The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft is working on a new version of Windows that targets low-power devices using chip designs from UK-based ARM Holdings PLC while also supporting x86 chip technology provided by Intel and AMD.
According to the Journal, Microsoft has been working on the project for quite some time. The new OS is expected to be revealed at CES 2011 next month, however the software isn't slated to be ready for public consumption for another two years. Based on previous reports, the mystery Windows build may actually be Windows 8—also supposedly hitting the market in two years--rather than a separate tablet-oriented build.
Why could it be Windows 8? One source cited by the Wall Street Journal said that Microsoft was working to make Windows more "modular," allowing pieces of the OS that are unnecessary for smaller, low-power devices (tablets, smartphones) to be stripped away, making it more suitable and less bulky. As the Journal points out, this would make Windows similar to Apple's Mac OS X and its lightweight, watered-down offspring for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, Apple iOS.
Currently Microsoft hasn't officially confirmed Windows 8, nor did it comment on the news provided by the Journal. However Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer is expected to present a keynote speech at CES 2011 the night of January 5, showcasing the company's consumer technologies. Microsoft is also expected to hold a press conference that afternoon prior to Ballmer's speech. The new OS is expected to be revealed at either event.
Given that Windows 8 and the rumored ARM-oriented Windows isn't expected to appear for another two years, the notion of one, cloud-based, scalable OS makes more sense for Microsoft than developing two separate operating systems. Granted that wasn't the case with Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7, evidence suggests that Microsoft is taking cues from Apple as it spreads the Windows IP beyond the desktop and laptop.
Intel and ARM have also refused to comment on the Wall Street Journal's story.