Intel rubbishes Windows RT's chances

May 11, 2012 // 11:07 a.m.

Tags: #arm #clover-trail #intel #microsoft #paul-otellini #qualcomm #ultrabook #windows-8 #windows-rt #wintel

Intel chief executive Paul Otellini has poured scorn on Microsoft's Windows RT plans, claiming that a lack of legacy support will hinder the company's adoption of the ARM architecture.

It's no surprise that Intel isn't keen on Windows RT: as the first more-or-less mainstream Windows release to support chips based on the ARM architecture of the eponymous British chip giant's design, it represents a clear and present danger to the company's near-monopoly on consumer computing.

Windows RT, for the moment, is clearly aimed at tablets rather than desktops. Should the software prove popular, however, its use will doubtless extend: already ARM licensee Qualcomm is talking about an ultra-slim laptop based around its Snapdragon processor and running WIndows RT as a serious competitor to Intel's Ultrabook programme.

It is, however, interesting to hear Otellini explicitly warn against Windows RT and its ARM processors in a meeting with investors late last night. 'There has been a lot of debate that [Windows RT] is going to be a real entry for the ARM camp into Windows for the first time. While at face value that's true, I think they [ARM licensees] have a big uphill fight,' Otellini told attendees at the briefing. 'We have the advantage of the incumbency, advantage of the legacy support, not just in terms of applications but devices'

Otellini used the event to point out that Windows 8 devices based on ARM processors will have the distinct advantage of being able to switch out of the new touch-centric Metro UI mode and into 'legacy' mode with a single click. Windows RT, while based on the Windows 8 core, doesn't offer the same functionality, restricting the legacy 'desktop mode' to a small selection of pre-loaded software provided by Microsoft alone.

'This [legacy mode] is critically important for CIOs [chief information officers] who want to preserve all of their investments in software,' Otellini claimed, pointing to 'tens of millions' of business-critical legacy packages coded for the x86 instruction set.

Intel itself is working to offer alternatives to Windows RT, pushing its Clover Trail low-power chipset into tablets capable of running the full-fat release of Windows 8 as a direct competitor to ARM-based devices and claiming twenty design wins from ten original equipment manufacturers (OEMs.) The company also showed off a range of touch-screen Ultrabooks, in an effort to head the likes of Qualcomm off at the pass.
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