With a flood of ARM-based netbooks coming to the market starting somewhere end of this year, many hope it will be another opportunity for Linux to get some mainstream exposure. Since “normal” Windows doesn’t run on ARM, Linux is the only obvious choice. Right? Well, Warren East, president and CEO of ARM Holdings plc, has been dropping hints that Windows might make its way to ARM after all. At least, that’s what EETimes is concluding.
I find “dropping hints” far too strong a designation for the comments highlighted by EETimes. During a conference call, East said that “Microsoft will continue to play an important part in this [netbook] space. If there was Windows support for the ARM processor today clearly it would be a very different marketplace.” He then added: “Perhaps there will be support in future but that’s really for Microsoft to comment on and not for us to comment on, I’m afraid.”
From this, the EETimes concludes that Windows 7 might make its way onto the ARM architecture so that it can be used on all those netbooks coming out later this year. I find this a rather weird conclusion, simply because offering a version of Windows 7 for ARM would only be a very tiny part of the puzzle.
Because Linux relies on open source technology, getting it and all its applications to run on ARM is elementary – in fact, many distributions are already hard at work on full-blown ARM variants. For the Windows platform, all this is a lot more difficult, probably impossible. Even when you make the enormous assumption that Windows 7 will indeed be ported to run on ARM, what about Office? What about all of Microsoft’s other software packages? And that’s just Microsoft – what about the immense pool of 3rd party applications for the Windows platform?
The article on the history of OS migration Kroc covered a few days ago might bring some solutions, as it details several techniques used in the past, but I find it highly improbable that Microsoft would go through all the trouble of setting up one of those solutions for a currently completely non-existent segment of the market.
While some may hope for Windows 7 for ARM, it most likely won’t happen any time soon.