back to article Microsoft dumps ARM for Atom with cut-price Surface 3 fondleslab

Microsoft's brief flirtation with ARM-powered Windows RT tablets looks to be over: the Redmond giant has unveiled its latest fondleslab, the Surface 3, which is a dinky Atom-powered slate running a full version of Windows on Intel hardware. Up until this latest tablet, Surfaces have sported ARM-compatible processors, and …

Ideas that sounded good at the time

like the naming for almost every Microsoft product ever released?

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Nothing wrong with the Zune

Just got sat on my Apple.

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Makes the Linx 10 tablet look even better value

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Errrr

You didn't know that MS dumped the RT? It was announced previously. Those with RT based tablets won't have a Windows 10 option. Just maybe some features ported over.

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Re: Errrr

Microsoft hasn't announced anything definite on RT. Its future certainly doesn't look very bright, though.

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Re: Errrr

RT did it's job. It got Intel to make the chips MS wanted all along.

Sometimes you have to make a move on a different girl to get what you want.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Errrr

"You didn't know that MS dumped the RT? It was announced previously. Those with RT based tablets won't have a Windows 10 option"

No, they said it will get an update:

"We are working on an update for Surface, which will have some of the functionality of Windows 10. More information to come," says a Microsoft spokesperson."

So much like RT already only has some of the functionality of the full version of Windows I guess.

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Neither fish nor fowl: not portable enough for a real tablet, not powerful enough like a modern laptop.

If the Pro line weren't priced so ridiculously, I would definitely snap one up, though.

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Oh I don't know.

I picked up an Onda (poxy CPU, 2Gigs RAM, LG screen off an ipad) last year for £150ish at my door.

For some reason I'd got it into my head "Windows was for desktops and laptops and cheap was bad".

Then I played with a Linx tablet. Was definitely 'budget', but thought windows actually seemed pretty damn good on it, and took a punt on the Onda for the better screen.

Whether you'd pick an Onda over an iPad or a Nexus is up to you - but there's a certain satisfaction with just mapping a samba share as a drive, and watching your videos on VLC. No pissing about. No wondering if you can manage to do what you could do on a PC etc.

MS have won my heart and mind over, and quite nice to see there's a 'path of expense' ahead of me now if I want to step up through their basic and pro models.

Selling my 'revelation' definitely comes with mixed results though. Half people I talk to join me in the fervor and start hunting down obscure windows tablets. Other half just look at my blankly and ask why they'd need it, when they have an iPad.

Suspect that's it pretty much. If you use a tablet - but get eternally niggled it's not a PC, you should take a punt on these. If you are 'quite happy' with your iPad, these aren't going to sway you one jot.

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Anonymous Coward

"If the Pro line weren't priced so ridiculously, I would definitely snap one up, though."

It's very competitive compared to the nearest equivalent - a MacBook Pro.

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@Gannett

I think you'll see most sub £500 laptops coming fitted with these same CPUs as standard.

Already the case in the £300 and below sector.

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This post has been deleted by its author

So close..

£399 with the pen and keyboard and I think I might of given one of these a go, my Toshiba Encore will last me a while longer I think. Their pricing plan is also a bit to close for comfort to the iPad Air as well, an extra £80 to double the HDD on either model, although the Surface doubles the RAM as well, but how can I scoff at Apple prices as easily now? Maybe they'll have some Surface Pro 3s going cheap at the end of the year.

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Re: So close..

The stylus and keyboard is not included in the prices listed, so add the cost of keyboard and stylus to the cost of the tablet.

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Re: So close..

Erm, I think that was the point. If they were to throw in the pen and keyboard for that price he'd be interested. Get it?

Since PC World are flogging convertable machines (full keyboard, detachable tablet/screen) for £250 then I think he's on the high side.

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Re: So close..

Exactly what he said that I said, thanks Steve, I did have a look at some of the PC World machines, maybe that's a better choice, not in a huge rush to be honest, the Toshiba just gets a bit warm sometimes.

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Anonymous Coward

MS is trapped

Layers upon layers of ossified x86 code doomed any exit for Microsoft from the Intel platform a long time ago. Unlike Apple's elegant leaps from architecture to architecture due to the Mach microkernel's small dependency footprint.

Unfortunately, Linux is not far behind in this scenario.. it has the same large monolithic LSB 'kernel'. However, being open-source, it at least has a fighting chance to evolve - SystemD is a step in the right direction to break Linux into smaller, better integrated pieces.

Not being able to even make it onto the architecturally similar ARM means Microsoft products are doomed to remain on the sidelines of mobile as well as the new more efficient server designs being rolled out, not to mention any radical new architectures that may appear on the scene.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS is trapped

Erm, what do you mean by SystemD breaking Linux into smaller pieces ? I always thought those guys are doing the exact opposite. And if you ask me, they are trying really hard to break Linux.

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Re: MS is trapped

"Unfortunately, Linux is not far behind in this scenario.."

I think you'll find Linux has been ported to just about every architecture available and has been for years.

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Trollface

"SystemD is a step in the right direction to break Linux into smaller, better integrated pieces"

Er - I thought all systemd needed was its oun kernel and an improved replacement for EMACS to be the operating system to end all operating systems....

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Anonymous Coward

The 1990s called. They wanted their x86-centric world back,

"Linux has been ported to just about every architecture available and has been for years."

Quite.

Just out of interest, anybody know whether MS and Intel share any board members, or major investors?

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Re: MS is trapped

It isn't the OS that trapped MS. They have the resources to make it work.

However, they made a couple of mistakes. When Apple ported OSX, they went all-in and the it worked. MS didn't produce a feature-complete Windows for ARM. That might have been due to ARM's reduced power vs Intel, but it was a mistake.

The differences between intel Windows and ARM Windows put it in the "too hard" and "MS obviously isn't committed to it" category as far as devs were concerned. I'm not saying a feature-complete Windows would have worked, but Apple & Google have done their mobile OS as "something completely different" from OSX and Linux. I'm not sure there's a place for a third "something completely different" in the market without a serious USP. MS' USP was not "its just Windows" because it wasn't.

Sticking to x86 is a good idea for MS. It doesn't have to be significantly better than ARM at a hardware level, it just has to be "good enough" and make the devs' and users' problems managing another platform go away. Then MS just have to work out how companies can get employees to pay for company-controlled assets.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS is trapped

So much ignorance in one post is quite breathtaking...

"Layers upon layers of ossified x86 code doomed any exit for Microsoft from the Intel platform a long time ago."

You do realize that 99.9% of Windows code is C/C++ etc., not x86 assembly language, don't you?

"Unlike Apple's elegant leaps from architecture to architecture due to the Mach microkernel's small dependency footprint."

Also written in C/Obj C.

"Unfortunately, Linux is not far behind in this scenario.. it has the same large monolithic LSB 'kernel'. However, being open-source, it at least has a fighting chance to evolve - SystemD is a step in the right direction to break Linux into smaller, better integrated pieces."

None of that makes any sense.

"Not being able to even make it onto the architecturally similar ARM means Microsoft products are doomed to remain on the sidelines of mobile as well as the new more efficient server designs being rolled out, not to mention any radical new architectures that may appear on the scene."

Windows made it onto ARM 15 years ago, in many incarnations - WinCE, Pocket PC and Mobile, Windows Phone. Windows 10 is on ARM phones and there will be an IoT version for the Raspberry Pi.

Windows server made it on to several other architectures - MIPS, DEC Alpha, Power PC, Itanium.

Not to mention all the applications on iOS and Android - no x86 code to be found anywhere there.

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Re: MS is trapped

It's not the kernel that's ossified, it's the applications. Windows itself suffers from 'junk DNA' which has accumulated throughout the years resulting in the bloated mess that exists today. The windows kernel has run on a variety of platforms in the past, and will continue to do so with windows 10, as MS plans on running it on pretty well everything. The brilliance of Apple (and DEC for that matter when moving from the VAX to the Alpha) was the ability to translate legacy code to a new architecture (rosetta for Apple). Furthermore, Apple deprecates code faster than most people change their underwear, so old applications either adapt or die. If MS had allowed legacy x86 cruft to run on ARMs or Itanics [sic], perhaps the x86 would have sunk to it's most richly deserved place on the bottom of the ocean.

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Re: MS is trapped

> MS didn't produce a feature-complete Windows for ARM. That might have been due to ARM's reduced power vs Intel, but it was a mistake.

It seems to me that RT/Windows On ARM achieved its objectives. At the time HP were about to release the ARM tablets running WebOS and Dell had ARM Android tablets. MS controls its OEMs via 'loyalty' discounts. If the go too far away from MS they get their discounts on all products removed. It worked for Netbooks when XP was brought back from the dead - Vista was never going to run.

With WOA MS could wave 'discounts' at WebOS and make it go away, and at Dell to kill their Android projects. Job done so now RT can fade away.

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Re: MS is trapped

>> "Layers upon layers of ossified x86 code doomed any exit for Microsoft from the Intel platform a long time ago."

> You do realize that 99.9% of Windows code is C/C++ etc., not x86 assembly language, don't you?

That is not what was referred to. NT ran on many different architectures: MIPS, Alpha, Itanium, .. but that didn't solve the problem which is the thousands of applications that are locked to x86/x86-64.

> None of that makes any sense.

Your inability to make sense of it is not a constraint.

> Windows server made it on to several other architectures - MIPS, DEC Alpha, Power PC, Itanium.

But the applications did not. Office ran on Alpha in x86 emulation mode. Users don't buy machines to run the OS, they buy them to run their applications. Even in C/C++ it can be hard to get running on a different processor, and of course if the application is not open source (or in-house) then converting and recompiling is not even an option.

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Re: MS is trapped

That "reduced power" of ARM makes for one killer feature of the RT slabs: Ridiculous battery life!

By which I mean ridiculously GOOD. That's as compared not only to the Intel Surface's but also iPad's, especially given that a Surface Rt can actually be used to DO stuff on, not just view funny cat videos.

Yes, I know you didn't mean "reduced power CONSUMPTION", but as far as horsepower goes, even my first gen RT has enough under the hood to do all the things it can and does do (well duh!). The things it doesn't do aren't actually all that relevant on a tablet. Run Windows desktop apps you say ?

Ah yes - what a glorious squinty eyed exercise in frustrated poking at miniscule UI elements those are, on a tablet.

The biggest mistake MS made with Surface RT was not in having a Desktop environment that was incomplete (i.e unable to run x86 apps) but in having any desktop environment AT ALL !!

On a tablet with pretensions to be a laptop or even desktop replacement, sure there may be some grunt lacking. And seriously so. But for a tablet that is a companion to a desktop/laptop, it was damned near perfect, as a piece of hardware.

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Re: MS is trapped

Apple deprecates code faster than most people change their underwear, so old applications either adapt or die. If MS had allowed legacy x86 cruft to run on ARMs or Itanics [sic], perhaps the x86 would have sunk to it's most richly deserved place on the bottom of the ocean.

One key point is that MS is used in the enterprise and big organisations will not tolerate "everything breaks from version 1 to version 2 so best upgrade all your apps". Apple operates mainly in the consumer space where you can just tell people to suck it up.

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Re: MS is trapped

It's systemd, not systemD.

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Re: MS is trapped

> Surface Rt can actually be used to DO stuff on, not just view funny cat videos.

I am not sure why you think that iPads (and Androids) can't be used to "DO stuff". It must be because you know nothing about what is available for those. There are plenty of office apps (see especially WPS), code editors, even complete IDEs. What languages can you code, develop and run _on_ a Surface RT ? There are several for iPad and Android tablets.

Please do provide _evidence_ for your snear, list what you can DO on Surface RT that can't be done on iPad and Androids.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS is trapped

"Windows itself suffers from 'junk DNA' which has accumulated throughout the years resulting in the bloated mess that exists today"

Windows Phone outperforms Android and has longer battery life when installed on identical hardware, so that 'Junk DNA' obviously hasn't caused too many issues.

"The brilliance of Apple (and DEC for that matter when moving from the VAX to the Alpha) was the ability to translate legacy code to a new architecture"

Like Microsoft's "run anywhere" application architecture you mean? And the fact that the Windows kernel has supported far more CPU architectures than either of those 2 vendors?

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Re: MS is trapped

"Feature complete" would fail - as all the active X and code embedded in data would fail. For those to work, MS would have to include an X86 interpreter... and the result bloat the system, and make it very slow.

MS being trapped is MS own fault. They did not support Intel when Intel started to migrate to a RISC processor with the Itanium. Even now, Intel uses RISC technology, as the X86 is actually being interpreted by a RISC processor - being front ended by a translator layer for the really poor X86 architecture.

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Re: MS is trapped

MS "run anywhere" is a misnomer. It only runs on Intel.

And the Windows kernel hasn't supported more than one architecture for years. And when it did run, it was ported by the manufacturers of those other architectures, not by MS.

MS has never supported other architectures on its own.

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Re: MS is trapped

I don't see that.

MS has woken up that it's not about which architecture you are on, it's purely about getting your software on as many different machines and devices as possible.

So where is MS today? I think they are now a good few years ahead really. All these folks talking about out dated, clunky code etc. etc. but then here we are with £60 tablets running full Windows in a perfectly usable fashion. A Windows that's the same broad experience and connectivity across desktop, laptop, tablet and phone.

That doesn't happen by accident.

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Re: MS is trapped

iPads and tablets can generally be used to do stuff, but that stuff is mainly email and browse. At home I still gravitate back to the desktop for most things. Photo processing - yep, video - yep, spreadsheet - yep, most things - yep. It's the fact it has a big screen, craploads of storage, a mouse, a keyboard (both of which are highly accurate) and is incredibly fast.

I don't shop on a tablet and most sites are still crap to use in this regard and password managers are a pain in the arse. I have much more faith in my PC with firefox, adblock, betterprivacy, lastpass etc added in.

I read emails on it, maybe do some light browsing, and maybe look through photos I have been arsed to sync to it. Used to use it for movies when flying. The kids get much more use out of it these days. Some apps are useful but given most will be on my PC I'm not keen on paying twice.

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Re: MS is trapped

You do not know what you are talking about, clearly not a clue on the Windows side, and on the Linux side even less so.

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Holmes

Re: MS is trapped

This is how systemd is destroying Linux:

- I wonder what the status of my cluster is...

systemctl status pcsd.service

pcsd.service - PCS GUI and remote configuration interface

Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/system/pcsd.service; enabled)

Active: active (running) since Tue 2015-03-31 18:20:38 BST; 18h ago

Main PID: 577 (pcsd)

CGroup: /system.slice/pcsd.service

├─577 /bin/sh /usr/lib/pcsd/pcsd start

├─593 /bin/bash -c ulimit -S -c 0 >/dev/null 2>&1 ; /usr/bin/ruby -I/usr/lib/pcsd /usr/lib/pcsd/ssl.rb

└─594 /usr/bin/ruby -I/usr/lib/pcsd /usr/lib/pcsd/ssl.rb

systemctl status corosync.service

corosync.service - Corosync Cluster Engine

Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/system/corosync.service; enabled)

Active: active (running) since Tue 2015-03-31 18:20:47 BST; 18h ago

Process: 1558 ExecStart=/usr/share/corosync/corosync start (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)

Main PID: 1652 (corosync)

CGroup: /system.slice/corosync.service

+-1652 corosync

Mar 31 18:20:46 nsa00.systemd.willeat.your.babies.com corosync[1652]: [VOTEQ ] Waiting for all cluster members. Current votes: 1 expected_votes: 2

Mar 31 18:20:46 nsa00.systemd.willeat.your.babies.com corosync[1652]: [QUORUM] Members[1]: 1

Mar 31 18:20:46 nsa00.systemd.willeat.your.babies.com corosync[1652]: [MAIN ] Completed service synchronization, ready to provide service.

Mar 31 18:20:46 nsa00.systemd.willeat.your.babies.com corosync[1652]: [TOTEM ] A new membership (192.168.56.31:68) was formed. Members joined: 2

Mar 31 18:20:46 nsa00.systemd.willeat.your.babies.com corosync[1652]: [VOTEQ ] Waiting for all cluster members. Current votes: 1 expected_votes: 2

Mar 31 18:20:46 nsa00.systemd.willeat.your.babies.com corosync[1652]: [QUORUM] This node is within the primary component and will provide service.

Mar 31 18:20:46 nsa00.systemd.willeat.your.babies.com corosync[1652]: [QUORUM] Members[2]: 1 2

Mar 31 18:20:46 nsa00.systemd.willeat.your.babies.com corosync[1652]: [MAIN ] Completed service synchronization, ready to provide service.

Mar 31 18:20:47 nsa00.systemd.willeat.your.babies.com corosync[1558]: Starting Corosync Cluster Engine (corosync): [ OK ]

Mar 31 18:20:47 nsa00.systemd.willeat.your.babies.com systemd[1]: Started Corosync Cluster Engine.

Great, systemd is giving me way more information and control than ever before, and it is modernizing the painful daemon/service management in Linux I must oppose it vehemently!

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Thumb Up

Re: MS is trapped

"""Users don't buy machines to run the OS, they buy them to run their applications."""

Thank you! I have been saying that for years and no one seems to get it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS is trapped

Wrong on all points - It will run on any Windows 10 system regardless of the CPU. The only requirement is to customise for GUI size and other input differences - e.g. phone, tablet and desktop.

Windows runs on ARM, x86 and x64 right now. No other manufacturer has ever ported Windows kernel - all ports and support have always been via Microsoft.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS is trapped

Meanwhile Windows Server users just see a nice green list / picture of cluster resources without having to digest all that crap...

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Re: MS is trapped

> And when it did run, it was ported by the manufacturers of those other architectures, not by MS.

Actually Windows NT was initially written on and for MIPS (after i860 was evaluated and discarded) and was ported to x86. At the time the best x86 was the 386 and was probably 20MHz - too slow to be any use in development.

It is likely that manufacturers had a high involvement in porting to their chips but Microsoft was heavily involved.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: MS is trapped

"MS has never supported other architectures on its own."

Correct. Without the Advanced RISC Computing consortium ACE scheme (DEC, IBM, MIPS, and others) there would have almost certainly have been no NT on RISC.

NT wasn't even written inside MS. It was imported, like so much else MS are famous for. It came, with Dave Cutler and his team and the OS source code, from DEC. It was software that had been targeted at a DEC-developed microprocessor that never hit the market, but which could be (and was) readily re-targeted to other processors: initially x86, then others.

On seeing what was going on, the idiot then in charge at DEC (Bob Palmer), let MS get away with it, in return for Gates privately promising that he'd play nice with DEC in future.

This is the same Gates who later told Palmer "You can be Larry's friend or you can be my friend" and f***ed up NT on Alpha [1] (Larry Ellison, of Oracle, for the younger readers, was at one time an important, very important, man to system vendors).

MS's improvements to NT have included a shinier GUI being radically and incompatibly revised every few years, and more security holes than the holiest Swiss cheese.

As for the wit who suggested that there was some relationship between WinCE. PocketPC, HPC and Windows/x86: what are you smoking? Same company, different (and incompatible) products. Nothing in common but the name and (if you're feeling generous) a tiny few MS integrated products (MS IE 4, anyone?).

A small part of the serious "equipment" market moved their equipment from WinCE onto Windows XP Embedded. and will (unlike the rest of us) be provided with updates for XP for another few years. I doubt very much if many of them will move beyond XP Embedded.

Others (huge numbers of others) have already gone for embedded Linux (mostly on ARM), or a handful of other non Wintel alternatives.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/10/business/digital-employees-tell-of-threats-by-gates-over-product.html

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Re: MS is trapped

> On seeing what was going on, the idiot then in charge at DEC (Bob Palmer), let MS get away with it,

Microsoft paid DEC a settlement of 65 to 100 million.

""" "Why the Fastest Chip Didn't Win" (Business Week, April 28, 1997) states that when Digital engineers noticed the similarities between VMS and NT, they brought their observations to senior management. Rather than suing, Digital cut a deal with Microsoft. In the summer of 1995, Digital announced Affinity for OpenVMS, a program that required Microsoft to help train Digital NT technicians, help promote NT and Open-VMS as two pieces of a three-tiered client/server networking solution, and promise to maintain NT support for the Alpha processor. Microsoft also paid Digital between 65 million and 100 million dollars."""

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Microsoft paid DEC a settlement of 65 to 100 million.

How much were DEC paying MS for PC licences at the time? How much did Gates promise would be waiting for DEC's services business in terms of Windows-centred opportunities via Affinity and otherwise?

How much actually materialised in terms of 'compensatory opportunities'? How much did they cost DEC internally (eg making themselves one of the first serious large-scale Exchange-based outfits)? (Hint: there were several occasions when Exchange in the UK was dysfunctional for weeks).

There's a book to write on the subject. Maybe it's already been written; people I know have recommended "DEC is dead; long live DEC". I haven't read it yet.

"Digital cut a deal with Microsoft."

Palmer and friends cut a deal. (It was DIGITAL, btw. The capitalisation apparently mattered, to HQ),

"Affinity for OpenVMS"

Put another way, Palmer (a chip man at heart, with little clue about serious software) had been convinced that 'VMS is past it. NT is the future." That was a long time ago, and may still turn out to have been not quite right.

For those who may not be aware, VMS had a last minute resurrection last year, outside HP, courtesy of a new company called VMS Software Inc.

Despite Palmer's efforts to do down VMS (and Alpha), VMS is still around, customers still value some of its unique features, and as of last year VMS has returned to being developed and supported by many of the original VMS team, in New England. Outside HP. An x86-64 version is on the cards, but in the meantime many people and organisations are already running VMS in x86-based emulators of VAX and Alpha hardware.

Alongside that, Palmer's preferred replacement for Alpha, the Itanic (coincidentally involving another Palmer-era settlement for ideas stolen from DEC) is also dead in real terms. Even Intel have finally admitted it.

VMS isn't dead, but NT is heading for the clouds. Who would have thought it, except perhaps people who really knew about VMS and NT, and people who really knew about Alpha and IA64...

"[Gates] promise[d] to maintain NT support for the Alpha processor"

That worked well didn't it. For Gates. Not so well for anyone else. Not that Gates ever really delivered much in practical terms. An Alpha version of a server OS, for a bried period of time. Office? Well, arguably. But in a hobbled build with the debug code left in, and with many of the same issues that an Office for ARM would have two decades later.

What did Gates put on the table for Alpha beyond that? About the same as has been on the table for ARM recently, ie nothing much at all.

Should anybody be particularly surprised at any of this? Not really.

That Business Week article:

http://www.businessweek.com/1997/17/b3524142.htm

Further reading, also pre-Itanium:

http://windowsitpro.com/windows-client/windows-nt-and-vms-rest-story

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Happy

That's a relief!

I was worried there for a while. Fortunately ARM can now carry on developing new ideas with out the ball & chain of Microsoft's 'requirements'.

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Anonymous Coward

Great news!

Can we have Secure Boot off of it now ?

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Re: Great news!

Yes. Enter the UEFI BIOS and slide "Secure Boot" to the "Disabled" or "Off" position.

If you can't do that, you probably shouldn't be turning it off.

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Anonymous Coward

@h4rm0ny - Re: Great news!

On ARM ? Are you sure ? Look at my hand, how many distinct fingers can you count ?

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Facepalm

Re: @h4rm0ny - Great news!

>>"On ARM ? Are you sure ? Look at my hand, how many distinct fingers can you count ?"

You realize that the entire point of the article you are commenting on is that MS have shifted the latest Surface off ARM and onto x86? How many fingers can I count on your hand? Six, probably, based on your evidenced intelligence.

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Anonymous Coward

@h4rm0ny - Re: @h4rm0ny - Great news!

I was aware of that and, since MS is no longer interested in ARM platform, I asked politely if manufacturers can now be allowed to let us disable SecureBoot on ARM devices so we can install other OS on them.

You failed your second attempt too!

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