Microsoft has been making a big fuss about its Metro-styled Windows 8, and now that it’s got the backing of ARM to boost sales potential, its preparing to go for the big guns – Android ICS (Ice-Cream Sandwich) and iOS 5. There are a lot of analysts predicting the popularity of tablets in the coming months, but it may be almost too late for Redmond to enter the game.
Windows 8 on ARM isn’t such as big a thing for tablets as I think it will be for netbooks and Ultrabooks. Intel’s Atom has been ruling the roost here for over three years and despite the best efforts of AMD and Qualcomm, the Atom still rakes in more sales for Intel. It’s never been the most efficient of processors, and the graphics side of things has always been a thorn in Intel’s side (one they could comfortably remove, but profits wouldn’t be as high). AMD has now gotten things right with their APU, even making some headway into the thin-and-light market. But ARM could change the game completely.
For one, the power-sipping hardware that ARM requires would easily double battery life in most netbooks. Not only will the architecture bring efficiency to the table, but heat and power draw will be lower than any Atom design currently available. Not to mention the useful dual-boot option: imagine a Windows 8 tablet with a fully functional install of Android ICS for quick-boot scenarios – anything really is possible here.
One gripe, however will be the software incompatibility. Microsoft has to work quickly on their software compiler for ARM or create a virtual environment for x86 programs to run without hassle. Many of the programs we use today rely on x86 and x64 hardware instructions to run threads properly without corruption. ARM isn’t x86-based and executes code very differently, and thus a radical new approach must be designed and sorted before release.
Either way, eager devs are holding their breath for a summer release, with the public getting their hands dirty later this year – the only problem now would be the fact that ICS can run on x86 hardware today. Microsoft, you’d better pull up your socks now.