What Does Windows on ARM Mean?

Microsoft recently announced that they are going to port Windows to ARM architecture as well. Windows currently can run on only on x86  processor architecture. So what does it mean for technology users in general?

x86 microprocessor architecture first developed and manufactured by Intel. The x86 architecture has dominated the desktop computer, portable computer, and small server markets since the 1980s IBM PC, running primarily versions of Microsoft Windows and Unix variant operating systems. Although more modern architectures such as PowerPC have challenged the x86 as a replacement for many niches, none have so far supplanted the x86 for its core markets. (Source: Wiki)

About 98 percent of the more than one billion mobile phones sold each year use at least one ARM processor. As of 2009, ARM processors account for approximately 90% of all embedded 32-bit RISC processors. ARM processors are used extensively in consumer electronics, including PDAs, mobile phones, digital media and music players, hand-held game consoles, calculators and computer peripherals such as hard drives and routers. (Source: Wiki)

Because x86 architecture is power resource intensive, it results in a greater strain on battery life when compared more modern ARM Architectures. Hence, most of the low powered devices use ARM architectures instead. Windows was primarily built on x86 architectures, which is one of the reasons we don’t use Windows on devices other than Computers/Laptops/netbooks. Also Advances in ARM architecture allowed powerful modern mobile OS (like iOS, Android, Palm OS)  to be used in used in mobile devices and tablets. ARM architecture allowed advanced applications to be run while giving the power efficiency advantage.

So what does Windows ARM mean for Microsoft?

THE GOOD

  • Such a move will ensure that Tablets are more functional and powerful than ones which we see in market now.
  • Will ensure higher battery life and power efficiency  to all devices which run Windows on ARM
  • Windows Tablets will fit well into enterprise since it ensures consistency in ecosystem. Group Policies, Legacy Applications etc are easier to manage in Windows Eco system. (Internet Explorer running on ARM ensuring web application compatibility for legacy web apps)

THE BAD & UGLY

  • Windows applications(All of them) which currently run on x86 architecture won’t run on ARM architecture.
  • MS loses the strategic advantage of being the only OS in the market which supported applications that date back to 1980.
  • It might take any where close to 24-36 months for ARM to be available. By which time millions of iOS and Android tablets will be deeply penetrated in the market.
  • The primary reason for porting windows to ARM is Tablet, but Vanilla Windows GUI (no matter how much ever elegantly it is designed) is not suitable for finger and touch operations.

The Future:

Right now different processor architectures & different OSes  power several devices. Windows for ARM is attempting something big here, a unified kernel for all the devices. Which means every single device out there will be powered by a single OS and single Processor architecture. This is one step forward in achieving greater interoperability and convergence. Rumor has it that MS is already working on Project Jupiter which aims at “Code once,  Run the app anywhere”. More

 

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38 thoughts on “What Does Windows on ARM Mean?”

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