News Analysis: Microsoft is working to make sure its Windows 8 OS can run on ARM chips. For the tech industry, this is the best news coming out of Redmond yet.
With the BUILD Conference in full swing, much of the talk surrounding the tech industry right now has to do with Microsoft. And as of late, quite a bit of the attention has surrounded Microsoft's partnership with ARM. Under the terms of the deal, Windows 8 will work with ARM processors, paving the way for mobile-device makers to use Windows in a new way.
Ever since Microsoft announced its partnership with ARM in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, there has been some debate over the viability of such a deal. Some detractors have said it's bad for companies and, especially, consumers. Supporters, on the other hand, said that the deal could very well be the best move Microsoft has made in years. In the end, there's no telling which side will be right until ARM-based devices running Windows finally hit store shelves. (Microsoft is expected to release Windows 8 in the second half of 2012.)
Until then, it's important for everyone-supporters and detractors, alike-to understand that the partnership between the companies on Windows 8 matters in a big way
. And the deal can affect the industry far more than some people think.
Here's a look at why the partnership between Microsoft and ARM matters:
1. It could end Intel's death grip on the Windows market
Over the years, Microsoft and Intel have been close allies on Windows. Intel currently has an overwhelming market-share lead against Advanced Micro Devices, and the chances of that changing anytime soon seem slim. But with ARM now joining the fray, it appears that Intel's death grip on the Windows processor market might eventually come to an end. ARM is a major agent of change in the chip market
, and it might just show that once again when Windows 8 launches.
2. It means mobile devices are coming
ARM has a dominant position in the mobile space, thanks to a host of companies using the chip technology in their products. Considering that, it likely won't take long for Windows 8-based mobile products to hit store shelves once the software launches. Even Microsoft has said that tablets will play a key role in its plans with Windows 8. Expect ARM to be a major reason Microsoft gains at least some market share in the mobile space.
3. Other form factors are also possible
Although much has been made about ARM's ability to help Microsoft in the mobile space
, it's quite possible that devices boasting other form factors might also come with ARM processors. Netbooks and laptops, for example, could eventually sport ARM processors. Sure, it's not the company's focus now, but who can say that definitely won't change?
4. It puts Intel on notice
As mentioned, Microsoft's decision to allow ARM chips to work with Windows 8 could eventually end Intel's death grip on the Windows ecosystem. But the deal also puts Intel on notice. No longer can it expect Microsoft to be its top ally in the computing space. And if it doesn't continue to improve its offerings, it might just lose market share far more rapidly than it wants to believe. Microsoft's ARM deal should be a wake-up call to Intel.
5. Battery-life considerations
Both Intel and ARM are competing in the mobile space. However, ARM has done a much better job of appealing to vendors. The reasons for that are numerous, but one of the main selling points of ARM processors is their battery management. Mobile-device batteries simply don't drain as quickly on ARM-based devices as they do on Intel products. Therefore, looking ahead, ARM might just find itself in a good place to steal mobile market share from Intel on Windows-based tablets.