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Taiwanese OEMs Consider ARM Products For Windows 8 167

Posted by timothy
from the just-being-polite dept.
siliconbits writes "At CeBIT 2011, we went around the stands from some of the biggest component manufacturers in the world and asked them a simple question, would you consider bringing out ARM products (barebones, laptops, tablets, motherboards) for Windows 8? The answer was a unanimous yes; like Microsoft, the same firms that have been faithful Intel and AMD partners for years are prepared to explore other territories as soon as Windows 8 will go live."
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Taiwanese OEMs Consider ARM Products For Windows 8

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  • What did you expect them to say - "No, we won't - we'll cede that market to our competitors, because our customers prefer products with crappy battery life"?
    • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @01:38PM (#35398198) Homepage Journal

      What did you expect them to say - "No, we won't - we'll cede that market to our competitors, because our customers prefer products with crappy battery life"?

      Parent is correct... and for even more reasons than indicated. (no, this next section is not a slam against MS... read through the whole thing) Sure, Win8 may bomb on such things (pick a reason: no interest, Microsoft yet again not fulfilling their promise to have something actually suitable for such devices, Win8's requirements being too absurd for such "minimalist" hardware, whatever)... but the simple fact is, it may gain traction and take off. On that possibility, there isn't one OEM with half a brain that would say "no, we aren't doing this" at this point in time. When the correct time comes to make a decision, they'll choose to (a) release some test bed units, (b) dive full in or (c) look away from Win8 and concentrate on other things - but now is definitely not them time for them to say no, especially under the possibility that they will need Microsoft's good will in the future (assuming Win8 proves suitable and desired on such devices).

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      these companies are already making ARM products, it's just that they'll be making them for the next windows version when it comes out. So this is a change of nothing.

      hint: it's not going to be called windows 8.

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        hint: it's not going to be called windows 8.

        Yes, it would be uncharacteristic for MS to settle on a versioning scheme.
        We've already had version numbers, two-digit years, four-digit years, single-digit numbers, acronyms and names.
        The only thing left is using nonsensical symbols like Prince did; TOSFKAW.

    • by arivanov (12034)

      Wrong question, wrong answer.

      All major Taiwanese manufacturers have been shipping ARM based devices for years. The only difference as far as they are concerned is that instead of WinCE 3 years ago and Android today they will be shipping Win8. They are not the ones who support the end product and do the software development for it so they could not care less what it actually runs.

  • Good (Score:4, Funny)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @01:03PM (#35397904)
    OK, finally we are moving away from x86 and toward RISC. We are only 20 years behind schedule, but hey, better late than never.
    • We moved away from x86 over a decade ago.. The instruction set for x86 is emulated in hardware. But yeah, hopefully this will mean at least a move to a sane assembly language. Not that anyone even uses assembly anymore...
      • The microarchitecture argument is not very convincing -- yes, the instruction set is translated, but in the end, you still expose the x86 instruction set. As an example, we still have to deal with floating point registers that are arranged as a stack, although some compilers (GCC for example) have a option to use SSE registers and instructions as an alternative. In general, x86 inherits a lot of very outdated designs, which can be very annoying when you are forced to deal with them (or which just waste sp
        • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

          by Rockoon (1252108) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @01:47PM (#35398296)
          Most (all?) 64-bit compilers produce SSE single precision and double precision code by default. It is the x87 stack that is the odd-man out, contrary to what you are making it sound like.

          All x64 CPU's support both single and double precision SSE, which is why its the default for 64-bit targets. If you are targeting a 32-bit OS, then a 32-bit binary cannot simply assume that single precision SSE is available, let alone the later double-precision support of SSE2.

          Also, the x87 FPU performs calculations in 80-bit precision, so is not directly comparable to SSE's single and double precision features.

          Finally, it is not "some compilers".. its ALL THE MAJOR ONES, both 32-bit and 64-bit.
          • ...the x87 stack...
            ...the x87 FPU...

            Are you being consistent with your typo, or am I missing something?

          • by qbwiz (87077)

            All x86_64 compilers ouput SSE, as x87 isn't supported in 64-bit mode.

      • by Svartalf (2997)

        Depends on if your'e doing kernel code or similar. The device driver and OS dev crowd still uses it...

        • It's been a long, long time since I've used assembler for a driver in Windows (Win 3.1/95) era, and I've never needed it for Linux. Even for core kernel devs it is more the exception than the rule. These days, the ultimate language of all time, C, rightfully rules for these tasks.
      • Not that anyone even uses assembly anymore...

        Assembly's used all the time for embedded systems.

        No compiler's going to generate code as compact as a good programmer. That can be important when there's only a handful of KB for firmware. Performance is less of an issue these days, but if you're clever you can still shave off a few cycles. I don't think we've quite reached the 'John Henry' point yet in terms of optimization.

        I even know a few weirdos who find it easier to write and/or read than C.

    • RISC architecture is going to change everything.
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @01:27PM (#35398096) Homepage

      RISC won 20 years ago, all x86 processors decode to some internal instruction set. I am certain the engineers at Intel and AMD have tested exposing the native instructions and if it could perform much faster than x86 I'm sure they'd enable applications to bypass the hardware decoder and send micro-ops directly. While they still process the instructions the really obscure ones live in microcode instead of hardware, x86_64 adjusted the number of registers etc. so most things have been tweaked. I don't need to remind you that the last attempt to do better was the Itanic...

      • by Bert64 (520050)

        Exposing the micro-ops would mean they have to keep some compatibility, keeping them hidden behind x86 means they can change the micro-op functions all they like without impacting compatibility.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        RISC won 20 years ago, all x86 processors decode to some internal instruction set. I am certain the engineers at Intel and AMD have tested exposing the native instructions and if it could perform much faster than x86 I'm sure they'd enable applications to bypass the hardware decoder and send micro-ops directly.

        No need, as they are already exposed directly. Plenty of instructions that emit a single micro-op... for example, most of AMD's DirectPath instructions emit a single micro-op and in fact, 100% of AMD's micro-op's can be found in the set of DirectPath instructions.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        I am not really sure what your point about itanium is exactly. We were discussing for the most part technical realities if RISC, CISC, and micro code. Itanium is first off still in production, in fact they just released new models, and second if its a failure it is so in the marking sense more so than the technical sense. The chip performs well.

    • OK, finally we are moving away from x86 and toward RISC. We are only 20 years behind schedule, but hey, better late than never.

      MS Windows NT 4 supported RISC 15 years ago in 1996(*), Dec Alpha, IBM/Motorola PowerPC and MIPS. All on the standard Win NT 4 retail CD. Consumer oriented PowerPC machines were available. I recall Byte magazine comparing dual PowerPC and dual x86 systems. Alpha machines were available for the more serious users. Despite better computational performance on the RISC based machines x86 won due to price and software availability. ARM could fail as well. ARM may have better battery performance but is it so much

      • Actually, MIcrosoft pushed for a MIPS reference architecture (ARCS) to be the successor to the PC architecture. They had some substantial support onboard, but it ended up breaking up due to DEC and a couple of other manufacturers pushing for Alpha to be the processor to be used, and then Compaq leaving and returning support to PC-compatibles.
      • (*) OK you can argue 1993, day 1 for Win NT, since MIPS was supported. However I don't think there was any real push towards a consumer MIPS machine. The motivation was more internal, making sure Win NT was portable to other architectures.

        On the contrary, there was a major push by the ACE consortium [wikipedia.org] to replace the x86 PC with a common platform built around MIPS and Windows NT. Unfortunately, it was mostly industry hype with very little product appearing in the retail channel before the whole thing was discarded.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        The software issue might not be as big this time a round. Netbooks aside, ARM is driving today's tablets, cellphones, and embedded devices. That seems to be where computing is going in general. It simply won't make sense to bring most of the existing PC software into that world. The software that does make sense to go there is cross platform already. Hell I am running ArmedSlack on my GuruPlug and its package for package almost exactly the same as the x86 Slackware versions.

        So people are really not goi

    • OK, finally we are moving away from x86 and toward RISC. We are only 20 years behind schedule, but hey, better late than never.

      Does this mean I'll finally be able to use my books on CHRP [wikipedia.org]?

      • by Locutus (9039)
        The thing about PREP and CHRP was that they provided open firmware and were designed to run different operating systems. You know darn well that any ARM hardware that'll be designed to run Windows 8 will not support any of the open firmware currently in use. It could be a step closer to the end of cheap open hardware for Linux fans.

        LoB
    • by lkcl (517947)

      I've been trying to get an article through slashdot submission which describes exactly this: perhaps this article which has been accepted will trigger people to realise what i'm on about. if you put multiple RISC cores into 28nm or below, they SCREAM along at such unbelievably fast speeds that pure economics dictates that it is insane to ignore them. LEON4 by gaisler.com can do up to 8 cores, each at 1.5ghz, in 30nm. the size of the chip is so small that you can fit i believe it's around 10,000 processor

    • by Locutus (9039)
      But one must consider that these Microsoft partners will also be locking the hardware to Windows and therefore it'll be a closed platform. The x86 platform as it has existed resulted in many different OSs running on it and we can purchase bare bones white boxes and put the OS of our choice on them. I don't think that will play forward if/when we see OEMs doing ARM boxes for the next version of Windows.

      The last hope of an open RISC platform was back in the mid `90s when the PowerPC platforms were getting tos
  • by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @01:04PM (#35397916)
    I'd actually prefer they didn't. Joke as you will, it's an excellent opportunity for Linux to make inroads to the more casual user. The last one (netbooks) didn't get much time before Microsoft jumped in with XP netbooks.
    • by Desler (1608317)

      Yeah, I also prefer they don't cater to the wants of their customers rather than the wants of the minuscule minority that are fighting some petty OS war.

    • by pmontra (738736)

      Linux is already making inroads in casual users' phones (the Android kernel). Not that they know or care about it. As a Linux desktop user I'm fine with that and I'm just happy that about all the web applications I worked on in the last years are running on Debian servers or on Debian-derivatives.

      I just don't believe that casual users will ever massively switch to Linux. Maybe they'll start to use Chrome OS tablets but they won't know about them being Linux-inside, just like almost all iPhone and iPad users

    • I'd actually prefer they didn't. Joke as you will, it's an excellent opportunity for Linux to make inroads to the more casual user. The last one (netbooks) didn't get much time before Microsoft jumped in with XP netbooks.

      If Microsoft's track record is a good indication, I would be happy if they DID go for it... can anyone count how many versions of Windows were targeted at tablets - and failed to get anywhere except niche markets like Home Depot's inventory carts? Heck, even skip the WinMo crap that was never suited for touchscreen.

      "Everyone" wants a tablet nowadays. Apple and the various OEMs that build on Android are doing a phenomenal job. A blunder like taking iOS and Android on in markets they were designed for would

      • Who is "everyone"? Not me or most of the people I know.

        • Who is "everyone"? Not me or most of the people I know.

          You didnt note the use of quotation marks in my post? Nor understand their meaning?

      • If Microsoft's track record is a good indication, I would be happy if they DID go for it... can anyone count how many versions of Windows were targeted at tablets - and failed to get anywhere except niche markets like Home Depot's inventory carts? Heck, even skip the WinMo crap that was never suited for touchscreen.

        Why MS failed at tablets was all they did was shove Windows into a different form factor. And then called it done. Now other than having a touchscreen and using a stylus instead of a mouse, Windows tablets were just very expensive laptops. In the many years MS pushed tablets, they only wrote one application that truly used touch. They however left the rest of the OS very keyboard/mouse centric. So for the average consumer, why would they buy an expensive touchscreen laptop that gave them no real advant

        • by LO0G (606364)

          Actually until the iPhone came out, touch was considered uninteresting in consumer devices. All the tablets I've ever seen were designed around stylus input, not touch.

          When the iPhone came out it was a game changer in more ways than one - touch became the norm, capacitive screens instead of resistive ones, etc.

          • Actually until the iPhone came out, touch was considered uninteresting in consumer devices. All the tablets I've ever seen were designed around stylus input, not touch.

            When the iPhone came out it was a game changer in more ways than one - touch became the norm, capacitive screens instead of resistive ones, etc.

            Nope, and I even mentioned such touch based usages. There's plenty more like POS systems. Efforts were made to hit the consumer market, but there were no apps suitable, regardless of whether a stylus or finger was the modus operandi.

      • by Sxooter (29722)

        Add that Microsoft has a poor track record for building an architecture neutral OS, and fell back so easily to the X86 architecture back in the 90s. How many versions of windows will be available for the ARM or another architecture? win8, maybe 9? Then they drop support if there aren't enough users.

        This is one place where Open Source and Free software excel. As long as the users of that architecture are willing to pony up the talent, they are guaranteed the access they need to make it work. With Window

  • ARM Windows (Score:5, Insightful)

    by devent (1627873) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @01:14PM (#35397988) Homepage

    How are they going to explain to the million of Windows users that no application they know will work on ARM Windows? It's the same as with Windows 64 bit and why we didn't saw much of it despite the prices for RAM are very low. I guess with Windows 7 the developers finally released some software for 64 bit. That's what, like 9 to 10 years since AMD came with the amd64 architecture?

    Well, at least I can then finally buy some ARM notebooks and put a decent Linux distribution on it.

    • How are they going to explain to the million of Windows users that no application they know will work on ARM Windows?

      Clever marketing that appeals to yuppies.

      "Don't be left behind with slow stupid x86 Microsoft Office, upgrade to the new better more powerful Microsoft ARM Office today. It's newer so you know its better, and come on it has the word "Arm" in it, which means powerful, duh!"

    • by Microlith (54737)

      Well, at least I can then finally buy some ARM notebooks and put a decent Linux distribution on it.

      And I expect the market for ARM-based Windows 8 devices to be just as horrible as it is now, in terms of replacing the OS, as it is for tablets and phones. Lack of drivers, binary only video drivers, and lock down to prevent people from actually removing the OS.

      And here I was hoping that the transition to ARM would get us away from Microsoft's domination. Now it could very well be enforced in hardware.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      Windows 64bit is different, most 32bit applications run on it just fine and the 32bit consumer versions are crippled (ie wont support more than 4gb of address space, even tho the hardware is capable of it using PAE)...

      Windows on ARM won't run x86 applications natively, and if they provide an emulation option it will be almost certainly be extremely slow.

      • by Locutus (9039)
        they have to do it with MS .NET or some other cross-Windows compatibility layer. How do they do that you might ask. They would do it with a Microsoft MarketPlace where you purchase and download your applications and it's all controlled by Microsoft. They do it by restricting how you install your applications so there is no expectation that a CD with ProgX for Windows XP, Vista, 7 can be installed because there's no CD slot.

        The tablet market is the perfect transition to a more controlled Microsoft Windows ap
    • Re:ARM Windows (Score:4, Interesting)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday March 06, 2011 @02:04PM (#35398454)

      It's the same as with Windows 64 bit and why we didn't saw much of it despite the prices for RAM are very low. I guess with Windows 7 the developers finally released some software for 64 bit. That's what, like 9 to 10 years since AMD came with the amd64 architecture?

      The reason 64-bit wasn't was adopted quickly was more about need vs features. The model MS choose for their 64-bit migration (LLP) meant that 32-bit programs were backwards compatible. So there was no need for a consumer to get 64-bit Office because 32-bit Office would work fine in 64-bit Windows. If all the 32-bit programs worked either way on 64-bit or 32-bit OS, there wasn't as much as a push to migrate. Unfortunately 64-bit Windows would often times require new drivers. So there were more negatives moving to 64-bit on Windows unless the consumer had a specific need like more memory addressing. For the most part, businesses were more open to using 64-bit Windows Server as there was a need in many cases to access more than 3GB of RAM.

      Software companies that wanted to take advantage of 64-bit for Windows had to maintain separate 32-bit and 64-bit binary and source code versions during the migration. While the 32-bit version would work on either Windows flavor, the 64-bit would not work on a 32-bit OS. Many companies were reluctant to maintain two versions especially if moving to 64-bit provided no real advantage.

      The Linux/Unix/OS X model (LP) took a different approach as that model focused more on forward compatibility. A 32-bit program could be made into a 64-bit program with a recompile and testing to ensure there were no special scenarios that required 32-bit addresses, etc. Software companies would have to maintain two binary versions but for the most part could maintain one version of source code. With Linux/Unix/OS X, a great deal of software was open source so that it was far easier to make this migration.

      • The lack of a 64 bit version of Office was probably an issue too. Although Office 2010 is now 64 bit none of the previous ones were.

    • It's actually easier to recompile existing 32-bit x86 for 32-bit ARM than for 64-bit x64, especially if Microsoft released an ARM backend for the visual C compiler. As long as Windows-for-ARM came out before too many applications transitioned to 64-bit only, it's easy to imagine it could succeed.
      If they're aiming at the tablet/netbook market, then the lack of hardware drivers won't be a problem, they just need to support the on-board hardware and a few key applications (IE, Office, Flash). Ironically, i
    • By releasing prototype hardware to devs before going to launch so apps do exist for the platform?

      We are no longer in the paradigm of "will my apps run?" but "will there be an app that lets me do $task with $data?"

    • I don't think desktop machines will move, or at least not move easily. However, unlike 1993, desktop machines aren't quite the PC universe anymore. On the top, we have legions of rack mounted servers. Coming up from the bottom are smart phones and tablets. Neither of these segments is as tightly wedded to Windows as the desktop. Tablets today already run ARM and don't run Windows. For Microsoft, this must be very disturbing.

      With servers, the move hasn't happened yet but data centers are seriously lo

    • by Kjella (173770)

      It's the same as with Windows 64 bit and why we didn't saw much of it despite the prices for RAM are very low.

      That's because most people don't need it. Hell, you can buy a $2000-2500 top MacBook/iMac and it doesn't have more than 4 GB standard. Me, I got 16 GB and disabled swap entirely but I don't really need it. Not even under the craziest of workloads I put on it would I break the 10 GB barrier, and that includes one app that likes to chew 2-3 GB alone + one full VM. I just like having more than enough.

  • by c (8461)

    Stupid question.

    Of course any system builder will tell you they'd "consider" ARM for Windows 8. They'd also "consider" building 9.6GHz 8088 systems running MS-DOS powered by the blood of virgins if that's where it looked like the market might go.

    • Stupid question.

      They'd also "consider" building 9.6GHz 8088 systems running MS-DOS powered by the blood of virgins if that's where it looked like the market might go.

      Is there a website I can pre-order on?

      • by c (8461)

        > Is there a website I can pre-order on?

        No, but if you send me your credit card information I'll see if I can get you on the beta list...

  • Windows won't have an interface meant for i.e. tablets till late next year. If they want an OS for a full range of devices they should go in a way or another Linux, be Android, WebOS, MeeGo, or even normal distributions like Ubuntu with the right desktop environment. Even Maemo would be a better alternative if hadnt so much closed components. Not sure which other alternatives are around, iOS? Playbook's OS? Apple/RIM won't license to others their OSs, they want to sell the devices and keep the ecosystem fo
  • What's aim of this article? What's reasoning to begin with? Right, ARM is next hot cake, and Microsoft have no presence whatsoever on this platform. Therefore it must fall back to PR companies which tries to push articles like "Waiting for Windows 8", "ARM will be supported in Windows 8", "Hey, did you know Windows 8 is next best thing?" on portals like Slashdot.

    Of course manufacturers will try to support any major operational system in the market - that includes Windows - if suddenly full blown Windows on

  • MS has in the past had its problems with delivering on time and companies have gotten burned if they planned a release of a product to need a unreleased MS product while MS was dragging its feet. Early Win95 games come to mind. There was a reason Quake was a DOS game. Blue Isle took a hit on making their next Battle Isle game require Win95.

    I would be very hesistant to plan hardware yet on a completely unproven platform from a company that has never ever cared a tiny bit about its customers. See MS and the l

    • I strongly suspect that(in addition to the usual "people will tell annoying pollsters whatever they want to hear" effect), the OEM/ODM guys are not going to be taking any major risks on this one:

      There is already a reasonably steady market for ARM-based android widgets, NAS devices, etc, etc. Microsoft will, presumably, have their own set of special requirements(as with tablet PCs needing a ctrl+alt+del key) and some sort of minimum spec floor; but the basic nature of the ARM SoC market means that they wo
  • he issue that you've got is that a) microsoft is not going to have windows for ARM until 2013, and even then it is impossible to get third party developers to do total rewrites of drivers b) emulation of x86, even with hardware assistance (similar to jazelle) only provides something like 30% equivalent performance. so you have a great processor, maybe 2ghz dual-core if you get the one from nufront, you smash its capabilities down to a staggering and mundane 700mhz, and you can only get up to about 1.5 gb of

    • Unless MS is playing their classic "attempt to scuttle competitor's existing product with reports of what they will have Real Soon Now(tm)" game, or isn't going about this very cleverly(either is definitely possible); I would expect any push into non-x86 architecture to make heavy use of their .NET CLR stuff.

      Virtualizing any classic win32 x86 binaries on ARM is going to suck so much, in terms of performance, that they might as well not bother. By the time Windows 8 actually makes it out the door, Intel w
      • by lkcl (517947)

        i did hear that ARM has a jazelle-like acceleration for CLR. it is not well-understood, and, crucially as you point out, there isn't much call for it because you can't run silverlight on a non-existent OS! :)

  • If this is a ARM story, why is the logo set to AMDs? they haven't bought them out yet have they?

  • And since when do Taiwanese OEMs have the slightest clue about anything besides cost-cutting ? Yeah, duh, they'll jump on ARM because it'll be loads cheaper than Intel/AMD/Via, so instead of charging a 5x premium to box it and ship it overseas, they will charge a 10x premium.

    That's like asking: if you could bottle tap water and sell it to cretinous americans for $3.00 a litre, would you ?

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