When Microsoft announced that Windows 8 would have full support for ARM SoC (system-on-a-chip) processors early this year, analysts and the press weren’t very surprised. The smartphone and tablet revolution brought these types of compact, power-efficient computers into the limelight, making truly portable devices with comparable performance to more conventional PCs in basic functions. It seemed quite natural for Microsoft to adopt this technology for their iconic desktop operating system, as ARM processors might make tablets running Windows a possibility not plagued by poor battery life and poor heat management.
ARM processors power all of the most popular smartphones and tablets, including the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy Tab
Most “perfect” ideas aren’t nearly as good as they appear, as it was later announced that ARM-powered Windows would lack support for legacy x86 programs. In layman’s terms, familiar programs from the desktop Windows experience would be out of the picture for devices running these low-power mobile processors. While this makes sense on a technical level, it also brings some stark realities into the picture; namely, a separate suite of applications would have to be developed for these specific devices.
Fortunately, this process might have been necessary whether or not this limitation exists as Windows 8 devices running with ARM processors would likely be tablets, meaning touch-specific UIs would need to be implemented. Delivery of such apps could land squarely on the OS’s app store we reported on about a month ago, which could enable Microsoft to create separate channels for content attributed to each version of the OS. Furthermore, there have recently been rumblings of Windows 8 supporting Windows Phone 7 apps, making use of their cross-compatible Silverlight programming language to bolster early numbers of available apps.
There might have been a few bumps along the way, but at this point in the news cycle Microsoft looks to be in a fair position to address the needs of the two audiences its trying to service with Windows 8 – conventional PC users who seek rich computing experiences and the rising mainstream who seek web-based experiences with simple touch interfaces. To throw a large wrench in this tenuous balance, CNET has reported that Samsung is looking to bring a Windows 8 tablet to market equipped with an Intel CPU.
nVidia's Tegra 3 will likely power future Windows 8 tablet devices, delivering more comparable performance to conventional PC processors
What’s the problem with this proposal? Beyond the mobility-related advantages to running ARM architecture under the hood of Windows 8 tablets, price comes into play considerably when Intel comes around. The way ARM Holdings deals with manufacturers is they create a reference design that companies can license to make their own silicon. Some of these implementations that might be familiar are nVidia’s Tegra 2 (present in Samsung’s own Galaxy Tab tablet and Galaxy S II smartphones) and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon (in many recent Android phones from Sony and HTC). This model gives room for manufacturers to compete on both price and performance. In the end, an Intel-equipped Windows 8 tablet might look something like a keyboard-less ultrabook/MacBook Air in both size and price (around $1000).
Such a device would also be lacking in the presumed touch-friendly apps in the W8 ARM-specific app store, breaking the convenient coincidence that might make the lack of legacy apps excusable. If Samsung’s supposed device is any indication of manufacturer’s approach to Windows 8 in the future, consumers might end of seeing products that look much like the tablets of yesteryear – expensive, lacking proper touch-support, and sorely unpopular.
Source: CNET news