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back to article Ballmer says Windows on ARM isn't about ARM

Windows 8 will be the first incarnation of Microsoft's flagship OS to run on ARM processors. But Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer prefers to paint this news a bit differently. He downplays the ARM bit. "This announcement is really all about enabling a new class of hardware and new silicon partners for Windows, to bring the widest …

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Pirate

"Developers, developers, developers...."

What, you thought he meant just x86? Balmer meant "any that can make M$ more money"! With their recent end-run on the schools just about complete (M$ now gets your children into the M$ habit nice and early, and that means they're more likley to buy Windoze later), M$ is nicely set to maintain their desktop advantage in at least the West for many years to come. Self-assured journos will go on and on about M$ not being the top dog in the mobile market, and M$ will calmly carry on making mega-profits elsewhere. And playing on ARM, Atom and just about every other SoC solution means M$ brings the advantages of that desktop dominance to the sub-PC market. Of all the players only Red Hat and maybe Android seems to offer any real options, even Apple has been reduced to a fanboi toystore.

I'm sure some will blather on about OLPC not being Windoze and Balmer will probably answer that OLPC is going into the type of poverty-stricken environments where desktop OS sales aren't really likely and are unlikley to be for a while. Countries will strive to have proper PCs rather than OLPC just for the sake of appearances, and M$ will be waiting with more "charitable contributions" and "university/school education schemes" to harvest those new and developing economies as they flower.

To all those happilly thinking the Beast is dying, I suggest you take another look.

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Anonymous Coward

Err...

Apple also seem to spend a whole load of cash on education and giving machines and software to schools.

Oh, and look I didn't call Apple a name - you post would be easier to take seriously if you dropped the childish name-calling.

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pardon my probable ignorace on the topic

But last I checked Apple did not gift machines to schools but rather gives them a more favorable price in terms of a bulk order. I haven't heard of them gifting machines to schools or non-profits. I remember an article on El reg some time back about a person who emailed jobs about something and prattled on about how Apple had done amazing things for education and how it was a travesty that Apple did not gift something or other. Jobs reply was I believe "that was never our purpose, Sent from my <iProduct>".

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Troll

See point 5

http://www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/29-tech-phrases-you-should-be-punched-in-the-face-for-using-534598

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Bronze badge
WTF?

Bloat on ARM?

I am not going into the ui side of things, the Windows ui is not made for touch devices.

Then you need a sleek OS for ARM, not the bloat they have! How can they hope compete against sleek OS's on ARM? Look at XP, 7 needs half the RAM of Vista because they fixed a Vista bug, but it is still "much" slower than XP ... and 8? What are they gonna do, trim Windows to a max like dropping 16Bit support? Mind you, it might have been time to do so 10 years ago ...

The only way this can succeed is, if they allow OEM's to really enable and disable every little feature in Windows 8. I know it is possible to hack the registry, but I doubt OEM's are gonna do that ... Maybe buy Windows8Lite? Even then, they have to re-design the ui from ground up ... no chance guyz, save investors money and forget about it ...

No fscking chance! Microsoft is the Titanic, heading straight at an iceberg, their only hope might be to hit it directly, not attempt to circumvent it ... I like Ballmer because I hate Microsoft!!

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Paris Hilton

@Hans 1 Re: Bloat on ARM?

"I am not going into the ui side of things, the Windows ui is not made for touch devices."

Last time I checked, I do most of my WORK on non-touch devices ... and I suspect most of the world does too? The point is ARM is moving into traditional Intel/AMD desktop PC territory!

Paris, cause she is an unbloated touch device with ARMs

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Bronze badge

16 bit support on ARM????

> What are they gonna do, trim Windows to a max like dropping 16Bit support?

That is an x86 thing. I suspect they will have a massive saving from doing away with all the x86 nastyness.

However, that would mean that old programs wouldn't run. That might be a stumbling block, unless they produced lite versions of their apps, that could be unlocked by keys from previous full versions of their apps.

I like the idea of being able to enable or disable every part of windows. If you disable all the bloat, I would expect a rock solid system, because if it actually works at all with all the garbage running, to core must be pretty sound.

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FAIL

re: 16 bit support on ARM????

No x86 binary will run natively. So you get Windows, Office, Notepad and paint.... Good Luck and enjoy...

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Reading between the lines..

Reading between the lines.. Windows Phone 7 Series could be short lived?

Sounds like Windows 8 could be a unified Windows OS (to a certain degree) across all devices - from Desktop to Phone.

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@Steven Bloomfield

My thoughts too ... maybe WP7 UI becomes a skin on top of W8? (Like the Android approach?)

Re: unified Windows OS, I would think this is M$'s only chance ... to exploit their desktop power in seamless interoperation with mobile devices. They tried in the past with Windows mobile and failed ... and now departed with WP7 ... but ultimately, the argument for having 100% seamless interoperability between desktop, laptop, slate and phone is pretty compelling! I would buy that becauze at least 8 hours a day of my working life is spent on M$ laptops/desktops and true seamless interoperability with my mobile devices would be make my life easier.

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FAIL

quick!

its a bandwagon, we must jump on it NOW

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Stop

to quote the late Sir James Goldsmith

"If you can see a bandwagon, it's too late - you've already missed it!"

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Grenade

Problematic running programs on ARM

This is going to be a major headache for both MS and the customers who run Windows on ARM. There will be lots and lots of programs that will never run on ARM unless MS also includes an x86 processor emulator ala when Macs switched from m68k to PPC and again when they switched from PPC to x86.

Emulating an x86 processor on an ARM (likely mobile) device will destroy battery life plus the fact that ARM processors aren't designed with the best possible speed in mind but low electricity use, so if they do add an x86 processor emulation layer for the programs that aren't compiled for ARM they'll likely run dog slow.

And there will be lots and lots of programs that won't be ported over to ARM. (OSS won't be a problem but commercial software will be very problematic)

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Thumb Up

Am I the only one...

... who sees this as a really positive development. ARM was originally conceived as a efficient lightweight replacement for an anachronistic processor in desktop systems and 25 years later the promise is finally coming to fruition.

I can't honestly see x86 emulation slowing anyone down either. How many of the windows programs which would normally be run on low-end PCs expect to use anything more than a tiny fraction of the CPU cycles anyway. The real hogs for the average office PC are Office and Internet Explorer both of which Microsoft have already got covered.

So yay! Go Microsoft!

(-- A veteran exclusively Linux desktop user)

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Maybe I hope too much...

What I hope this will mean is that we will eventually see an alternative architecture ie ARM in the desktop scene.

So, I am for this. Besides, masochistically enough, I've gotten used to writing stuff for windows.

I would never really use a tablet I suspect, nor a windows ARM netbook - while I take your point about battery life, I suspect your average non-game, non-compute intensive windows app would probably run acceptably fast enough if the emulation is somewhat decent.

Of course, I take the point that might be your definition of 'dog slow' ;) Remember macs had a similar predicament moving on to PPC from 68k and then again from PPC to intel. The emulation I saw there was... acceptable.

In fact, I still run some PPC apps on my intel mac because I'm too scabby to shell out for the new intel ones.

And then we have Android and java. Not quite the same thing, but obviously it's predominantly on low power arms, and on 2.1, there is no jitter and stuff still runs ok-ish.

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Office? Printing?

Couldn't they have demo'ed something more relevant than Office and a printer working. Personally, an Office application is the last thing I want to run on a small, portable form factor device. And as for having to install custom drivers for every printer device, in 2011 that's just idiocy: shouldn't we just have a standard page description and device control interface that exploits some of that small and cheap silicon built into the printer rather than suffering bloated "driver" installs.

Good example of example of why MSFT is losing relevance to the end user.

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Gates Halo

I don't know if you've noticed

but MS don't build printers. And there are already standards out there that can be used to let them all communicate page information from one computer to another. It's just that printer manufacturers don't use them.

And no-one said anything about portable form factor devices. You could have an ARM-based Windows machine embedded in the back of your monitor or in a set-top box or... well, pretty much anywhere that you have an ARM processor. That new tablet? Yup, it could run Windows. That wristwatch computer? Yup, there's Windows on that too. And all with 20 years of software development behind it. 20 years of productivity apps, games, Office documents with your special macros in it, EVERYTHING.

And, of course, there's the massive numbers of developers who create software for Windows. For free. Millions more than write software for the iOS devices, and a whole developing world of people who can make more of it. No stupid development licenses or program approvals- just write it and release it.

If you've got a decent Tablet, try it yourself- use VNC or RDP or something similar to establish a connection with your desktop PC. When you've got a decent redraw rate, it feels like the not-too-distant future...

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Gates Horns

Great

"Whatever device you use, now or in the future, Windows will be there," he said.

Well that's just fucking great. Windows is like a turd you just can't flush.

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Charlie Brooker said it better

"Windows is like the faint smell of piss in a subway - it's there, and there's nothing you can do about it."

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Joke

maybe...

...they were refering to the environmetal awareness panels you can hurl yourself through when it all gets a bit too much?

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Silver badge
Grenade

An Alien Concept for those who would Aspire and even Conspire to be Better than just well ARMed.

""This announcement is really all about enabling a new class of hardware and new silicon partners for Windows, to bring the widest possible range of form factors to the market," Ballmer said during a Wednesday evening keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas."

Yes, well, that is just so typical of Steve and Microsoft to totally miss the point, and misstate the leading wave, for what he should have said to send Windows 8OS into new proprietary territory, and the markets into a immediate spin and feeding frenzy, is ......... This announcement is really all about enabling a new class of partner with new silicon hardware for Windows, to bring the widest possible range of phorm factors to the market.

Obvious all of the above now introduces and reveals a new meme and IT players able to do what Steve and Microsoft have failed to do, and as accurately described in the above correction/extension/extrapolation, as they potter about elsewhere on the fringes of virtual developments, which is where everyone plays whenever they are always trying to catch up with the opposition and competition. And that does appear to be, and has been for some considerable length of time, the Microsoft/Ballmer default position.

Obviously new blood/thoughts and ideas are needed at the top executive and board room levels and that is easily bought and brought in with fistsful of dollars, which rather than being drain and dilution on cash resources, would instantly be a novel, no cost internal investment in a new paradigm with AI promising powerful potential .

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Anonymous Coward

why is everyone down on ♂¬♂

He reminds me of adverts in Philip K Dick books

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Pint

Really?

I find it hard it to even bring myself to pay attention to anything Barmy B. comes out with these days.

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Big Brother

Netbook FUD all over again

I can't help thinking that this is Microsoft trying to stop ARM systems in their tracks.

Remember how the first Netbooks came out with Linux installed OOTB. Then MS came in and put the frighteners on the likes of ASUS and suddenly the only Netbooks you could buy had XP and were also limited in their memory etc.

I'd love to be proven wrong though.

BB == Microsoft. "You will only sel the system I tell you to"

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@Steve Davies 3

I think you will be proven wrong ... the 'internet of things' is around the corner and ARM chips will be powering a lot of that. There will be a lot more microprocessors being soled for 'things' than PC's in the future, and M$ needs to play in that market. If they don't, then the mobile players will (remember M$ are nowhere here) and Google et al will soon be encroaching on M$ traditional PC and server market with their offerings. M$ cannot afford not to do this. What is most telling is just how much they played down the Intel relationship as becoming less important ... certainly the market did not miss the reality here and piled into ARM shares while Intel dropped. The issue here is not so much about M$, but that ARM is really the future and Intel isn't!

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

"There will be a lot more microprocessors being soled for 'things' than PC's in the future,"

Well a microprocessor boots I suppose. :-)

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WTF?

to sum this up

Microsoft compiles their crap for a different CPU architecture and calls that innovative.

Is it just me or is anyone else missing the "innovative" part of this announcement?

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Anonymous Coward

It is

It's as innovative as Micro$hit gets - they're used to borging their products which is when they start to fall apart.

I've met some M$ developers and to a man, they were all arrogant and nowhere near as skilled as their alleged peers. The arrogance is built-in with the company ethos and to me, arrogance is where ability and confidence diverge (ability taking a big trip south)

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FAIL

Testicles !

It's about the final break-up of the Wintel alliance by market forces. If they don't do ARM he knows that they are sunk, if they do ARM then x86 has a real problem and thus the cosy relationship with Intel.

Look out for Intel Linux appearing embedded in their chipsets ?

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Alert

Well...

They can't very well levy a Windows tax on all those Android ARM tablets their hardware partners are shipping if Windows doesn't even run on them... can they?

And to the people who were all saying "no, no! The iPad is not a computer!": neener neener.

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Happy

@Mikel

"They can't very well levy a Windows tax on all those Android ARM tablets their hardware partners are shipping if Windows doesn't even run on them... can they?"

I think they probably can, look what happened in the Netbook market. Personally I bought a linux based netbook and then dual-booted it to Windows so that I could run the tools I need for work (I'm a DBA).

I've been surprised at the uptake of tablet devices. In the corporate world they're still quite flawed due to lack of VPN clients, enterprise security support etc etc. Running Windows on these potentially gets around a lot of that.

Lastly devices like the Dell Inspiron Duo would be very interesting at a lower-price point.

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Linux

Not a shot in the ARM

They're not worried about ARM, it's just they are worried that they don't have anything they can put on the cheap slabs coming out of the Far East. These are less susceptible to the, er, blackmail previously encountered but are now being supplied with Android.

These aren't going to get their expensive ported software on, and the though of an x86 emulator is a backward move. Android is more designed to be light and agile, not heavy and bloated. I wonder how all the extra "services" you need to run will affect performance under Windows? Like a slug on valium perhaps?

Penguin - cos you haven't got an Android pic.

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Paris Hilton

Oh we are doing it coz ...?

It seems a shame.

The announcement has no convincing, inspiring, sincere vision apart from confirming what others are already doing in a me-too catch-up ketchup way of things?

Where Mr G inspired with dreams of things to come and what we can do with them tomorrow Mr B describes a base janitorial issue that might indeed dilute potential of tomorrow's worthinesses.

Plus it overlooks that all initiatives really require partnership of some form anyway.

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dct
FAIL

is it the '90s again

been there, done that... Windows NT ran on Intel, Alpha, PPC and MIPS processors (they had to be little-endian as there was so much bad code in the OS they could never hope to sort it out for a big-endian processor)

The problem was windows only strength (even back then) was its legacy apps, which only ran on Intel. None of they key apps (including microsofts!) ran on the other architectures, so no one bought them, so no one ported their apps. Emulation was decent, but made the excellent alternative processors slower than their cheaper low end intel competitors.

They never nailed multi-cpu the way Apple did (good cross platform dev tools, fat binaries, good emulation and multiplatform install media), and the cpu support was dropped one by one.

MS so don't get it, if they think people want Office on their phones/tablets. Desktop+laptop != tablet+phone.

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Silver badge

Alpha emulation

The Alpha emulation was pretty advanced for the time, and the much faster processor meant apps nearly ran OK. Was also JIT I believe - first run it did the translation, subsequent runs it optimised, so the apps got faster and faster.

The Alpha NT machines were nice pieces of kit, esp. when running native code.

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Silver badge

Alpha NT

First 64bit NT/Windows too was for DEC alpha. 1997?

DEC developed the NT Cluster. I first installed Cluster in 1999 I think.

Windows 8 must be a complete re-write. There is much in W2K, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 and Win7 that is x86-64 only. They have not done multiple NT cpu platforms since NT4.0

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Thumb Up

Win32/Alpha code from Win32/x86 code - no source needed

Look up FX!32. Don't worry about the silly name.

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FAIL

Re: is it the '90s again

>>They never nailed multi-cpu the way Apple did (good cross platform dev tools, fat binaries, good emulation and multiplatform install media), and the cpu support was dropped one by one.

Eh? Until the G5 (in 2003) Apple didn't have a multi cpu machine, and even at 10.5.2 the system spends so long in zero fill VM faults you get a 25% performance hit (you can't saturate all the cores), basic multi CPU function is faster on Linux and Windows (it's because malloc uses vm_allocate).

I was running two overclocked celerons on a BP6 back in 2000, NT4 was lovely (once I installed the correct HAL, doh!), later, W2k was even better, dual proc quake played well (before all hard-core processing was shifted to the GPU) - might bung the mobo on eBay in a few years as it's a bit of collectors item now!

>>None of they key apps (including microsofts!) ran on the other architectures, so no one bought them, so no one ported their apps.

Not true, I have used both Word and Excel ('97?) on an Alpha (Alpha binaries, obviously), woudn't say they were popular, but the definitely existed.

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Anonymous Coward

@Mage

There have always been multiple architectures for Windows, currently there is x86/32, x86/64 and Itanium.

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Anonymous Coward

@No I will not...

Ahh, the Abit BP6, I have fond memories! I still have mine with two celeron 466 processors, sadly it was a victim of dodgy capacitor electrolyte and will no longer work. I did try to replace the caps, but this was before I had a good solder station and accidentally ballsed it up good and proper. Still it was a serious speed machine in its day.

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Not just mobile devices

When ARM creeps into the data centre, Windows needs to be up there and running.. wait for CES 2012 (or some other suitable opportunity) for Windows Server 2012 to be running on ARM, too. Mobile is just the first step.

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Silver badge

At last

manufacturers may at last feel able to make those handheld devices that have been technically possible for a few years now, but for fear of MS license arrangements have not been on offer.

Within a couple of years we should have handhelds with the power of desktops, 10 hour lifetime and a sub $200 price tag.

Until you add the MS tax....

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Yes, good news, bad news.

Good news: Lots of nice small, cool, RISC-powered netbooky things will be built (which we'll be able to run Linux on, without blubbering about software compatibility). Still an MS tax but not the intel tax (some of which goes to thermal widgetry). Bad news: Microsoft Windows for Microwave Ovens(tm).

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Pint

Is it just me or ...

... by the time the Windows ARM tablets appear next year the iPad 2 will be old hat and people will be looking for an iPad 3 to go with their iPhone 6. ChromeOS will either be old hat or have been subsumed by Android and the second (or maybe third) generation of Android tablets will be hitting the streets. And MeeGo? Will there be MeeGo tablets? And Google will be hiring Harrison Ford to launch the Nexus 6. Well, maybe not that one.

And into all this, Microsoft will be launching their "mee too" product which is supposed to compete with all these well-established products. And its unique selling point will be that you can print from it? Oh, well, I can run Microsoft Office, native, terrific. Wow. And there I was thinking the future was the Internet.

Oh come on, puleeese.

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Gates Halo

"the internet of things"

"The internet of things" is here today and Windows is (already) irrelevant to it, because the internet of things mostly already runs on Linux.

Your TV, your media centre, your router, your set top box, your phone, even your HP Jornada 720 (imagine, back in the year 2000, a somewhat overweight Android phone, overweight because it has a keyboard and sadly it was originally hampered with the HPC variant of Windows CE).

All of these boxes and many many more are already quite capable of running on Linux today. Many are already on Linux on ARM. What would motivate these folks to move to Windows 8? Not printer drivers - Linux has it now! The only way they'd move would be if MS strongarmed (sic) them, same way as MS twisted the arms of the Linux/x86 netbook vendors. And that wouldn't be allowed to happen again, would it?

And with Nvidia taking ARM seriously as a server CPU, as reported elsewhere on El Reg recently, all it needs is an ARM based Proliant (Dell are probably too reliant on x86) and there will be interesting times ahead for the Wintel-dependent IT folks out there.

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A market ARM-x86 cores combined on one chip?

Sometimes there has been a market for combined technologies - think CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive combos, motherboards supporting different RAM types and interface connections USB,Firewire,USB3,SATA6. Such combined technologies address the wider market and ease transition to newer technologies. Same could apply to chip technologies: so what about a ARM-x86 combo on one chip?

Use-cases:

1) ARM Windows runs on ARM core part of chip, x86 core completely switched off, long nattery life.

2) ARM Windows runs on ARM part, x86 core switched on when legacy x86 app is loaded. x86 and ARM applications co exist - in one Desktop, the x86 core providing acceleration for a x86 software emulator, providing near or actual native speeds. And vice versa, x86 windows runs on x86 core while ARM provides ability to run ARM-Windows apps at native speed.

3) x86 Windows runs on x86 core, while ARM core assists with graphics acceleration, audio DSP

4) Run a variety of OSs multi-boot on one machine: x86 Windows, x86 Linux, Windows CE on ARM, Google Android on ARM, Google ChromeOS on ARM. Google NaCL native Chrome plug-in market widened. Attractive to OEMs as one part does many things, simpler manufacturing. Attractive to consumers as product is versatile.

Multi-core and System-On-chip expertise is developed enough now to make a ARM-x86 combined chip a reality.

The Acorn Risc PC, in fact would be the precursor to this, as it had a 2nd processor slot along side that for the ARM to accept a x86 chip and run Windows within a Risc OS desktop. A little later, tighter integration with 3rd-party software almost allowed both OSs apps to appear as running on one OS's desktop. That was 15 years ago. Think what could be done now!

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Stop

Nooooo.....

No, leave the x86 out of it.

From my point of view, I cannot see myself wanting anything like this. The die space would be better used for more cores.

What you propose is complicated, but probably can be done, but I suspect, adding an x86 on an expansion board of sorts, would probably be the better solution, keeping costs down for those who do not need it, while providing more options on what sort of x86 to add on for those who do.

Heck, it may not even need to be another x86, it could be another ARM.

Of course, I think with this kind of talk we're probably moving out of cheap tablet territory and more into laptop/desktop territory.

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Remember that computer that had a Z80, 6502 and 6809 in it?

No, neither does anyone else. But there was one... Yes this is possible. Doesn't make it a good idea. It's bad enough having to support what are essentially three different processors in the intel CPU (if you support x64). It's technically far better to find ways to make software more platform-independent, there's a lot of interesting work being done in that area. Infinite backwards binary compatibility has been a cornerstone of the Wintel approach but has seriously messed up the platform.

Incidentally, a few years ago I learned from an intel presentation that they had put a 1 GHz RISC at the center of a four-core Pentium die in order to do thermal management (i.e. mess with the clock speed and voltage to keep the Pentiums on the happy side of meltdown). They didn't say what it was, but I hear that intel is an ARM licencee...

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Nya
Thumb Up

Looks good

Was very impressed at how fast Win8 with 7 GUI and Office 2010 was running on the ARMs. Seems to be progressing nicely. Even on the Snapdragon it was as fast, if not faster than an Atom in current netbooks.

But, the most interesting thing was from one line Ballmar said: "we now have new silicon partners"....*cough* Intels no longer the be all and end all, and the full support of AMD and ARM now should be interesting to see where things go.

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Bronze badge
Stop

pure vapourware

they have a long history of doing it... pre-announcing something to get customers and OEMs to delay purchasing decisions.

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