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Is Microsoft moving Windows to ARM?

Windows 7 orb

By Barry Collins

Posted on 23 Jul 2010 at 09:11

Microsoft has licensed the ARM architecture for the first time, in a move that could lead to Windows support for ARM processors.

Although Microsoft has offered mobile and embedded operating systems based on ARM processors in the past, this is the first time the company's had full access to the blueprint for the ARM instruction set. Only two other companies have an ARM architecture licence - Qualcomm and Marvell - both of which produce chips.

A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to elaborate on the company's plans, although there has been persistent speculation that the software giant may transition Windows to ARM processors, which are increasingly popular in low-powered netbook and tablet devices.

In a press statement announcing the deal, Microsoft's general manager KD Hallam states: “ARM is an important partner for Microsoft and we deliver multiple operating systems on the company’s architecture, most notably Windows Embedded and Windows Phone."

“With closer access to the ARM technology we will be able to enhance our research and development activities for ARM-based products."

ARM claims the deal is highly significant, but said it couldn't comment on Microsoft's plans for the architecture. "ARM's business model is about licensing cores," Ian Drew, ARM's executive vice president of marketing told PC Pro. "The is the first time Microsoft has taken an architectural licence from us."

"We can't speculate on what Microsoft is going to do," he added, claiming the terms of the deal are confidential.

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User comments

Could allow more flexible pricing

Microsoft could have an entirely different price structure for a Win7/ARM product making it much easier to differentiate than the current limited version of Windows 7 for netbooks.
In the end price features and performance are the key selling points for computers and if Microsoft does it well it could be spectacularly successful.
Moving to ARM would also allow them to dump all the legacy code and driver structures that impair the performance of Win7 on x86.

By milliganp on 23 Jul 2010

Good news

I can load Windows on my Acorn Archimedes!!

By cheysuli on 23 Jul 2010

Do what?

Microsoft is not moving Windows to ARM. Microsoft has simply extended the agreement it already has with ARM, a relationship that stretches back to 1997, so that it now has access to the full instruction set offered by ARM chips, rather than the relatively limited agreement that covers access to architecture and implementation. What this probably means is extended functionality for ARM supported devices or perhaps a toe in the water for smart devices like SmartMeters. Windows on ARM indeed.....

By ianreid99 on 23 Jul 2010

Microsoft use an ARM based processor in the Zune don't they? Could it be something as simple as them wanting to make their own processor as Apple now do? Perhaps they even release their own official windows phone and tablet running their new mobile OS, just as long as they don't try any novel antenna arrangements for the phone that would be nice.

By Shuflie on 23 Jul 2010

This move has been speculated about for some time. In the field of servers, the Intel architecture generates way too much heat and the ARM architecture offers the best tradeoffs for power consumption vs speed. When considering the hundreds or even thousands of servers that need to be air conditioned to keep them running, porting Windows server onto an Arm archiecture seems a natural move, plus the chip has a much smaller silicon foot print meaning more cores per chip. Linux is already running on ARM cores in datacenters so MS needs to play catch up, see

By pauld1024 on 24 Jul 2010

see also

By pauld1024 on 24 Jul 2010

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