. Intel and AMD are coming out with some pretty efficient x86 processors. Sure, they aren't in a phone-size form factor, yet, but they're getting down to tablet size for sure. The fact that my ARM-based cellphone cost more than a low-end (yet fully capable) x86-based laptop tells me ARM doesn't really have much room to play with in the computer market. Intel isn't making much profit off Atom, so what's left for ARM?




    To state that intel was the main reason we are still on x86 instruction set is totally false. we can all thank AMD for that one when they released the amd64 procs that were 64 and x86.. intel was already deep into production of a new instruction set ala Itanium. and you can say that itanium is slow and all that but if you have ever got to sit down at a server running one they are faster than hell. but thanks to amd intel scrapped the desktop segment of itanium becuase the market wasnt ready to move away from 86 thanks to AMD and there backwards compatible crap so now we are all still running on x86 when if that processor wouldnt have come out we would all be on itanium based systems fyi

    Oh and i was told this from the designer at intel when i worked there a few years back right before the core 2 duo was released this is why intel was behind amd at that time becuase they were not even working on x86 anymore.
  • 0 Hide
    sykozis , January 6, 2011 9:12 PM
    WoW....someone that thinks Itanium was "faster than hell"... The Itanium processors had too many issues. The original Itanium completely lacked support for 32bit code. The second Itanium lacked a reasonable level of performance compared to the 32bit processors Intel was selling at the time of release. Also, Intel was developing the Pentium-4 line at the same time they were developing the original Itanium processor. And finally...Itanium was released before AMD64 development was even completed....
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