Windows 7 on ARM a possibility?

May 5, 2009 // 4:12 p.m.

Tags: #arm #arm-cortex #cortex-a8 #cortex-a9 #linux #microsoft #netbook #risc #ultraportable #warren-east #windows #windows-7

Microsoft may not be conceding the the ARM battlefield to Linux just yet, if comments made by the company's chief executive officer are true.

As reported over on Electronista, Warren East has pointed to ARM support in Windows 7 as a possibility for the future – finally breaking the barrier that ARM's latest processor chips would face to mass adoption.

In comments to press, East stated that Windows 7 would work “on a broader array of hardware than any other release of Windows at launch,” and despite this not including the non-x86 ARM instruction set at first he stated that “perhaps there will be support [for ARM] in future.

East went on to distance himself from the comments, stating that “that's really for Microsoft to comment on.” The move should come as no surprise, however: with several manufacturers seriously looking at ARM's new Cortex A8 and Cortex A9 chips for their performance at a particularly low power draw – and with no current version of Windows available for the ARM instruction set beyond the simplified Windows CE – Microsoft would be foolish to concede the next generation of netbook devices to rival operating system Linux without a fight.

The move comes as Linux enjoys a boost in usage, largely due to netbook devices, to 1 percent of the Internet-connected PC market. Figures from research organisation MarketShare – via DownloadSquad – show Linux breaking 1 percent of the market for the first time. While the open source operating system has a long way to go before it'll seriously challenge Windows – at 88 percent – or even Mac OS X – at 9.7 percent – the continued growth must be causing Microsoft a certain amount of concern.

Would an ARM build of Windows 7 running on a Cortex A9-based netbook be the king of the ultra-portable world, or is Microsoft barking up the wrong tree with this move? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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