Intel claims that it is not concerned about Microsoft expanding the platform options for Windows 8 to include ARM system-on-a-chip (SoC) processors. At the same time, though, Intel seems to be a bit sensitive about the ARM issue and preemptively hedging its bets. To paraphrase Shakespeare, Intel doth protest too much, me thinks.
Microsoft and Intel have a long, established symbiotic relationship. There is a reason that PCs are often referred to as “Wintel”. Windows and Intel are both dominant in their respective arenas, and both achieved their dominance with the aid of the other. So, it may have come as a slight shock to Intel when Microsoft revealed that the Windows 8 operating system will also work on the rival ARM architecture.
Speaking at the Intel Investor’s Meeting 2011, Renee James, general manager of Intel’s software and services group, felt compelled to clarify that Windows 8 will come in different versions, and that Windows 8 Traditional will be a very different animal from the ARM version of Windows 8 targeted at mobile devices. James stressed that Windows 8 on ARM will not run legacy Windows software.
According to reports of the Intel Investor’s Meeting, James also spent a considerable amount of time justifying why ARM is not a threat. It seems a bit defensive to say that you aren’t losing any sleep over ARM, and then in the same breath explain that you believe that Microsoft platforms are losing some ground, and that you are hedging your bets with Linux and working with Google to port Android to work on x86 architecture.
Details of Windows 8, or Microsoft’s support for ARM hardware is still sketchy, but apparently the core Microsoft applications will at least be available for Windows 8 on ARM. When Microsoft originally revealed that Windows 8 will run on ARM at CES, it demoed a version of Microsoft Office on ARM. At MIX ’11, Microsoft demoed the platform preview of Internet Explorer 10 on ARM as well.
In the end, there might be some ripples in the pond, but it isn’t likely that there will be any real rift between Intel and Microsoft. Microsoft may expand its options to include ARM, and Intel may invest more effort in Linux and other non-Microsoft platforms, but the symbiotic relationship runs very deep, and neither can exist without the other any time soon.
Update: After I posted this article online, I received the following statement from a Microsoft spokepserson: “Intel’s statements during yesterday’s Intel Investor Meeting about Microsoft’s plans for the next version of Windows were factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading. From the first demonstrations of Windows on SoC, we have been clear about our goals and have emphasized that we are at the technology demonstration stage. As such, we have no further details or information at this time.”
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