Microsoft, ARM Sign New Licensing Agreement

Microsoft and semiconductor company ARM are extending their ongoing relationship. It's speculated that Microsoft's gaming devices may benefit even more than its desktops and notebooks.

ARM and Microsoft "have signed a new licensing agreement for the ARM architecture," the two announced in a joint statement July 23. The companies have worked together since 1997 "on software and devices across the embedded, consumer and mobile spaces," and the new agreement, they said, will extend this relationship.

"Microsoft is an important member of the ARM ecosystem, and has been for many years," ARM CTO Mike Muller said in the statement. "With this architecture license, Microsoft will be at the forefront of applying and working with ARM technology in concert with a broad range of businesses addressing multiple application areas."

The statement offered no specific details on the agreement, leaving much room for speculation and guesswork.

Some suspect the new application areas could include a tablet device-the quickly growing category that's attracted the interest of manufacturers such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo, and in which a wide range of operating systems are or will be used, including Google's Android, Apple's iOS, HP's WebOS and Microsoft's Windows 7. It's been suggested that, as Nintendo uses ARM processors in its gaming consoles, the renewed agreement could eventually affect Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, which reportedly tends to run hot and so could benefit from some ARM technology.

"My view is that this is extending a long-term agreement between Microsoft and ARM, allowing Microsoft to take advantage of the latest ARM processor designs," John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told eWEEK. "It would make sense from a couple of different angles for Microsoft to do this. First, to be able to use ARM processors in its own devices-which could be portable music players or gaming machines. Or could be something else that's new."

The second angle, Spooner added, "would be to maintain its ability to develop software for those latest processors."

In a statement, Microsoft General Manager KD Hallman said ARM is an important partner for Microsoft, which delivers multiple operating systems using ARM's architecture.

"With closer access to the ARM technology," Hallman said, "we will be able to enhance our research and development activities for ARM-based products."