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Microsoft signs CPU agreement with ARM

Microsoft signs CPU agreement with ARM

Microsoft's latest agreement with ARM comes complete with veiled hints of a compatible Windows build.

The growing threat ARM's architecture represents to x86 has been one of the tech stories of the year, and ARM gained more momentum late last week as software giant Microsoft - one-half of what was once known as the Wintel duopoly - announced that it has become a licence holder for the ARM architecture.

The news comes shortly after ARM announced a partnership with chip fabricator TSMC, and shows just how popular the RISC-based architecture is becoming - and with Microsoft on board, how much of a threat it represents to the dominance of AMD and Intel as providers of consumer CPUs.

Although Microsoft and ARM have worked together in the past - most notably on Windows CE and Windows Mobile support for the platform - some of the commentary from both companies indicates that this latest agreement is something new for the pair.

Mike Muller, ARM's chief technology officer, claims that the new licensing terms allows Microsoft to "be at the forefront of applying and working with ARM technology in concert with a broad range of businesses and addressing multiple application areas" - possibly, just maybe, hinting at a full-fat edition of Windows for ARM-based processors.

That possibility is enhanced by other comments made by KD Hallman, Microsoft's general manager, who stated that "we deliver multiple operating systems on [ARM's] architecture, most notably Windows Embedded and Windows Phone," while claiming that "closer access to the ARM technology [means that] we will be able to enhance our research and development activities for ARM-based products."

With the embedded and mobile variants of Windows already pretty well researched and developed, you have to wonder why Microsoft would bother to reference such things - unless, that is, the company is looking to head off the threat of ARM-based ultra-portable netbooks and notebooks running Linux by offering an ARM-compatible build of Windows 7.

Such a move would leave Intel steaming: software support is a key advantage for the chip giant. If Microsoft chooses to support ARM with its Windows 7 - or, depending on how long such research takes, Windows 8 - operating system, Intel's grip on the market could be badly shaken.

An even more drastic possibility for Microsoft is that it's exploring making its own ARM-derived CPU, just as Apple has with the A4. As we know Microsoft is letting partners manufacturer Windows 7 Phones, what hardware does Microsoft manufacture that it might need a CPU for? How about the next Xbox?

Whatever the agreement ultimately leads to, it's another fascinating move in the battle between ARM and Intel. Share your thoughts over in the forums.

25 Comments

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memeroot 26th July 2010, 13:49 Quote
would ARM really give intel a run for its money on larger faster chips?

I'd love to know - goes back and switches on the A4000 and hugs self
r3loaded 26th July 2010, 14:19 Quote
Don't worry Intel, this move is completely 'ARM-less :)

ARM won't ever challenge Intel in the market for desktops or even mid-range laptops, its chip architecture isn't designed for that. What's more likely are ARM-based netbooks/smartbooks/tablets, and Microsoft's covering its bases in case this takes off and an ARM build of Windows 7 is needed.
crazyceo 26th July 2010, 14:39 Quote
How often will you be upgrading your PC? How often will you be changing your smartphone?

Most (and I don't mean us!) people will change their phone 2 maybe 3 times before any major PC change. If ARM is becoming the norm for smartphones then this could be a very clever move by Microsoft.

Most enthusiasts do change their PC or it's components alot more often but we are the minority. Given the number of pies Intel sticks it's fingers in, I don't really see them worrying too much.
Yslen 26th July 2010, 14:49 Quote
Maybe MS has a lighter version of windows 7 with a touch-friendly interface in the pipeline? Something capable of web browsing, content consumption and maybe basic office stuff, with a fraction of the overhead of full-blown Windows? That would fit quite nicely with a MS/ARM collaboration that produces iPad-whipping tablet and Atom-smashing (sorry) netbook CPUs.
rickysio 26th July 2010, 16:00 Quote
Microsoft, if you think that using ARM for your next Xbox will cut down on the noise and RRoD events...
Evildead666 26th July 2010, 16:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by memeroot
would ARM really give intel a run for its money on larger faster chips?

I'd love to know - goes back and switches on the A4000 and hugs self

Good Lord, you still have an Archimedes ?
Damn, i remember seeing Tetris at my cousin's house on his Archimedes...and the Flag demo, blowing in the Wind...

A Sweet machine ;)
Gareth Halfacree 26th July 2010, 16:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evildead666
Good Lord, you still have an Archimedes ?
I rescued a two-slice RiscPC (with 52x CD-ROM, 40GB hard drive, and 250MB ZIP drive, no less) from a skip once. Still works, too.

http://gareth.halfacree.co.uk/archives/riscpc_recovered.jpg
crazyceo 26th July 2010, 16:30 Quote
Also, I think Intel drew blood first on this lovein by showing the world Android running on an Atom based device in April this year.
koli 26th July 2010, 17:10 Quote
Maybe it is for some media player/hub device (apple tv kind of thing). I am considering XB360 for its media capability (movies, skyplayer, maybe zune music in the future) and for that the full fat 360 is overkill.

If MS can make it small and quiet that it would be a nobrainer for me.
l3v1ck 26th July 2010, 17:13 Quote
Another nail in Atom's coffin. You either want lots of power, or enough power with low power consumption. Atom is in the middle and could easily be killed off by an ARM version of Windows.
memeroot 26th July 2010, 17:14 Quote
@Evildead666
yep.. .though its not plugged in right now - anyone got a copy of zarch about?

@Gareth Halfacree... NICE!!!
Anakha 26th July 2010, 21:35 Quote
I love how everyone's jumping on this and going "ARM WINDOWS 7 OMG!!!", and completely forgetting Windows Phone, Windows Embedded, Zune, and the other Microsoft Hardware arms that run on ARM. Perhaps this is a sign that MS is going to make their own reference phone for Windows Phone, or maybe they're thinking beyond the Zune HD. Or, considering that the XBox 360 runs on a triple-core PowerPC processor (RISC) already, perhaps they're working with ARM for something for their XBox 720. Maybe Kinect is running with an ARM processor to do the limb detection and the like. Pretty sure Windows 7 ARM is not on the cards. No more than a resurrection of Windows NT for MIPS, Alpha or PowerPC is on the cards.

I wonder if the X360 kernel came from the remains of NT4.0 for PowerPC? Food for thought...
tad2008 26th July 2010, 21:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evildead666
Quote:
Originally Posted by memeroot
would ARM really give intel a run for its money on larger faster chips?

I'd love to know - goes back and switches on the A4000 and hugs self

Good Lord, you still have an Archimedes ?
Damn, i remember seeing Tetris at my cousin's house on his Archimedes...and the Flag demo, blowing in the Wind...

A Sweet machine ;)

Archimedes, now that is a blast from the past indeed! Those beasts were stonkingly fast and also used to come with a PC emulator as I recall :o) It was also the first machine that got me i to wanting to run video on my lowly Amstrad PC1512 with it's multitude of 4 colours from a palette of 16. My how things have come a long way since those bygone days...

I think having a new CPU ARM's race can only be a good thing and whatever they bring to the table in future products will hopefully be good for the consumer too.
docodine 27th July 2010, 00:42 Quote
I vote for a new version of Windows CE, but who knows.
thehippoz 27th July 2010, 02:24 Quote
just another way to stay competitive.. levick might have a point about atom though
Shagbag 27th July 2010, 15:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyceo
If ARM is becoming the norm for smartphones then this could be a very clever move by Microsoft.
LMFAO!!!!!

Clever? WindowsPhone7 hasn't even been released yet. What a f**king joke. If I were a MS shareholder I'd be well pissed and calling for Balmer to be given the "mother-of-all" enemas. Under his stewardship, we've witnessed the stillbirth of Vista, IE becoming an irrelevance and now WP7 looks like it'll arrive at the orgy after everyone else is already shagged-out.
wuyanxu 27th July 2010, 17:06 Quote
come on ARM!
bobwya 27th July 2010, 22:56 Quote
Now I feel depressed. It's just M$/Balmer trying to squash the Open Source powered netbooks and smartphones... Throw enough money at a product and people will be forced to use it...
jamie_macdonald 28th July 2010, 16:18 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagbag
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyceo
If ARM is becoming the norm for smartphones then this could be a very clever move by Microsoft.
LMFAO!!!!!

Clever? WindowsPhone7 hasn't even been released yet. What a f**king joke. If I were a MS shareholder I'd be well pissed and calling for Balmer to be given the "mother-of-all" enemas. Under his stewardship, we've witnessed the stillbirth of Vista, IE becoming an irrelevance and now WP7 looks like it'll arrive at the orgy after everyone else is already shagged-out.

I don't think you know the meaning of the word "clever" and if you do it's a case of knopwing but not "taking it on board" :p

I enjoyed vista and had no problems, i also chose new hardware to go with vista .. old pc's and vista didnt mix and it was intended to be for newer multithreaded devices with plenty of ram and grunt ...it did as intended, and it did it well, Win7 also has all the same problems vista had, albeit a little more responsive :p

I still use IE too, i like firefox and all the others but IE came with my windows and works with everything anyway (i know it leaves little desire for a developer using CSS though ehe).

Not really caring about winmobile7 as i will be firmly with the Meego,Maemo camp for mobile devices for the forseeable future ...

..So in short, jsut because you do not like them, and had problems with them, it does not mean everyone else is in the same boat ...you mus "hold you PC wrong" maybe? :p

Nice to see that ARM will have some further support in future, they do deserve it for their hard work over the years ^^
crazyceo 28th July 2010, 21:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagbag
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyceo
If ARM is becoming the norm for smartphones then this could be a very clever move by Microsoft.
LMFAO!!!!!

Clever? WindowsPhone7 hasn't even been released yet. What a f**king joke. If I were a MS shareholder I'd be well pissed and calling for Balmer to be given the "mother-of-all" enemas. Under his stewardship, we've witnessed the stillbirth of Vista, IE becoming an irrelevance and now WP7 looks like it'll arrive at the orgy after everyone else is already shagged-out.

And your point was?

I remember arriving late to a party once when everyone else was shagged out, god it was great. I wore a bear costume which was excellent since it was a bit of a chilly night. My friend wore a spidermans costume which was way too small for him and even though it was cold, you could still tell what his religion was! So since we had turned up late, we started talking to some really hot chicks who had just arrived also. We had looked around when we first got to the party and saw what was a pretty poor effort by the girls who had been there a few hours. So we were well chuffed to have picked up what had infact been the catches of the night. They had come from different parts of the country but had met in university over the past few years. One of the girls I think her name was Julie had just finished her masters degree in computer sciences and was waiting to see what her results would be because she was being touted by her regional police force. Her mate who I can't remember her name now was 1 year away from finishing her business management degree. So we offered the fine ladies a drink or three of our homebrew which was just finished. It had finished the first stage of the fermenting process in the barrel 4 weeks earlier, having stayed at a constant 23 degrees which was perfect from the second we added the Yeast to the mix. The mix consisted of gooey syrup of Malt bailey and hops which was added into the barrel with 4 pints of rested boiling water and a full bag of sugar. As the sugar desolved we added the remaining cool water upto the 40 pint mark and then waited for the mixture temperature to drop around the 23 degree mark. So that was when we added the yeast, gave it a quick stir and then put the top on the barrel for 8 days. Once we checked the process a week later we could then bottle the mixture for the second and final fermentation process. Some would do the second fermentation process in a second barrel and add a gas/air valve but since we had plenty of larger bottles we just cleaned the bottles out and sterilised them and added a teaspoon of sugar to the bottom of each bottle and then resealed the bottles with new caps. So 4 weeks later and back to the party and pouring out the beer. We had to pour the beer first into a jug carefully so none of the sediment at the bottom of the bottles mixed with the quality beer. We didn't know what the exact alcohol quantity was but I can say I have never had the same effect on any beer purchased elsewhere. we got the girls and ourselves absolutely smashed and spent the night letting them molest us back at our apartment. Quite a night really and Julie's nurses costume was a right winner. I'm sure I have photographic evidence of me wearing that as well?
Shagbag 29th July 2010, 08:40 Quote
Nice post. I didn't bother reading it.
crazyceo 29th July 2010, 11:08 Quote
You should, it's a really good story.
blood69 29th July 2010, 12:56 Quote
Keep dreaming on ARM overtaking Intel or AMD on the faster chips. The last CPU arquitecture that had the potencial to do that was the CELL developed by IBM and Toshiba. Even that CELL still today in use on DVD players and PS3 consoles was not the revolution that i was expecting to be because of the difrence in programming. The same was said about the RISC arquitecture when came out to the market "Makes a Pentium looks like a Calculator Machine", Yea Right, little time later Intel fougth back and we never hear about RISC again until came ARM.
ARM is a nice technology for low burning batteries in a small device, i thing we are never going to see ARM Cpus on a Super Computer or in Servers. And we aren't going to play the last eye candy creation of Crytec @ full graphics settings.
To see this happening it will require a new CPU arquitecture, maybe based a little on ARM to maintain compatibility with old methods of Programming and Libraries. It will be good to see a third CPU giant not based on x86 arquitecture.
Shagbag 29th July 2010, 13:35 Quote
No thanks. It'll be the usual pro-MS shiite you're well known around here for.
crazyceo 29th July 2010, 13:37 Quote
No really it's not, you should read it.
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