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Microsoft Ready To Talk Windows On ARM 342

An anonymous reader writes "After many months of working in secret, Microsoft is nearly ready to start talking about its plans to bring Windows to ARM-based processors. However, while the company is set to discuss the effort at next month's Consumer Electronics Show, there is still a lot that must be done before such products can hit the market. Among the steps needed is for hardware makers to create ARM-compatible drivers, a time-consuming effort that explains in part why Microsoft is talking about the initiative well ahead of any products being ready. Meanwhile, Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM devices and running on many others."
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Microsoft Ready To Talk Windows On ARM

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  • No surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @05:53PM (#34655244) Journal

    It's not exactly a surprise. Don't produce something for ARM, and it's likely that Microsoft will be left in the dust in the few years on a major platform. I wonder if the NT guts of newer versions of Windows are still as portable as they were a decade ago.

  • That's nice... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @05:57PM (#34655282)

    But Windows' main (and practically lone) selling point is that it works with all your old software. If they rewrite it for ARM, it may say "Windows" on it but it won't run your apps or play your games.

    And I'm sure users will enjoy discovering that after they buy "Windows" tablets and netbooks.

  • Nahh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Co0Ps ( 1539395 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @06:03PM (#34655330)
    Streamlined hardware with bloated software? Doesnt sound like a great combo IMO.
  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @06:04PM (#34655342) Homepage Journal

    Ubuntu is the Arduino of Linux distros.

  • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @06:10PM (#34655410)

    The NT Kernel might be, even after all this time slapping whatever each release thinks is a useful feature into it, but who cares about that. I think I can guarantee Office will not run on ARM, so its pretty much dead already.

    Then there's the reason to run Windows at all - the 3rd party apps that are x86 only (many are not even x86_64 yet) and they won't run either. So all in all, this is just fluff. If you want a low-energy server farm full of ARM CPUs (and who wouldn't!) then you might as well run Linux there - many, many server apps run Linux anyway. If you want ARM on the desktop, don't hold your breath, and if you want ARM mobile .. you already have it, even for WinPhone 7.

    So, I'm confused. The ARM share price has done well from the rumour, but we'll see what astounding piece of underwhelm-dent gets revealed at CES.

  • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @07:11PM (#34655862)

    The NT Kernel might be, even after all this time slapping whatever each release thinks is a useful feature into it, but who cares about that. I think I can guarantee Office will not run on ARM, so its pretty much dead already.

    I think all they really care about is whether IE, the .NET framework/Silverlight, and things like Office Live will work on it. ARM devices, if they are keyboard & mouse/touchpad devices, are going to be more likely to be ultralight netbooks or nettops rather than desktop-replacement laptops or standard desktops.

  • Re:ARM now? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @07:37PM (#34656010) Homepage

    But if you're not going to run anything which is tied to windows, then what's the point paying more for windows?

    Linux runs a browser, java, flash, vpn, rdesktop and a media player - and it costs less than windows. Backwards compatibility is about the only selling point windows really has.

  • Re:No surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cbhacking ( 979169 ) <> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @08:51PM (#34656550) Homepage Journal

    Wow, you're wrong on so many levels!

    MSIL doesn't convert anything. It's the code that gets converted. MSIL (more commonly called CIL, for Common Intermediate Language, now that Mono is a working non-MS implementation) is analogous to Java bytecode.

    What does get converted (using a Just-In-Time compiler) is CIL to native code. Typically, this native code is x86 or x64, but there are already JIT compilers for ARM as well. After the JIT completes, the result is saved locally so the overhead is only encountered once.

    As for Win32 calls, there's no "conversion" at all. What happens is that after the CIL gets compiled to native code, it links into libraries (native DLLs) that implement functions for the OS (such as Win32 calls). For example, if a .NET function calls System.IO.File.Create(), when that code is run, a managed code function gets called, and it in turn calls an unmanaged function in the linked library. That library makes the necessary translation into the native API (let's say Win32 on NT), resulting in an unmanaged call to CreateFile(), which in turn goes into the Win32 user subsystem library and gets translated into a NtCreateFile() system call, which is sent to the kernel.

    If you're on another platform, such as Linux, WinCE, OS X, or other, on any architecture at all, the only difference is that you need to write a library that has the same public interface (System.IO.File.Create()) and calls the correct native function on its own platform (open(), for example). The .NET API is large, so it's not trivial to write this layer, but there's nothing specific to Win32 or x86 about it. Mono has already done this (works on Linux, *BSD, OS X, and even Windows) and so has Microsoft (for WinCE).

    As for pure torture, have you contacted the Mono devs recently to express your sympathy?

  • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@beau . o rg> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @11:07PM (#34657354)

    > Why not? It's C++ code and runs on x86-32, so it will
    > almost certainly run on ARM with a straight recompile.

    And you would be wrong. Microsoft has done ports to MIPS, PPC, Alpha, Itanium and X86_64. The only ports that have been able to run Office is x86_64 because it can run the x86 version and Alpha because that bad bitch kitty had enough advantage over Intel parts of it's day it could run an emulator for x86 at a good enough clip to let folks run Office. ARM can run in the same weight class with Intel parts but has nowhere the performance advantage to consider emulation. So no, it is doubtful Office is going to be up on ARM anytime soon unless MS has been running a secret project for the last few years.

    Besides, forget an ARM port of Windows. Ain't happening. Any future commercial OSes are going to be Xbox/iPad lockdowns, not the more open environments we grew up thinking of as operating systems. Once Apple proved 3rd party vendors would give up a non-trivial percentage of all sales the days of allowing customers to install anything they want was dead. Ya want that freedom back? Come to the Penguin.

  • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Friday December 24, 2010 @01:49AM (#34657986)

    Nobody is suggesting ARM as a replacement desktop CPU. But for netbooks and tablets, it's competing against the Atom. And for that it's processing power is in the same ballpark, whilst being much smaller and lower power. That's why Microsoft has to get WIndows running on it. Because they can't make WIndows tablets that are competitive with the iPad unless they do. Not because they imagine ARM replacing X86 on the desktop.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.