back to article Intel has driven a dagger through Microsoft's mobile strategy

Intel’s retreat from mobile chips is one of the biggest disruptions to the Wintel relationship in Microsoft’s 35-year business relationship with the chip giant – if not the biggest of all. There have been tiffs before, but not like this – and it raises serious questions about Microsoft’s mobile investments. Don’t expect rebel …

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The war has been over for some time

It turns out we don't need nor want the legacy Windows apps and all their associated horrors running on our phones. We need our phones to work more reliably than a PC. If you absolutely must, you can run that junk on an old PC or in the cloud, and access it from the phone. Until you can win free of the reliance on it.

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Re: The war has been over for some time

My PCs are far more reliable than my phones. That may be something to do with the fact that I control what's on my PC and I can choose to use an unprivileged account to run those associated horrors. On my phone, I haven't a clue what's running and I'm pretty sure that there is only a Chinese wall between the associated horrors that I get from the app store and total control over my device.

My PC also gets automatic updates, which my phone doesn't. (Yeah, I know, I really ought to look at the Cyanogen ports for my phone models. Buy why? Why should I have to know all that shit and tank my warranty just to get the device's reliability and security up to the levels of a Wintel PC?)

The war is not over. It's not even clear that the major players are fighting the right war.

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Re: The war has been over for some time

Not having all this in place when windows 8 shipped is why the war was lost. Years are almost like decades in the computing industry. Something that asshat Ballmer cost them which is why he is poo-pooing the idea even now.

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Re: The war has been over for some time

>'m pretty sure that there is only a Chinese wall between the associated horrors that I get from the app store and total control over my device.

Well then run with F-Droid with no accounts on the phone then you have can be reasonably sure of whats in the app store.

>My PC also gets automatic updates, which my phone doesn't.

Not buying the right phone then. Need to stay away from the off brands who don't really offer software support.

>The war is not over. It's not even clear that the major players are fighting the right war.

Pretty sure the old guy luddite market is not on top of most the major players battle plans.

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ZSn

Re: The war has been over for some time

@asdf

'Need to stay away from the off brands who don't really offer software support.' I hate to disabuse you, but XP was supported for fourteen years, you’d be hard pressed to find a main brand that does two years reliably (apart from Apple). Even my nexus 7 was dropped by Google after two and a half years (and that's the 'owner' of android).

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Re: The war has been over for some time

I agree Microsoft OS support has actually been quite good in the past but then they basically decided they weren't going to just sell the OS any more and get out of the way but instead will data mine you ala Google and give it to you free (at first like a drug dealer but soon comes the OS as a service subscription noise). Makes Apple even with their stupid hipster premium look like the only sane choice at least for phones under warranty.

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Re: The war has been over for some time

As for WinPhone well about the time they maybe got their stuff together with the OS (haven't followed much if that has even happened yet) the market share rounded down to zero. Network effect does matter even for phones.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The war has been over for some time

I agree Microsoft OS support has actually been quite good in the past but then they basically decided they weren't going to just sell the OS any more and get out of the way but instead will data mine you ala Google and give it to you free

Right. Microsoft saw falling Windows sales, decided they were doing something wrong, and switched from selling the OS to giving it away (much in the same way an unwanted letter bomb is "given" to you).

Instead of "we must accept falling windows sales," it was, "Bejeezus, we need to do something different. Anything different!"

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Re: The war has been over for some time

Wow someone agrees with me at least lol. Took a lot of downvotes on this article. Guess that's what happens when you start pointing out all the bullshit of the major players these days. Piss off all the tribes.

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Re: The war has been over for some time

"Well then run with F-Droid with no accounts on the phone then you have can be reasonably sure of whats in the app store."

I'll take your word for it, but re-iterate my point that I shouldn't have to learn what F-Droid is in order to make the product safe to use.

"Not buying the right phone then. Need to stay away from the off brands who don't really offer software support."

Again, I agree, but re-iterate my point that all the major brands are off brands by that definition and I'm not actually sure that there is an on brand.

"Pretty sure the old guy luddite market is not on top of most the major players battle plans."

And finally, yes, I accept that the 0.1% of the population who just want a fucking phone that is safe to use are clearly not on the battle plans of the major brands. But ... I still just want a fucking phone that is safe to use and as an when I find someone selling it I will probably pay whatever they ask.

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Re: The war has been over for some time

Agreed! I don't do phones, but I've yet to find an on-brand for tablets including the android source. Just got a Google services update and hard crashes to restart, UI services services not responding, and app crashes are the order of the day here.

I was pretty certain several quarters ago that mobile wouldn't end well for Intel. I also don't expect much pickup for IoT (embedded) beyond what Intel already has (fully merged firms) in FPGA. Data center, yeah those server cpu's with built-in FPGA's will do well.

They're flailing for a strategy. Good luck with that. And Intel is what we all use here. Sad.

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Re: The war has been over for some time

" Took a lot of downvotes on this article."

I can't speak for the others, but you got my downvote for claiming that ANY phone OS has any serious support. Apple deliberately break older hardware with new updates, with 'older' defined as 'three years', and Android is so fragmented it makes Linux look monolithic and so poorly supported by networks that it makes Apple's 3 years look extra-long-life.

Ultimately, I don't use my phone and my PC to do the same things, for much the same reasons I don't particularly need my vacuum cleaner to do the same things as my fridge. They're different devices with different use cases. Smartphones do completely replace feature phones, but aside from those who only ever use computers to check email and websurf (i.e., grandparents and senior executives) no-one is seriously looking at dumping laptops or desktops in exchange for just tablets and phones. I could build a toilet which checks my gmail account whenever I take a dump; that doesn't mean that I will immediately junk every other device in my house that can do the same thing.

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Re: The war has been over for some time

>no-one is seriously looking at dumping laptops or desktops in exchange for just tablets and phones

Wow haven't looked at the financials of any of the PC makers lately have you? Intel laying off thousands is just a coincidence. Wintel will dominate forever so saythe Naselus. I do agree there will be a mature market for some time to come but growth is not a word that will be used much if ever again.

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Re: The war has been over for some time

>I can't speak for the others, but you got my downvote for claiming that ANY phone OS has any serious support. Apple deliberately break older hardware with new updates, with 'older' defined as 'three years',

Ok I can agree phone support long term is pretty much garbage but my point is so will be Windows OS support as well. Your OS is just like Facebook now, ready to be changed at the whims of Redmond as you are the product and no longer the customer. The one good thing at least if you get Nexus devices beyond warranty cheap you can find plenty of aftermarket open source roms to get cheap support but as you say ridiculous this is the only way to get long term support.

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Re: The war has been over for some time

>I'll take your word for it, but re-iterate my point that I shouldn't have to learn what F-Droid is in order to make the product safe to use.

Fair enough.

>And finally, yes, I accept that the 0.1% of the population who just want a fucking phone that is safe to use

Which coincidentally is now about the market share of Blackberry and Windows Phone so there is a few safe options for your demographic.

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Logic & Gui

I think that the real problem here is combining both the logic and the gui in the app, not whether it runs on x86 or ARM. If the gui is split from the app logic then re-compiling the app logic to run on a different architecture or platform is relatively easy; you then just create whatever interfaces you need to control/talk to the logic in the app.

A lot, even a majority, of server software already works this way.

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Re: Logic & Gui

Nah. The real problem is closed source software.

Microsoft *have* versions of all their dev tools that target ARM. Building for ARM is no more than "flip a compiler switch". The testing costs are insignificant because hardly any of your bugs are platform-specific. The only thing stopping you is the fact that the source code belongs to someone else, who can't be bothered to flip the switch, or doesn't exist as a commercial concern anymore, or who doesn't actually have the source anymore.

A secondary problem is probably the absence of any consensus on what a "standard ARM PC" actually looks like. I recall that Linus had one of his rants on that topic a year or so back.

None of these are a problem for MS if they want to build a full-fat version of Win10 for ARM hardware of their own choosing. To date, they've taken the view that anything smaller than a desktop machine needs to be hobbled in some way. At some point, they will eventually realise what an utterly stupid notion this is. When that day comes, they will actually *reduce* their testing costs (because of the reduced test matrix) and increase the utility of Windows-powered phones and tablets. Intel shouldn't bet on MS remaining unbelievably dumb indefinitely.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Logic & Gui

Im not so sure its a flip of a switch for some MS products.

As I understand it Outlook (for example) cannot be compiled to run on ARM...I cant remember why and I think this may have contributed to the failure of Windows RT (since the office suite on there didnt come with Outlook for this reason).

In fact im not sure ive ever seen a 64bit build of Outlook...I could be wrong there though.

I think Visual Studio has some issues as well...which is why it still only comes in 32bit variants.

Basically, I think MS have coded themselves into some very dodgy corners.

Of course, correct me if im wrong!

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Re: Logic & Gui

There's a difference between application architecture decisions and political platform log-in decisions. As the article mentions, MS already have a dandy set of Android apps. They don't need to downgrade them to ports of the Windows versions

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Re: Logic & Gui

"The only thing stopping you is the fact that the source code belongs to someone else"

No, its the fact that you have built your code to assume a specific API, like win32, and a specific model for GUI, maybe even worse with assumptions of the size of 'int' or similar instead of using int32_t or whatever options were supported. That makes even a small program an absolute PITA to port. That is what most legacy software is like.

The exceptions are stuff that was written to be multi-platform, even if just two variants of "UNIX" (say Linux and later MacOS) as then you have to write your code with some degree of abstraction for GUI and low-level stuff, and that greatly mitigates the pain for porting because you are probably started using two compilers/dev environments and can never be quite sure of what API consistency will be like, so you learn to segregate from the beginning.

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Re: Logic & Gui

> Outlook (for example) cannot be compiled to run on ARM...I cant remember why

Because it's a load of useless crap?

-A.

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Re: Logic & Gui

The Mac Office 2008, the first after Apple switched processors, shipped without support for VBA macros because the Mac version of that code was too PowerPC dependent; support wasn't reinstated until the next release, Office 2011. So in that case Microsoft had cleverly written two different versions of its interpreter and managed to tie each so closely to the CPU+OS combination that, even with two years' warning, it couldn't either change the CPU target for the one implementation or the OS target for the other.

So it's evidently not as simple as flipping a switch for Microsoft; I'd dare imagine they're not alone.

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Re: Logic & Gui

"So it's evidently not as simple as flipping a switch for Microsoft; I'd dare imagine they're not alone."

On the other hand, all my iOS code runs just fine on ARM and on Intel, both 32 and 64 bit, without any changes (Intel code obviously on the iOS simulator on a Mac).

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Re: Logic & Gui

No, its the fact that you have built your code to assume a specific API, like win32, and a specific model for GUI, maybe even worse with assumptions of the size of 'int' or similar instead of using int32_t or whatever options were supported. That makes even a small program an absolute PITA to port. That is what most legacy software is like.

The exceptions are stuff that was written to be multi-platform, even if just two variants of "UNIX" (say Linux and later MacOS) as then you have to write your code with some degree of abstraction for GUI and low-level stuff, and that greatly mitigates the pain for porting because you are probably started using two compilers/dev environments and can never be quite sure of what API consistency will be like, so you learn to segregate from the beginning.

MS have needlessly and artificially made it difficult for themselves. Windows always has been multi-platform (back in the early days there were PowerPC and Alpha versions of Windows - all quite trivially easy really). A few years ago MS pulled the same trick with ARM. They wrote the required Hardware Abstraction Layer, recompiled Win7 and Office2007 for ARM along with an Epson printer driver, and showed the whole lot working satisfactorily at some conference.

To a lot of us this looked like a good idea. It made sense, it built nicely on what went before, there were no big problems to solve. Visual Studio could easily have been made to automatically build fat binaries for x86 and ARM (just like Xcode on OS X used to for PowerPC and x86), and the distinction between an x86 and ARM based machine could have been made irrelevant.

The only thing was that ARMs at the time were only 32 bit and not that fast, nothing that a bit of Moore's law wouldn't solve (which has since happened). An ARM PC? Why not, it'd be smaller, quieter, cheaper, etc... Even back then one could see there being an ARM server running Windows.

But no way was it anywhere near ready for a universal mobile desktop / mobile app. With ARMs as they were, desktop was going to have to remain desktop, mobile was going to have to remain mobile. There simply wasn't enough compute power in ARMs to support a full desktop. MS tried too soon to unify them, but the result was the hideous mess that was WinRT, Windows8, etc.

They probably tried to do it simply to be different to Apple. Whilst the allure of a universal app is strong, Apple had seen quite clearly the advantage of building a completely new ecosystem for mobile (iOS). This advantage was that at that time it would work, and that really devs would cope quite readily with the idea that there was no way that OS X apps would run on iOS and vice versa.

Now the idea of a fat binary application is realistically achievable (at least from a hardware point of view). Many mobiles now have more compute resources than the PCs that were around when Windows 7 first came out. I like the idea of a mobile that can be plugged in to a monitor, keyboard and mouse and becomes a full PC. If only a fraction of the apps work in mobile mode that'd be fine; I'd only want a browser, messaging client and a few specific apps (trains, etc) to work when in mobile mode. If MS put full fat Windows on ARM like they did all those years ago and have visual studio build fat binaries, that'd solve their upcoming server problem, supply software for an mobile ARM desktop, etc.

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Re: Logic & Gui

> Windows always has been multi-platform

You must be quite young. Windows 1 to 98 were x86 only. The much later Windows NT was initially developed on MIPS and ported to x86 and others.

> (back in the early days there were PowerPC and Alpha versions of Windows - all quite trivially easy really).

It was _not_ 'trivially easy'. NT was written in C so it could be recompiled to various architectures, but it relied on being 'little-endian' and had to run those processors in little-endian mode which, for some, was not optimum.

When they initially moved to AMDx86-64 much of the code had to be rewritten such that the 64bit versions could not run 32bit software (this was later fixed) and would no longer run on the other architectures.

However, the main problem with other architectures was that most of Microsoft's and others' software was not suitable for making run on other CPUs, some had to be run under emulation, such as Office.

> showed the whole lot working satisfactorily at some conference.

They showed a limited subset that worked well enough to get through a scripted demonstration. Choosing a menu item not in the script may have crashed the whole system.

> With ARMs as they were, desktop was going to have to remain desktop, mobile was going to have to remain mobile. There simply wasn't enough compute power in ARMs to support a full desktop.

It is nothing to do with 'ARMs as they were', it was the MS software that was the problem. Raspian on a Raspberry Pi was perfectly adequate as a simple full desktop system, and that was using a chip that was several times less powerful than the top ARM chips. A Pi2 is more powerful than the machines used to run Win95 or 98.

There wasn't enough to support _Windows_ desktop, and they didn't even try, RT only had Metro except for the cut-down version of Office which used a limited Win32 API.

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Re: Logic & Gui

As I understand it Outlook (for example) cannot be compiled to run on ARM..

There must be some clever business/strategy reason for this.

Alternative: slurp engineers are truly incompetent bunch of twats. Calendar & mail software can not be compiled to run on ARM, really? Or maybe outlook really does some real weird low-level stuff that's all the more reason to stay away from it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Logic & Gui

Yes indeed. You are wrong.

My Surface RT runs Office, including Outlook.

All on ARM.

Four years old, or thereabouts. And still supported with the usual monthly patches.

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Re: ARM PC

Archimedes. possibly in 1985 with RISC OS (UNIX in 1987)

Apple has now got a tablet with stylus and keyboard running ARM.

They have growth in iTunes revenue.

How much money does Apple make from x86 Mac?

How much money do Mac OS users make on iTunes for Apple?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Logic & Gui

Windows NT started at version 3.1

The reason given, for not starting at v1, at the time was that it was the 'NT' (New Technology) version of the mainstream Windows 3.1

And yes, it was multi-architecture even then. MIPS and Alpha and IA32 and PowerPC.

That's the early 1990's. 92 or 93, I'd guess.

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Re: Logic & Gui

On the other hand, all my iOS code runs just fine on ARM and on Intel, both 32 and 64 bit, without any changes.

So does mine, thanks to QT.

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Re: Outlook RT

The 8.1 update for RT did deliver about 95% of Outlook 2013 - some of the integration features didn't work but then they didn't work with the rest of Office 2013 RT.

I loved my RT tablet. It performed well, was incredibly stable too. But no apps was what killed it. If MS unlocked it and allowed 3rd Party desktop ARM apps then it may have worked better.

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Re: Logic & Gui

Why, precisely, do you think Outlook *needs* a 64-bit version ?

If Visual Studio doesn't need it (and that is the reason, at least given) then a trifling email and calendar app sure doesn't. Unless you're just playing "Keeping up with the Bit-Jones'".

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Re: Logic & Gui

"In fact im not sure ive ever seen a 64bit build of Outlook...I could be wrong there though."

I have run 64 bit Outlook 2013 on windows for ages (holding off on 2016 upgrade until it's had a few more patches)

The Office suite has been available in 64 bit for ages (typically a few less bells and whistles but can cope with various large files that makes 32 bit Office apps die, plus DEP)

Businesses like 64 bit office as Hardware Data Execution Prevention is always on so a bit more secure for your average luser than 32 bit.

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Re: Logic & Gui

Outlook might not need a 64-bit version for its own functions as such but people do need Outlook to be 64 bit.

On a Citrix Farm here running x64 Excel for large financial calcs requires x64 Office (side-by-side install not MS supported) so things like links to documents in emails can work.

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Re: Logic & Gui

Didn't they almost split the logic and the GUI once - or at least, make a start on it? It was part of the philosophy of Windows NT <= 3.51 if I remember right.

I also seem to remember Gates felt it was too slow so they ditched the idea of trying to move to that sort of idea with NT 4.

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Re: Logic & Gui

"No, its the fact that you have built your code to assume a specific API, like win32, and a specific model for GUI, maybe even worse with assumptions of the size of 'int' or similar instead of using int32_t or whatever options were supported."

Sorry, but those are *non*-issues for the case I was discussing, which is compiling a version of Windows for ARM hardware. Having done that, they are also non-issues for compiling Microsoft's applications for ARM, to run on the resulting platform.

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Re: Logic & Gui

"As I understand it Outlook (for example) cannot be compiled to run on ARM"

To be honest, I don't believe that. As is pointed out further down these comment pages, Office has been compiled natively over the years for x86, x64, PowerPC, MIPS, Alpha, Itanium and probably others. The only barriers are firstly that you might have to port any assembly language bits and secondly that you might be dependent on something like a version of DirectX that has been super-accelerated but only for certain GPUs. I can't believe there is much hand-coded assembly in Office, especially given its porting history. Neither can I believe it is terribly dependent on external sub-systems that are themselves hard to port.

Instead, my guess is that MS didn't *want* to offer full-fat Outlook on ARM and the reason for that is because they seem insanely wedded to the idea that ARM has to be hobbled. Eventually, they will realise this is stupid.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Logic & Gui

The much-maligned Surface RT came supplied with an ARM version of Office 2013 (RT) including Outlook.

Office is also available in 64bits versions (including Outlook) since 2010 - see https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee681792.aspx for details.

Visual Studio's IDE may be 32bits, but that does not limit the ability to develop for 64bit intel or ARM as the code and compilers for both architectures are available in 32bits and 64bits versions.

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Mushroom

Windows is Burning Platform 2.0

Watching their decline is like an ultra slow car crash where the camera pans round to mobile, zooms into browser market share loss, flies over cloud irrelevance as it heads for The Road Ahead of IoT which is, and always will be, a Microsoft free zone.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Windows is Burning Platform 2.0

The IoT is exactly where it doesn't want to be. Broadcom is predicting 50 billion IoT devices by 2020 so the profit margin per device must be extraordinarily low and the market competition will be terribly fierce in the race to the bottom. Perhaps that is why Broadcom has just quit that market.

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Trollface

50 billion IoT devices

And nearly all of them will be shelved two months after being bought.

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Re: 50 billion IoT devices

Re:margin

Typical ARM pricing is around US$5-$15/SoC per 1000

Typical Atom pricing was around $25-30/SoC per 1000 (possibly even lower with rebates/subsidies to get their chips into products)

Typical x86 pricing is US50-$2000/CPU per 1000

These are rumoured prices manufacturers were paying versus RRP. Price isn't everything, but you have to have sufficient yields and sales to cover your R&D/manufacturing/sales/C-level bonuses/dividends.

ARM has the advantage of being cheaper and easier to make, but Atoms weren't where the money was for Intel. There might have been a window where Atom could have been brilliant and ARM failed to increase performance that gave Intel the opportunity to compete in mobile devices, but it didn't happen.

As ARM move forward, they will need to increase their complexity to incorporate a longer pipeline and cache which will drive an increase in SoC size and therefore cost per unit. ARM manufacturers can put pressure on Intel and Intel's margins will continue to fall, but Atom being dropped isn't the death of Intel and they still have a 2+ year lead in process technology.

At the risk of insulting them, Intel may not have the best technical CPUs on the planet, but they have been the best CPU manufacturer (sometimes at the cost of performance/technical excellence to allow higher yields) for decades.

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Re: Windows is Burning Platform 2.0

Sounds like the introductory credits to Deadpool.

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windows phone on arm

How many windows phone models shipped with intel cpus?

I think the number was quite small if there were any so intel dropping support shouldn't matter MS wasn't using them anyway

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Re: windows phone on arm

The answer is zero. Neither Nokia nor Microsoft has ever made a non-ARM based phone.

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Continuum today is dead.

Unless MS ports EVERYTHING to ARM.

But that doesn't fix Sage Accounts and all the other legacy stuff, too much of which now runs badly on Win 10.

They sacrificed Windows Desktop for a market that they can't get into. They can hardly even sell ARM based Windows phones!

The entire Zune derived Modern UI strategy was stupid and now is dead.

If I had all the Android apps to do what I want, I can actually plug in a keyboard, mouse and HD HDMI screen to my ancient Z1 Sony phone.

But actually I have a laptop with XP no longer on Internet for legacy stuff and 2 off 1600 x 1200 screens on a high power Linux workstation for most work. Some of the Windows stuff works on WINE. Linux Mint + Mate has many native versions of applications I was using on Windows. Android is too lacking in Privacy (as is Win 10) and the applications, like MS Modern UI are mostly too lightweight and widgety.

No way Intel has any traction on IoT.

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Re: Continuum today is dead.

Actually Continuum is a great feature, just doesn't have great app support.

HP's new W10M phone the x3 will have virtualisation support running off Azure and Sage Accounts is one that's apparently going to be available Day 1. So maybe MSFT don't need to go for Intel chips but use virtualisation similar to HP...

The proof will be how well HP sells.

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Re: Continuum today is dead.

MS is porting everything to ARM, including their full-fat desktop Office apps. That is what UMP is all about.

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Just remember...

If IBM back in 1890 or so chose a different processor/operating system for its PC, both Intel and Microsoft would be much different than they are today.

When a major desktop machine builder goes away from X86 architecture people will need to adapt, and quickly. I believe that the trend started by the likes of a Raspberry Pi are just the beginning.

Sadly (or not as you chose it) both Microsoft and Intel are eating dust from the trail that is being pioneered by others now.

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Re: Just remember... If IBM back in 1890

That would have been when they were called Hollerith and used punched cards, no CPU.

Yes, 1980. But the PC was a rush job out of a catalogue. IBM themselves had better CPUs. It wasn't meant to be a success and set an industry standard. That's why they didn't even bother with an OS, just let MS supply the one that MS just bought reverse engineered from CP/M 86, which was easy to port from CPM as the 8088/8086 was so similar to 8080/8085/Z80 that Intel's machine code translator worked well (after all you still only had 64K RAM at a time, even some 8085/Z80 systems had more than 64K then via external paging). It was pretty much same architecture and instructions, just added segment register and memory management instructions. Writing for PC DOS was pretty identical to CP/M on 8 bit. Even a lot of the system calls / Software interupts etc are indentical, hence almost instant Wordstar and Supercalc.

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