When it comes to Windows 8 there are plenty of new features to get excited about.
Despite many features to the desktop environment, improvements on speed, and stability it seems that two new features are getting most of the attention these days: the new Metro Interface replacing the Start Menu and Windows 8 ARM processor support.
With ARM support, Windows will now be able to tackle the ultra-mobile market in ways that it only dreamed about in the past.
Up until now (with the exception of NT4 which ran on a few other architectures, actually), Windows has pretty much been stuck as an x86-only Operating System.
The biggest and most obvious reason for the switch to ARM support has to do with tablets. While x86 tablets do exist, they are bulkier, louder, and consume more power than their often cheaper, quieter ARM cousins.
Microsoft understands a cash cow when they see it and weren’t willing to drop the ball to Google and Apple.
Outside of tablets though, ARM has potential in ultra-mobile laptops as well or at least analysts seem to think so.
There is one bring problem with the ARM version of Windows 8, it seems behind on development when compared to the x86 version.
Now it seems that sources are reporting that notebooks running Windows 8 on an ARM processor aren’t expected to hit the market until June 2013.
This source doesn’t say anything about tablets and so it makes you wonder. If they DO launch the ARM/tablet version in late-2012 (alongside the x86 version), why wait until mid-2013 to bring it to notebooks?
This leaves me to think that either the tablet version is behind too and Microsoft just doesn’t want that cat out of the bag yet, or perhaps Microsoft has made a deal with Intel/AMD to keep x86 exclusive for a while longer.
Only Microsoft really knows the reason for sure.
The source further claims that due to significant challenges, such as vendor reluctance and software support, it will likely be 2015 or later until ARM presents a significant market-share challenge to x86-based laptops.
What is curious about all this is that IF Microsoft has agreed to hold back the ARM version for laptops/desktops from vendors, why?
According to analysts, ARM’s challenges will keep in back from competing for years even when released. Holding it back until June 2013 really seems unnecessary based on this information.
This leads me to think that it is more likely that ARM development is behind and Microsoft is either going to hold back ALL ARM products until 2013, including tablets, or it is working around the clock to make sure that at least the drivers necessary for a few key tablets are ready in 2012.
If tablets get pushed back all the way to June 2013 I personally think that the tablet war will already be won, and Microsoft will in fact be too late to the party.
Keep in mind that nearly all of this is speculation, and we only know so much about the when, where, and how details regarding Windows 8 on ARM.
What we do know is that things are certainly heating up for an interesting battle of the architectures in the next few years.
Qualcomm in particular seems very intent on pushing beyond mobile interests and into the laptop/desktop market as well; even Nvidia seems to have some interest in capitalizing further on Windows 8-based market expansion.
At the other end of the game, Intel (and to a lesser extent, AMD) has been the king of PC hardware for many decades now and they aren’t go to give up without a spectacular fight.
Ivy Bridge in early 2012 and Haswell in 2013 will continue Intel down a path that is slowly put surely improving power consumption while still retaining a good deal of power under the hood.
No matter who wins in the long run, it seems like this is good news for everyone. Major competition like this means that hardware vendors have to push themselves further to deliver cutting-edge and improving products in order to stay competitive.
This can create consumer confusion due to the multitude of choices it brings, but in the end its nice to have options.
What do you think about Windows 8 on ARM? If ARM is behind in development, while this harm Microsoft’s chances with tablets? Share your thoughts below.