Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 5th Jan 2011 22:09 UTC
Windows And this is part two of the story: Microsoft has just confirmed the next version of Windows NT (referring to it as NT for clarity's sake) will be available for ARM - or more specifically, SoCs from NVIDIA, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments. Also announced today at CES is Microsoft Office for ARM. Both Windows NT and Microsoft Office were shown running on ARM during a press conference for the fact at CES in Las Vegas.
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No downside for Microsoft.
by Ravyne on Thu 6th Jan 2011 01:13 UTC
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I've been claiming that ARM is the biggest competitive threat that x86/x64 has ever seen pretty much since ARM's A8 core, when it was clear to me that they were eying ever higher performance. Intel confirmed the threat with Atom, and now Microsoft has endoresed ARM's march into the x86 stronghold.

We've already seen niche thintop and netbooks based on ARM, servers are announced and nVidia says their high-end ARM design will find its way into fuller-featured laptops and even the desktop. Exactly as I was predicting around the time Atom was announced.

Windows 8 "for SOCs" as they are saying, is actually a pretty interesting product, and supporting a limited number of SOCs means that the number of hardware permutations is much lower, and a known quantity. They can also throw away tons of cruft -- no BIOS, no AGP, PCI or ISA -- but more importantly, no need to support every device ever conceived and built.

On the software side, port Windows itself, Microsoft's First-party stuff, .Net, and get some primary ISVs involved and most people will be happy -- particularly users of iPad-like tablets or i-ified netbooks, who's usage/input model essentially demands new apps anyhow -- people who live on the net and enjoy a few focused, snack-size apps.

Even if Windows 8 on ARM SOCs fails to oust the PC from its traditional space, Microsoft still wins because they'll have succeeded in migrating mobile devices off of a Windows CE-based OS and onto an NT-based OS. One code-base to move forward, mostly-overlapping APIs -- CE will hang on for awhile longer, ultimately, but be relegated to industrial-type uses, probably even morphing into an RTOS. Windows NT will be the only consumer / business -facing OS.

On the other hand, if it succeeds, Microsoft gains an exit strategy if x86 ever tops out, or programming models change so drastically anyhow that it no longer makes sense to be tied down to the legacy processor.

Reply Score: 2

RE: No downside for Microsoft.
by vivainio on Thu 6th Jan 2011 01:29 in reply to "No downside for Microsoft."
vivainio Member since:

On the other hand, if it succeeds, Microsoft gains an exit strategy if x86 ever tops out, or programming models change so drastically anyhow that it no longer makes sense to be tied down to the legacy processor.

I don't see how ARM would deal with upcoming programming models better than x86.

For now, ARM systems are cheaper and have more mature power management, but they are far away from x86 in performance. Calling x86 "legacy" in this light is a bit preposterous.

Reply Parent Score: 8

galvanash Member since:

Totally agree there. It's natural that everyone get excited by announcements like this, but ARM is still ARM - its got a lot of things going for it but has a LONG way to go to compete with x86 on pure performance.

ARM is good enough at what it does that I think it could easily become a serious player for systems where power use is critical, but it will have to undergo quite a lot of changes to compete on pure horsepower. I'm not an EE, but I would bet that mechanics of making a built-for-speed chip use less power (i.e. Atom/Bobcat) is a lot easier to tackle than the other way around.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Ravyne Member since:

Arm doesn't deal better, and that's kind of the point -- no traditional CPU does or likely ever will. The closest paradigm shift on the horizon is GPGPU, and specifically heterogenous on-chip computing (AMDs Fusion, Nvidia's Tegra2 and Project Denver announcement). The first of these products look like CPUs with little GPUs attached, but over time that will shift towards looking a lot more like big GPUs with little CPUs attached.

Ultimately there's a limit on how many 'serial' processors (heretofore "CPUs") are useful in a system. parallel processors (heretofore "GPUs") on the other hand, are happy to spread the load across as many computing elements as they have available. Tasks for the GPU are high-throughput data parallel, while tasks suitable for the CPU are, comparatively, low throughput and data-serial or I/O bound -- there's only so much actual compute work to be spread around. Paralell tasks are also the 'sexy' ones -- graphics, gaming, HPC and the Serial tasks are not. Eventually, the CPU will become little more than a traffic-cop routing data into and out-of the GPU.

Now, this, in and of itself is not good for ARM -- they're in no better position than x86, or MIPS or Sparc. What makes this a good thing for ARM is that we are nearing an inflection point where the traditional hardware ISA compatability isn't going to amount to much. Its not actually true that Sparc or MIPS has as good a chance as ARM -- neither are a 'consumer-facing' architecture, yes, only geeks know or care about ARM vs x86, but by consumer-facing I mean that ARM runs what the typical user desires (email, facebook, flash content, streaming video) and does it in form-factors that are popular and while undercutting the competition on price. When the CPU architecture no longer matters a great deal, the x86 (and specifically intel) market share is so high that it can only decline. My argument is that only ARM will be there to pick up the pieces if or when that happens.

There's something of a perfect storm aligning against the traditional lockin Intel and x86 have enjoyed -- heterogenous computing (Fusion, Cuda, OpenCL), the 'cloud', a shift away from desktops to laptops (and eventually smaller iPhone-like devices) -- ARM is ready for this.

Reply Parent Score: 1

Kivada Member since:

Initially it'll be the low raw crunch servers,

Think that, but with 8x 2.5Ghz Cortex A15 based quads with 256Gb+ of ram running Windows Server 2012 for ARM.

It's a scary thought, but thats what we'll be seeing.

I'll probably be another 2+ years before Win8 on ARM would be all that useful for general consumers though as it'll take some time for the non business apps to filter in.

Reply Parent Score: 1