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Microsoft Hardware

Next Generation of Windows To Run On ARM Chip 307

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Sharon Chan reports in the Seattle Times that at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft showed the next generation of Windows running natively on an ARM chip design, commonly used in the mobile computing world, indicating a schism with Intel, the chip maker Microsoft has worked with closely with throughout the history of Windows and the PC. The Microsoft demonstration showed Word, PowerPoint and high definition video running on a prototype ARM chipset made by Texas Instruments, Nvidia. 'It's part of our plans for the next generation of Windows,' says Steve Sinofsky, president of Windows division. 'That's all under the hood.' According to a report in the WSJ, the long-running alliance between Microsoft and Intel is coming to a day of reckoning as sales of tablets, smartphones and televisions using rival technologies take off, pushing the two technology giants to go their separate ways. The rise of smartphones and more recently, tablets, has strained the relationship as Intel's chips haven't been able to match the low power consumption of chips based on designs licensed from ARM. Intel has also thumbed its nose at Microsoft by collaborating with Microsoft archrival Google on the Chrome OS, Google's operating system that will compete with Windows in the netbook computer market. 'I think it's a deep fracture,' says venture capitalist Jean-Louis Gassee regarding relations between Microsoft and Intel."
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Next Generation of Windows To Run On ARM Chip

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  • Nvidia cpu (Score:4, Interesting)

    by assemblerex (1275164) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:04AM (#34775152)
    just happens to be coming out as well.
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:05AM (#34775168)

    I knew it was getting fucking cold in here.

    --Satan

  • by Nursie (632944) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:09AM (#34775192)

    What about the huge catalogue of win32 applications?

    If I was to believe the anti-linux trolling of the last decade or so, that's the major reason people won't ever, ever switch!

    On a more serious note, I know .Net stuff stands a good chance of working fine, but there's a hell of a lot of windows stuff people use that isn't .Net and I can't see a translation engine or emulation working that great on ARM stuff.

    • by Major Blud (789630) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:12AM (#34775212) Homepage
      I've been wondering the same thing. What about SDK's? Will there be a separate version of Visual Studio strictly for ARM? I know Visual Studio is mostly targeted towards .NET, but for native apps, will you be able to compile ARM code on the x86?
      • by Nursie (632944) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:16AM (#34775236)

        Having a cross compiler would probably be a necessity.

        ARM is pretty quick these days, but has nowhere near the power of the multicore 64-bit chips coming out of AMD and Intel at the moment.

        Also there's the branding to think about. Sure windows ran/runs on a few architectures already, but if it *does* come down to x86/win32 apps not working on ARM machines and vice-versa, won't MS have a bit of a public education battle? Will the general public get confused by windows apps that are for one hardware variant and not another? Or will MS mandate fat binaries if you want Windows 8 certification or something?

        Many questions...

        • If you are building desktop computer that might be an issue, it's not for mobile devices. That's the whole point. These are mobile devices. Mobile devices do not use the same bloated OS that desktop systems use. The iPhone, iPad and iPod do not use OS X, the use iOS. This is why Windows 7 fails on a tablet PC and why Microsoft has failed to delivery a tablet. You need a specialized version.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        TargetCPU in the "advanced" compile options currently allows targeting AnyCPU( x86, x64 ), x64 only, and x86 only. It'd be somewhat reasonable to have the next version of the framework ( 4.5? ) be able to target ARM as a compile option ( maybe even offer an emulator for your code? ) and ship that as a SP to VS 2010.

        Of course, there isn't enough windows bashing in this post to get it modded up, but oh well.

      • by johnhennessy (94737) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:23AM (#34775286)

        Well, this depends on their target audience.

        If you have C/C++ code, porting it to ARM should be a huge deal. Yes there will be some differences, yes, there will be bugs - but in terms of effort its manageable. And more importantly, every single vendor has to do this effort, so Microsoft doesn't have to do anything.

        Because Microsoft are saying this now, with no product that anyone can "buy" right now (or even soon), this probably means the audience for this news is *Developers* (the single intelligent word that Mr Balmer has uttered in the last 20 years, so good, he had to say it multiple times for it be considered a quote). They are now selling the ARM architecture to developers. If the developers buy this story, the applications will follow.

        And of course, some developers will be more prepared than others. Don't expect an ARM version of Photoshop anytime soon, but an ARM version of Firefox is something that could be cranked out very easily.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Why wouldn't you? You could always compile ARM Windows CE/Mobile code on x86, and you could always compile IA64 Windows code on x86 as well. The compiler only needs to run on x86, not the emitted binary. You'd need an emulation layer or virtual machine to run/debug the binary locally, though. Visual Studio has shipped with virtual machine images for Windows Mobile devices emulating ARM machines specifically for this purpose for years.

        I really don't know why people are shocked by all of this. Windows is

        • by bhtooefr (649901)

          The SPARC port barely ran (there were endianness issues that Microsoft never worked out,) and XPe is x86-only.

        • by tbuskey (135499)

          You forgot Itanium. Server 2008 runs on Itanium.

          Alpha has an x86 to Alpha JIT compiler that would eventually turn an x86 app into native code. It wasn't enough to keep NT on Alpha.

          I think everything else got steamrollered by x86.

          MS has the work environment locked up. We all run Windows to AD/Exchange/Office/Sharepoint and other native apps. Maybe some users will get a thin client to a terminal server to run legacy apps with a native web browser locally.

          Most home users will just need a web browser on a p

      • Visual C++ has been able to compile for arm for some time..... Just create a new solution platform from the configuration manager.
      • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:31AM (#34775336)

        I've been wondering the same thing. What about SDK's? Will there be a separate version of Visual Studio strictly for ARM? I know Visual Studio is mostly targeted towards .NET, but for native apps, will you be able to compile ARM code on the x86?

        Visual studio it self is a userland app and as such should run on Windows for ARM with few problems. I'm not sure what MSVS is written in, if it's a native app there will be an ARM version much as there was a PPC and x86 version of Xcode when Apple switched to x86, if MSVS is a .NET app you should get a build once run anywhere App like Eclipse is except Eclipse is truly cross platform while .Net apps are truly cross platform only on Windows flavors. If MS does a proper job porting it, the ARM toolkit for Windows should be every bit as powerful as the Windows x86 toolkit. Win 32 applications on the other hand might be a problem but then again Apple did a pretty decent jop at running PPC applications on x86 machines with Rosetta, I ran pretty heavy PPC applications under Rosetta with no major problems, so I don't see why Microsoft could not do something in a similar vein.

        • by raddan (519638) *
          What I think would be really interesting is if Microsoft decided to leverage .NET to help them expand their software ecosystem. There's already a .NET runtime on Linux: Mono. Hey... just so happens that Android runs Linux...

          But I doubt that would happen. Microsoft hates making their technology available outside of the Windows environment, as evidenced by the poor quality of Mac ports of Microsoft stuff. I never really understood why Microsoft made them in the first place. They must have some calcula
          • . I never really understood why Microsoft made them in the first place.

            I have a two word answer : antitrust regulations

        • by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Thursday January 06, 2011 @11:41AM (#34777832) Homepage Journal

          Visual studio is a mixed mode app. The basic shell and environment is native code. But there are many managed components that are loaded into it. Previous to VS2010, the code editing experience was native, but I beleive it is now WPF based and as such is also managed.

          A tool for developers as you might expect is highly componentized and extensible, and plugins can be written in either native or managed code.

          VS has had cross compiling features for at least 10 years, and that's the number i picked because that's how long i've looked at it. VC 6.0 had th Windows CE toolkit, used for authoring windows CE apps for all the procs that CE supported. Modern VS installs ask you if you want to install the Itanium cross-compilation tools. When you install the Windows phone 7 SDK you get a different cross compiler and binary emulation environment.

          Cross compiling, multi-targeting, etc is nothing new for MS. They've been supporting more architectures in more products than Apple, Google, or anyone else for years.

      • Microsofts desktop/server toolchains already support x86, x64 and ia64 so presumablly they already have interfaces to allow selection of the build target and since wince already supports arm they should already have an arm complier. So it should be "just" a matter of peicing the bits together and ironing out the bugs.

    • What about the huge catalogue of win32 applications?

      If I was to believe the anti-linux trolling of the last decade or so, that's the major reason people won't ever, ever switch!

      On a more serious note, I know .Net stuff stands a good chance of working fine, but there's a hell of a lot of windows stuff people use that isn't .Net and I can't see a translation engine or emulation working that great on ARM stuff.

      There's absolutely no reason that Win32 stuff would have any problem with the ARM architecture.

      Microsoft will just port their Win32 API over to ARM. The problem with bringing Win32 stuff over to Linux is that there is no Win32 API natively available... And the folks developing WINE don't have Microsoft's inside knowledge... So everything has to be reverse-engineered and hacked-together.

      It may not be the easiest thing in the world... But there's absolutely no reason why Microsoft couldn't port Win32 to a

      • by jimicus (737525)

        True, but you're still going to be relying on the software developer to actually compile and ship an ARM version. Emulation typically slows things down dramatically, it only really works when your emulator is running on hardware MUCH faster than the hardware you're emulating - which isn't the case here.

        • True, but you're still going to be relying on the software developer to actually compile and ship an ARM version. Emulation typically slows things down dramatically, it only really works when your emulator is running on hardware MUCH faster than the hardware you're emulating - which isn't the case here.

          Didn't Apple throw the emulation into hardware? Threw another chip or two on the motherboard for a year or so while everyone transitioned from the old Motorola chips to PowerPC?

    • by kesuki (321456)

      What about the huge catalogue of win32 applications?

      If I was to believe the anti-linux trolling of the last decade or so, that's the major reason people won't ever, ever switch!

      On a more serious note, I know .Net stuff stands a good chance of working fine, but there's a hell of a lot of windows stuff people use that isn't .Net and I can't see a translation engine or emulation working that great on ARM stuff.

      the reason people didn't switch was they didn't know how to change, now with 'smart phones' the kids are learning to be wireless and have no patience for slow clunky windows cloud or no cloud.

    • What about the huge catalogue of win32 applications?

      If I was to believe the anti-linux trolling of the last decade or so, that's the major reason people won't ever, ever switch!

      On a more serious note, I know .Net stuff stands a good chance of working fine, but there's a hell of a lot of windows stuff people use that isn't .Net and I can't see a translation engine or emulation working that great on ARM stuff.

      An emulator would work great for ARM/Windows for two reasons:

      1. We have all the relevant libraries, so basically just the program and any libraries it brings get emulated; the linker links non-native and native libraries, of course. The tricky part is call-backs to function pointers, since "get me the address of $function" is a pretty raw machine activity and not a call to a facility somewhere.
      2. We're addicted to JIT these days, so of course we could just JITter the code to ARM. Callbacks via function point
    • by raddan (519638) * on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:50AM (#34775474)
      Microsoft might be viewing this much the way Apple views iOS: it doesn't matter. Mobile devices, especially touchscreen devices, are different enough from their hardwired brethren that people may not seek to run the original software. Add to the fact that most technology companies are seeking to push software "to the cloud" (and indeed, Microsoft already has a cloud version of Office), this may become less and less of an issue.

      I personally think that Microsoft needs to make the break to stay competitive. Continuing to support legacy software is extremely painful for both Microsoft and for their customers. I used to work for a company that was heavily invested in legacy Microsoft technologies. You know those dastardly tactics that Microsoft uses to lock you in to their product? Well, it keeps you from using new Microsoft technology as well. Loss-aversion [wikipedia.org] may be irrational, but, well, you try arguing that you need to switch to new tech to a CTO who has sunk millions into software that requires ActiveX on IE6. That, my friends, is why IE6 is still around. But I'm mildly amused at the irony that Microsoft's own proficiency in the lock-in game is hurting them now.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I'm guessing they plan to copy Apple, and offer a light version of Windows customized for handhelds and tablets that runs on ARM devices. Expect it to replace Windows Mobile on the phone eventually. Microsoft has proven that NT can be stable enough for an appliance-type device with the Xbox 360.

    • by Cyberax (705495) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:28AM (#34775832)

      "What about the huge catalogue of win32 applications?"

      They'll probably create an x86-to-ARM JIT-compiler. Like Alpha did with Windows NT during 90-s. So for a brief period Windows NT on Alpha was the fastest way to run x86 applications.

      And it's not like they need to emulate the whole API like Wine has to do, they just need to translate x86 calling conventions to ARM calling convention, which can be done by a fairly simple shim layer.

    • If they intend the next windows to be available for both Intel and ARM processors, they expect the ARM-Windows to be used on tablets, smartphones, etc.

      It means that they do not want translation engines and automagic emulation - noone wants to get a pile of win32 application 1-to-1 copies on a tablet platform.
      They'll supply the changes to the .NET libraries and win32 api required for porting; but the porting needs to involve changes to the UI in any case, including support for low-precision finger pointing,

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      That's pretty much why Windows/Alpha and Windows/PPC were duds.

      Yes, desktop Windows (NT specifically) did have native Alpha and PPC variants. There were basically no applications so they were a novelty and Linux pretty much killed both of them.

      It is obviously possible for a manufacturer to do an architecture switch or support dual architectures (see Apple), but I really don't see Microsoft pulling off what Apple did.

  • by johnhennessy (94737) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:14AM (#34775220)

    Wikipedia tells me that .NET (and therefore managed code) is nearly 10 years old (13 February 2002)

    I'm pretty sure that someone in Redmond was thinking about supporting multiple platforms when they started architecting their software compiler strategy back then. It just took their management structure 5 years to wake up to the idea.

    Now people have to go in and remove all of that crud which is blocking porting their SW to a different architecture ...

    DLL Hell was yesterday, tomorrow is P/Invoke hell.

    • by cnettel (836611)
      Proper P/Invoke declarations will work just fine carrying over to ARM. "Proper" ones being approximately those that work across x86 and x64.
  • Not all that surprising. Back in the day, NT ran on MIPS and Alpha and you could compile native code for both from respective versions of Visual C. That was a long time ago but all the code infrastructure to support different CPU architectures are still there. 3rd party code is a different story.
    • Same goes for Windows 2000. I have (had) a Beta of Windows 2000 for Alpha.

      Also, there was a version of Windows NT (up to 4.0) that ran on PowerPC!

      • I happen to have an old Enorex box that uses an Alpha CPU. It was running Windows NT 4.0 on it when I got it (although it has since been switched over to Linux). The only way to get x86 Windows code running on this box was to use FX!32 from DEC, which was an emulation layer. You took a huge performance hit when trying to do this, and not all software worked correctly. Granted, things have come a LONG way since then, but I'm not sure that emulation/virtualization is the way that we'd want to go.
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:32AM (#34775338)
    Microsoft are pre-announcing something to try to stop customers and OEMs from moving over to ARM based kit now... they've got a long history of pre-announcing stuff that will be available soon... They did it with DOS 5 to stop people from jumping to DR-DOS 5 which had lots of features DOS 4 didn't have [theregister.co.uk]

    on 2nd May 1990 MS-DOS product manager Mark Chestnut said: "On the PR side, we have begun an 'aggressive leak' campaign for MS-DOS 5.0. The goal is to build an anticipation for MS-DOS 5.0 and diffuse potential excitement/momentum from the DR DOS 5.0 announcement. At this point, we are telling the press that a major new release from Microsoft is coming this year which will provide significant memory relief and other important features."

  • by wiredog (43288) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:44AM (#34775422) Journal

    Properly written .Net apps should run unchanged (needing, at most, a recompile) on Arm. I've written apps (in the .Net 2 days) that ran on XP and CE.Net devices with just a recompile.

  • And needs water cooling. I mean this is Windows, no? Plus, do you really think that weekly 300MB patches are going to cruise along on your cell phone network?

    • Well, eliminating the code debt wrt unmanaged code, especially in the ARM port would alleviate a lot of the burden on resources. MS has been pushing in this direction for the better part of the past decade. Though it's taken a long time to get their core application suites more portable.
  • Windows on ARM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @08:46AM (#34775444) Homepage

    Windows on ARM? That doesn't matter.

    Office on ARM is a million times more important - for a start, that suggests you can open your documents on another new platform without having to worry about export filters and binary compatibility. But hey, I'm afraid OpenOffice and suchlike beat you to it.

    The problem with Windows on ARM is that no currently existing Windows program will run on it. It's a new architecture without binary compatibility, like Windows CE was. Sure you can port things over but you can do that anyway and few have bothered. Things like the NET framework are "supposed" to be cross-platform but you can be assured than anything vital that you have to use and that you have no control over development of (e.g. business apps) requires an x86 binary at some point, or isn't supported on ARM. So even your programs that are written in NET need to be ported (which usually means it'll never happen).

    Telling people that Windows now runs on ARM is misleading - they will think that everything from Half-Life 2 to Sage should work on it without touching anything. What you mean is that there is now an official OS for ARM that looks and works a bit like Windows. Like Windows CE was. But then, what ARM? There are hundreds of ARM variations and not all of them can be catered to, so you're back to it only working on select platforms that have been especially designed for it - like, erm, Windows CE was. Can I join a domain and run my existing business apps? No? Then it's actually just the Windows *GUI* that's consistent across platforms, not the OS.

    Even if the next-gen of Windows 8 can be almost identical on PC or other devices, you're then into the problem that it's not the OS that matters (and that pretty much *does* have to be changed for every hardware variation) but the applications. And "Windows on ARM" will make people think they can install Steam on it and just run everything. That's not the case and never will be.

    Windows on ARM is a response to Android, to try to pretend to be as cross-platform. Same as OpenXML was a response to ODF, to try to pretend to be platform-independent. In reality, the headline will grab eyes and then the reality will disappoint. But in the meantime, you've sold a "portable Windows" license to some mobile-carrier who has to repeatedly explain that "desktop Windows" isn't the same as "mobile Windows".

    It's just Windows CE. Remember trying to explain to people that Pocket Word wasn't the same as desktop Word? Same thing over again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by yapplejax (931268)
      No existing Windows app will run on it? Office, as demonstrated at CES, isn't a Windows application?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ledow (319597)

        Is that the same Office as I get on my desktop installation CD? No? So it's a Microsoft-only product that's been ported by Microsoft to a Microsoft architecture? Windows "runs" on Alpha too. Office "runs" on Mac by that definition. What you're actually doing is BUYING another version of Office written specifically for that particular "Windows" port by the authors of the software who also happen to be the authors of the OS. How many *other* companies do you think stand a chance in hell of doing that, e

        • Re:Windows on ARM (Score:4, Insightful)

          by aztracker1 (702135) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:38AM (#34775946) Homepage
          If it's a compatible API then it is *windows* on ARM... is Firefox running under Debian for ARM not Firefox? or Linux? Surprise, you can't run your Linux binary blob compiled for x86 on ARM... same goes for Windows.. that doesn't make it suddenly less Windows... it does mean there will be fewer apps available out of the box. Though most cross-platform efforts for .Net based applications will probably run fine at or very near launch.
          • Re:Windows on ARM (Score:5, Insightful)

            by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:43AM (#34776020)

            Surprise, you can't run your Linux binary blob compiled for x86 on ARM... same goes for Windows..

            Except all those Linux applications are recompiled for ARM by the distro developers, whereas every single Windows application has to be recompiled by its own developers, and then you have to buy it again.

            If you can't run your old Windows applications on this new 'Windows', why would you buy it? Joe Sixpack is going to buy a 'Windows' ARM machine, take it home, and then wonder why his old Word CD won't install.

    • by bkaul01 (619795)

      Windows on ARM? That doesn't matter.

      Office on ARM is a million times more important - for a start, that suggests you can open your documents on another new platform without having to worry about export filters and binary compatibility.

      In the keynote, Microsoft demonstrated a recompiled-for-ARM Office 2010 running on their Windows-on-ARM demo systems.

      It's just Windows CE.

      Not at all. It's more akin to Windows NT for MIPS, PowerPC, and Alpha chips. They demoed a full-blown version of Windows (Win8 back end with Win7 UI), not a forked, barebones mobile OS.

      • >> It's more akin to Windows NT for MIPS, PowerPC, and Alpha chips.

        And how long were *those* supported? This will survive only until the sales figures demonstrate the pitiful penetration of Windows in the tablet market vs. iPad and Android, then written off (as were the RISC ports) as a bad investment of time/$$$.

        Without major app vendors jumping in with ARM ports of their x86 portfolios, this will be, like WinPhone 7, too-little-too-late.

        SCOX(Q) DELENDA EST!!

        • by bkaul01 (619795)

          And how long were *those* supported? This will survive only until the sales figures demonstrate the pitiful penetration of Windows in the tablet market vs. iPad and Android, then written off (as were the RISC ports) as a bad investment of time/$$$.

          Perhaps. I agree, at least, that the standard Windows UI, while great on PC hardware, is ill-suited to tablets and the like and will never make the same inroads in that market that iOS and Android are. I was just correcting the factually incorrect assertions of the parent post, not making any predictions about the likely impact of ARM support in Windows. I don't really know what the target market may end up being.

          Without major app vendors jumping in with ARM ports of their x86 portfolios, this will be, like WinPhone 7, too-little-too-late.

          Agreed on the need for substantial third-party vendor support for this to be meaningful. I disa

    • by KiloByte (825081)

      Well, Open/LibreOffice works just fine on ARM today.

  • When I was like 8 I looked at RISC vs CISC And I was like, "Why are we doing this? RISC looks better..." RISC processing was going to change everything, and we went with CISC. 20 years later, we're going back to a prefixed RISC processor.
    • Re:Another one (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @10:11AM (#34776386) Journal

      RISC was better 20 years ago because CISC chips were using close to 50% of the die area for complex decoders. RISC chips could use 5%, giving them vastly more space to cram on ALUs and so on. Then the transistor budget increased, but the decoder complexity stayed pretty constant. 50% became 25%, then 10%, and now the increased space on RISC chips is pretty much irrelevant and the space-saving in instruction cache offsets it.

      Then people started caring about power consumption, and it turned out that the decoder (or, in the case of x86, the micro-op decoder, which is basically a RISC decoder after the CISC decoder) was about the only bit of the chip that couldn't be turned off while the CPU was doing anything. You can power down the FPU, the vector unit, and any of the other execution units that aren't relevant to the in-flight instructions, but you can't power down the decoder[1]. ARM does very well here. It achieves good instruction density with the 16-bit Thumb / Thumb2 instruction sets, but it can power down the ARM decoder when running Thumb code or power down the Thumb decoder when running ARM code, so the extra decoder complexity doesn't come with an increased power requirement.

      [1] Xeons actually do power down the decoder when running cached micro-ops, but they need to keep the micro-op decoder powered, and this has a similar power requirement to a RISC decoder.

      • Re:Another one (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @10:37AM (#34776806) Journal

        Yeah, the other issue is that ARM code is "bigger" but somehow a 900MHz ARM outruns a 1500MHz x86... hmm, why so much faster? The answer turns out to involve small decisions and branches, which on x86 et al involve load-compare-branch (mov %eax ... cmp %eax ... jne), whereas on ARM you have compare-prefix (mov %r1 ... cmp %r1 ... SUBGT, SUBLT, MOVEQ, BNE, etc) that don't take an extra cycle, i.e. MOVGT takes 1 cycle and MOV takes 1 cycle.

        This means a lot of simple code compiles to simple instructions, whereas on x86 you have a huge amount of branching to do. A lot of 'if' and 'select' statements can be reorganized to just do one comparison and then drop through a bunch of instructions that are prefixed for simple cases.

        This kind of thing reduces the performance penalty of not having a branch predictor--that's right, ARM performs as well as it does with no branch prediction. ARM has a huge number of registers (something like 16 with identical general purpose use and access times, vs x86 4 GPRs), lack of support for mis-aligned memory access (simple, fast data access paths), and a few cherry-picked things like a built-in barrel shifter in any arithmetic instruction (you can i.e. add numbers with shift left/right as part of the instruction). Also most instructions run in 1 cycle--even really crazy ones like conditional-arithmetic-shift (i.e. SUBGT Ra, Ri, Rj, LSL #2)-- whereas stuff like x86 runs an average of 2-3 clock cycles per instruction, with some very long. That means that a 2.5GHz x86 is about as fast as a 1GHz ARM.

        ARM is a large amount of compensation for not implementing complex features. They look hard and say, "Well... this is a general good performance feature..." and do that; whereas CISC is like, "Here's a special case we should do... and oh, branch prediction would let us try to speed up branches... and we could add instructions for manipulating ASCIIZ strinsg..." RISC is more like, "Well, let's try to do everything in 1 cycle... let's prefix instructions so that we can avoid branching... let's add a ton of registers... let's not make a slow decoder... let's restrict memory access to avoid performance hits in cache misses..."

  • by AntEater (16627) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:16AM (#34775726) Homepage

    Everyone seems to rambling on about x86 compatability and running existing Windows applications on the ARM cpu. I see this more as an admission from MS that the desktop environment is stagnant and growth will be found in the market for dedicated devices (phones, tablets, netbooks etc). I don't see that this will be about desktops at all. I see this more like Apple does with iOS and OS X. Same code base but one runs on portable devices and the other is for their desktop machines. I have not real insight but I don't see where ARM desktop machines make any sense.

    Anyone remember when Windows NT ran on x86, PPC, MIPS and alpha? It was amazing how much better it ran on the Alpha hardware than any x86 machines. Maybe it'll be a step forward for them - not that I really care.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:23AM (#34775790)

    I specifically remember Cmdr. La Forge always talking about iso-linear chips. Not once did he ever mention ARM chips. Just like Microsoft to support the wrong Next Generation systems.

  • by HighOrbit (631451) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:30AM (#34775858)
    I think calling this a swipe at Intel is overblown. Intel has historically sold ARM-based processors ( see the XScale at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XScale [wikipedia.org]), although they sold-off most of their ARM business to a company called Marvell. However, Intel continued to Fab for Marvell until Marvell was able to build or rent their own Fab. I don't know the current situation, but there is a good chance that Intel still has an ARM production line running under contract for Marvell. At the bottom of the wiki article it says, "Intel still holds an ARM license even after the sale of XScale." So they can move right into the business again if they see the market justification for it.
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      x86 is a market with very limited competition where you can make hundreds of dollars of profit on a high-end CPU. ARM is a market with massive competition where you're probably going to be lucky to make $1 a CPU.

  • Microsoft has shown/announced a lot of cool stuff that will work on the "next generation of Windows". If only half of it ever made it into a shipping version of Windows, I might actually consider Windows an option.
  • Schism? Fracture? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:54AM (#34776158) Homepage Journal

    What? Microsoft just made the smartest decision in their corporate lifetime. Well, third-smartest, and critical to their survival.

    x86 is not the only architecture out there. Itanium is a market failure, RISC is relegated to the memory of us modem-wielding veterans, is there another chip line out there I forgot? If so, irrelevant.

    Windows on ARM means:

    - Potential NT kernel on phones. Hey, the NT kernel isn't half bad. A single kernel everywhere eorks for Linux, just sayin'.

    - Opportunity for new markets like tablets and set-top/integrated TV systems. No, an Atom-powered tablet isn't ery attractive. Power demand is the issue, and ARM seems to be the king of power demand.

    - A huge developer base that may not have to learn Java or Cocoa or Objective-C after all to be rlevant in our mobile- social- oriented world.

    I mean, Microsoft winning sounds evil, but we should know by now that competition is good. Apple may have to answer this, and the Linux/Android community hasn't changed their value proposition one iota. In fact, consider the appeal of buying a phone and THEN choosing the OS you want - 'WindowsARM', Android, 'OpenIOS'... Or perhaps a hypervisor and VMs running any of the three?

    I like it. 2GHz dual-core DX10 phones with 2GB RAM and a uSD slot for another 128G, 4.5" AMOLED screens and 1080p HDMI out? All I need now is to find a table at the Starbucks with the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and the 21" display, and I'm rockin.

    I can dream, can't I?

  • All or nothing? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joeyblades (785896) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @10:58AM (#34777122)
    Why would we assume that Microsoft and Intel would part company? ARM out-performs Intel in terms of power consumption, but Intel out-performs ARM in terms of processing power. While it seems that Intel may wind up with a smaller portion of pie, the need for desktop computers will continue for a long time. I don't think we will be seeing these competing options "pushing the two technology giants to go their separate ways" in the near future.
  • by markhahn (122033) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @12:02PM (#34778332)

    seriously, why is this news? yes, naifs out there associate OS stacks with particular hardware platforms, but the people _inside_ software companies don't. msft has produced extensive app stacks for ppc before, even to some extent mips and alpha. current windows is derived through NT and NT OS/2 from a codebase that was _originally_ developed simultaneously on MIPS and x86. obviously for devices like phones and tablets, even a lot of desktops, there's no need to worry about externally-provided add-in cards and the driver complexities that introduces.

    besides, who cares that much about native apps anymore? "appliancy" stuff is browser/flash/java-based. msft itself is probably the main purveyor of non-browser/flash/java stuff, and of course they can retarget their office suite, no sweat (hah).

    the interesting question in this is whether there's really any reason for ARM to be more mobile-friendly - that is, what is it about the ISA or implementation that makes it _inherently_ better (if any). my suspicion is that it's mostly a matter of methodology or culture: ARM has traditionally been very parsimonious (think hybrid or high-efficiency car), and the x86 makers have traditionally been more Nascar. Intel seemed to have done Atom almost against its will or corporate culture - followons have been more power-efficient, but they hardly seem like significant, bet-the-company efforts. AMD's recent bobcat-based chips appear to be based on a modestly-tweaked version of the K8. maybe what distinguishes ARM is something simple, like a compact instruction encoding...

  • by nukem996 (624036) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:14PM (#34782810)
    The main reason people are still using Windows on their systems today is because of all the apps and hardware that Wintel supports. As soon as the first ARM based Windows devices come out for consumers there will be a huge amount of people complaining that there programs or drivers don't work. Even today this comes up, I've seen people not understand that Office 2007 won't work with Windows 98. All they saw on the box was that "Windows" was supported. While Microsoft will be able to get some companies to port many won't and those that do will require users to buy a new version.

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