As expected, Microsoft has announced their support for the ARM architecture in the next version of their operating system - Windows 8.
Since a licensing agreement was signed between ARM and Microsoft in the summer of 2010 a rumour has been doing the rounds that the next version of Microsoft’s operating system would support the architecture. This wont be done via the release of a compatible version of Windows 7, but instead Windows 8 – the next evolution of the OS currently under development.
This is logical as Microsoft had indicated that Windows 8 would be better adapted for use with tablets, which will surely create additional delays until we see the release of Windows tablets that are capable of rivalling competing products from a mobile performance point of view.
Unlike certain rumours which suggested otherwise, it seems that the current version of Windows 7 may be adapted and optimised for tablets. Microsoft is taking a greater risk for once in leaving the competition get a start on them before trying to catch up and force their way into an existing market.
Nvidia, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm - ARM partners Microsoft also announced during the CES 2011 show that their next OS will also support Intel and AMD’s x86 architectures. They are working with chipset manufacturers like Nvidia (Tegra), Texas Instruments (OMAP) and Qualcomm (SnapDragon) to prepare and adapt their hardware platforms.
An initial demonstration of their future Windows 8 operating system was provided at CES, with Microsoft also confirming that they will be working on an ARM version of their Office suite. None of this will become reality until 2012, which will leave iOS and Android with plenty of space to fill in the mobile market, and particularly the tactile tablets sector.
Numerous Windows 7 tablets have been announced during the CES show, but they are explicitly aimed at the professional market. In this segment as well, they will have to confront mobile specialists like Research in Motion and their future PlayBook tablet operating on a dual core ARM processor.