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Windows Already Up and Running On ARM Architecture 348

syngularyx writes "Over at Microsoft's MIX Developer Conference in sunny Las Vegas, Microsoft has demoed a new preview build of Internet Explorer 10 (which you too can take for a spin, if you feel so inclined), and also dropped a little premature Easter egg – the build of IE10, and the underlying Windows OS, were both running on a 1GHz ARM chip. Sneaky."
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Windows Already Up and Running On ARM Architecture

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  • can you hack the iphone / ipad to run windows 8?

    • If Android has not been made to run on Apple iOS hardware, then it's very, very doubtful that Windows can be made to do so, as the source code isn't even available.

    • by the linux geek ( 799780 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:17PM (#35801904)
      ARM isn't standardized like x86 is, so probably not... at least not easily. IBM PC clones use a fairly standard set of firmware and peripherals, whereas ARM-based machines tend to be largely custom, just with a degree of binary compatibility between them. Getting Windows running on an iDevice would take serious work.
      • Windows NT had the same problem with PPC. It wouldn't actually run on a PPC Mac even though it was the most common machine out there.
  • by sillivalley ( 411349 ) <{ten.tsacmoc} {ta} {yellavillis}> on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:05PM (#35801756)
    But... But... But...

    How are they going to make it compatible with all those viruses and trojans out there?

  • It seems that everyone is going to go for the accelerated releases now.

    10 is much bigger than 5 (firefox), so I think IE is going to win.

  • I thought one of the biggest Windows / SQL Server computers in the world was the Nasdaq Tandem (now HP) MIPS computer. []
    though it seems Microsoft phased it out for other customers: []

  • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:09PM (#35801800) Homepage

    At least based on my MS friend's claims... they probably have many such projects (say, like, a fully functional web-based MS office)
    In fact I'd say this is one of those companies where such innovative ideas usually go to die, as they often "might windows or office cashflows".

    Now that windows is threatened, then the skunkworks projects get revealed. The battle for ARM dominance is joined and now there are many contenders (WebOS, iOS, ChromeOS, etc).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:31PM (#35802026)

      In fact I'd say this is one of those companies where such innovative ideas usually go to die, as they often "might windows or office cashflows".

      Having worked at Microsoft, here's my take.

      Microsoft's products must be compatible with a huge variety of hardware and software configurations, with at least 10 years of backward compatibility. Yes, Microsoft has redundant projects and a lot of prototypes that never see the light of day. But it's better to kill an internal ARM build than to release a version which won't play nice with existing environments.

      Believe me, Microsoft has a lot of smart engineers, programmers and researchers. Most people have NO IDEA of the level of talent that exists in Microsoft Research. At the same time, Microsoft is a huge company which must cater to the interests of businesses which insist on using IE6. Thus, it generally can't afford the luxury of breaking compatibility for the sake of agile development.

      Of course, this is one side of the story. Management also makes mistakes.

      If you must remember something, consider this: Microsoft doesn't want ARM Windows to be like Vista.

    • Historically Microsoft's biggest problem is they feel Windows is the solution to every problem, which has started to not work so well (the worst examples being Windows Tablet Edition and Project Origami, with the later absolutely blowing up in Microsoft's face, ever seen an Origami device in the wild?). It's the same old Windows running on a new processor. If "innovative" is "we ported to ARM" then Microsoft is not going to win this battle. And I don't feel as if Microsoft running the same operating system

    • Preposterous! That's like claiming they grab the best talent just so that nobody else can.

      Oh wait...

  • PHP has encountered an Access Violation at 7C82A01A
  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:32PM (#35802042)

    Assuming that Microsoft doesnt jump the shark and do something totally unlike their past releases, like overtly junking all back-compatibility with x86 legacy applications (I see this windows offering being adapted for use on the emerging tablet market, where existing legacy application support, even if crippled, would be a big selling point), this offering will be technologically inferior to the existing (and based on more portable technologies) offerings like iOS and Android.

    The reason is because this new windows flavor will have to JIT emulate the x86 instruction set for those legacy apps, and do all kinds of calisthenics to make shit happen between native binaries and emulated binaries. The ARM cpu uses less power, but is also somewhat more gutless compared to desktop x86 chips. It will suck hard trying to emulate that bloated dinosaur of an instruction set.

    If microsoft finally sacrifices the holy vestal virgin of legacy compatibility (Its major strongpoint in corporate environments by a long shot-- Look at the immense power of zombie IE6) for its ARM port, it will suffer the same fate as all the previous alternative architecture builds (PPC, SPARC, Itanium, et al.)-- That is to say, it will die on the vine because users will hate it with purple pasion.

    I am curious to see how microsoft pulls this off. If they were smart, they would do something similar to what Apple did when they switched from PPC to x86 commodity chips, and incorporate a special abstraction layer like Roseta. (Note, I am NOT an apple fanboi-- If you call me one, you are an idiot. Just pointing out something I thought apple did that was interesting.)

    Sadly, like so many things microsoft does these days, it will probably be filled with so much useless bloat and duct-tape code that it will run like congealed dogpoo even on high end ARM hardware when trying to do such legacy support-- (again, if they even do it at all.)

    I will reserve further judgement until I see it in the wild. It might be great-- but I wont get my hopes up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by walshy007 ( 906710 )

      They already have the solution to that,. .net, it is just in time compiled on x86 too and so once they port the .net framework over all things written in it will work just fine.

      Sure you will lose native x86 compatibility, but there are many apps already out in .net that will work just fine, and you can code for x86 windows and arm windows in the same way.

    • The main target for ARM will be touch-tablets. It's likely that emulation would be fast enough to handle the old legacy apps. They were built for slower computers after all. If you were to put win8 on a ipad like device, the app-store could sandbox things in the same way that win phone 7's x-app system does. For native stuff, If MS releases a decent compiler, I don't see any reason why companies like adobe wouldn't offer arm versions as well to avoid the emulation layer. And besides, it's hard to know how w

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      You are missing one of the biggest reasons people use Windows - business network integration. Admins love being able to administer desktops and laptops remotely, and now they will be able to do it with phones, tablets and thin clients too. Supporting Android, iOS and Blackberry phones is a pain in the arse at the moment but a Windows based system would be able to use Active Directory.

      MS are moving away from long term legacy support now anyway. If you look at the support lifetimes for newer products they are

  • Reality check (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) *

    Yes Microsoft is going to chase the trend and make something for ARM, otherwise they cede the mobile space to Apple and Google. However, while they will call it Windows 8 it won't bear much relationship to the x86 edition we all know and either loath or love.

    1. Anyone think Microsoft (or any of their hardware OEM partners) are remotely interested in releasing what we think of as an Operating System on a new mobile platform? Not when they can lock it down hard and rake in the same 30% Apple gets from thei

    • Real Reality Check (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ARM is puny, x86 is strong. x86 can emulate ARM (see iOS and Android dev environments) but there is no way ARM is going to emulate x86 apps at a usable speed.

      Holy cow, Batman! How much more backward can you understand the problem?

      The reason x86 can emulate ARM is because ARM is *simple by design*. ARM cannot emulate x86 at decent speeds because x86 is a *pile of crap* from 30 years ago with legacy bullshit bolted on top of each new generation.

      • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) *

        > The reason x86 can emulate ARM is because ARM is *simple by design*

        Which is only a nicer way of saying RISC. Bottom line is you need more cycles to get the same work done and the fastest ARM chips clock slower than the slowest x86 chips. ARM products that play music and video for example, always offload that sort of compute intensive work because pure software decoding is pitiful. Yes, I own a Nokia N770. Where ARM totally owns Intel is power consumption, both idle power and computing work per unit

    • but there is no way ARM is going to emulate x86 apps at a usable speed.

      When people usually talk about emulater speeds it's running the whole OS, virtual box style. But in this case the Windows OS and all the standard APIs would be running native ARM so it would only be the application code itself that was emulated. There are plenty of apps written in say Python that are maybe 1/30th the speed of a native app but still plenty usable.

      Combine a native OS with the experts they have on JIT tech (CLR is really hard to JIT, so you know these people are wicked good) and tons of core

    • by Calibax ( 151875 ) *

      Why do you think Microsoft is only doing this for mobile platforms?

      Didn't nVidia announce at CES that they are developing a 64-bit higher performance ARM processor []? They claim it will be suitable for "personal computers to servers and supercomputers" with "awesome performance". And have integrated nVidia graphics as well.

      If that does indeed come to pass, we will have a whole different ballgame,

  • by yelvington ( 8169 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:36PM (#35802062) Homepage

    Running the OS on an ARM chip isn't even half the battle. What about the apps? Has Microsoft created a "fat binary" format, the way Apple did for its migration from PowerPC to Intel? Are the development tools ready? Are all the Windows application developers lined up to recompile and migrate? How much of that stuff is still tangled up in assembler, anyway?

    Microsoft's advantage has always been the breadth of its ecosystem. Now that's Microsoft's disadvantage. There's not much point to owning a power-miserly ARM-based Windows machine if the apps you've come to depend on aren't available. You might as well swallow the medicine and migrate to a more secure, stable OS with a future.

    • Has Microsoft created a "fat binary" format

      No, but Microsoft does have .NET, and it might even have a compatibility layer to run CE apps.

      • by jbplou ( 732414 )

        .Net is great for portability in the Microsoft ecosystem. However the big problem is COM and ActiveX. Take a look at Office 2010 is a list of features that don't work on the 64 bit mode. MS even recommends you install Office 32bit on AM64 systems because of this.

        Migrating non-.Net corporate applications from 32XP to 32Win 7 is very difficult. I can't wait for Windows 8 so we can deal with x86, AM64, and ARM Windows all with their own incompatibilities. On the server Windows is easy because they are mo

        • by yuhong ( 1378501 )

          Migrating non-.Net corporate applications from 32XP to 32Win 7 is very difficult.

          No it is not. There are some issues but it is not that difficult.

    • by AlphaWolf_HK ( 692722 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:55PM (#35802692)

      Has Microsoft created a "fat binary" format, the way Apple did for its migration from PowerPC to Intel?

      .EXE files are called Portable Executables. They can already hold more than one program with more than one architecture. Microsoft has been using this since the NT 3.1 days when NT was also available on Alpha architecture, and even today with various server editions of windows running on itanium.

      • by yuhong ( 1378501 )

        False, PE has never supported fat binaries. Instead, they encouraged separate directories for each arch. AutoRun has also supported separate sections for each arch.

      • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @11:04PM (#35803176)

        The PE format most decidedly doesn't support fat EXEs. Read the spec [], page 12, if you need proof. There's only one field in the file for the architecture type, and that field can only hold one value. There are no currently documented methods for embedding multiple PE sections for multiple architectures into a single file. That isn't to say there isn't some way it could be shoehorned in, but as of yet, there is no way to have a fat EXE on Windows.

        • Actually, there is a semi-supported shim that lets you do this. You set the type of the PE to .NET, and then start the executable with a tiny CLR program that selects the correct binary format from one of the other sections and invokes it. There's a similar stub that works for loading DLLs. I think this hack was created for Wince (which ran on MIPS, PowerPC, and ARM) but it would probably work on WinNT too.
  • No way I'd run it without antivirus.
  • For some reason I think the better word is "Desperate" Like they notice their customers (well they assume they are customers) jumping on a new ship...

  • Alpha and several other non-x86 platforms?

    I seem to recall this was back when Windows NT Workstation was aspiring to supplant Unices on a variety of Unix vendor hardware in the early '90s.

    • NT4 ran on x86, Alpha, PPC, and MIPS

    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      NT has never run on ARM before, but several other RISC platforms:
      • NT 3.1, 3.5: MIPS, Alpha, x86
      • NT 4.0: MIPS, Alpha, x86, PowerPC
      • 2000: x86, ia64 (Alpha was supported up to RC2 then dropped before release)
      • XP, 2003: x86, x64, ia64
      • Vista, 2008, 7: x86, x64
      • 8: x86, x64, ARM
  • by dido ( 9125 ) <[hp.muirepmi] [ta] [odid]> on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:55PM (#35802238)

    The real value of Windows is in the massive installed base of applications that it has. I wonder how many vendors of important Windows applications will release an ARM build. I do hope that it will be as simple (for the most part) as recompiling the same source in an ARM-based build environment, but even so I wonder how many developers would do it. Good luck getting all those legacy VB6 apps running on ARM Windows though, or any other app for which the source is gone. Without the application ecosystem one might as well be using some other platform.

    • I wonder how many vendors of important Windows applications will release an ARM build.

      Depends on how much Microsoft decides to pay them. Microsoft is not above using it's hoard of cash to inspire such things.

      To me, it depends on what these things are going to be used for. If the theory is that my next PC/Laptop will run on an ARM chip, this could be an issue. If the theory is that my new tablet or netbook or large phone is going to run on an ARM chip, I probably don't want to port a desktop-like UI to that because it simply won't sell.

      I probably don't want to run those legacy VB6 apps on

    • by jbplou ( 732414 )

      VB6 all depends on if MS chooses to build in the runtimes into Windows 8. I would be more worried about native COM.

  • They're something like a decade late to the ARM party. "Already" is hardly the right work for it.

  • MSFT, the only ones without WebGL...

    Firefox4 has it
    Chrome has it
    Opera beta has it
    Safari beta has it

  • They could test it in the N900, everyone does that. Extra points if they manage to run it in maemo. Also they will show how tied are with Nokia that way.
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:54PM (#35802688) Homepage

    Windows NT was originally positioned as a portable, platform-neutral system and Microsoft made a big deal of it not being just limited to Intel architecture but also running on ACE platforms (remember ACE?), MIPS, Digital Alpha, and at least one other whose name escapes me. IBM PowerPC maybe?

    Microsoft seduced and abandoned companies that committed to Windows on non-Intel platforms, with the abandonment beginning almost as soon as the seduction was complete. My employer made a significant commitment to Windows-on-DEC-Alpha--at that time, their specific application benchmarked over twice as fast on Alpha as on Intel. It was NT 3.51, IIRC, and Microsoft moved up to Windows 4.0 on Intel and kept dragging feet and making excuses on Alpha, finally acknowledging that it was not going to be supported. At that point, the Alpha systems bought by my employer's customers were barely a year old, and those customers were not happy with us for selling them such rapidly orphaned products.

    What matters is not whether Windows can run on ARM, but whether Microsoft actually has any serious or durable commitment to supporting it on that platform.

    • Your memory is suspect... NT 4.0 had Alpha support at launch. It was even in Windows 2000 RCs, and only dropped come release time, though I do recall Compaq selling Alpha servers with 2000 despite that.

    • by rubies ( 962985 )

      I'm not sure "seduced and abandoned" really captures the flavour of those heady days. From what I can recall, most of the companies involved were fighting fires on three fronts: their old-line proprietary businesses were getting chopped to bits by PC's and the war of attrition that was Unix at the time - the company I worked for had internal in-fighting as the unix and PC business started to threaten the old mid-range server business and competition BETWEEN companies was even more cut-throat. Sun was pla

    • Oh give it a rest (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @02:23AM (#35804482)

      "Seduced and abandoned?" Not hardly. MS makes their OS for the processors it feels there is a market for. In the NT days, they decided to try it on some other platforms, since it was portable. Problem was hardly anyone was buying. Yes, yes your employer got on board, well one company is not enough to make a market for this kind of thing.

      You are also incorrect about support, NT 4.0 supported Alpha, MIPS, PPC, and x86. With Windows 2000 they were dropping support for MIPS and PPC due to massive lack of interest, but initially planning on keeping Alpha support. You could get it in beta. However, Compaq announced they were dropping Windows on Alpha, so MS dropped it with RC1, since that was the last major vendor that gave a shit.

      That means they supported Alpha versions of Windows NT from July 1993 (Windows NT 3.1) to June of 2004 (the date they stopped support for NT4) and they were releasing new updates for the OS until November 1999 (SP6's release date). That is not an insignificant timeline. They didn't exactly role it out and kill it a year later.

      The thing is Alpha was dying by the end of 1999, when Windows 2000 was launched. Like I said, Compaq stopped supporting Windows on Alpha (and they owned DEC at that point). In 2001 they sold Alpha to Intel, killing all development for it.

      So either you are pissed off because you made a bad decision, and got bitten for it (if it got orphaned in one year, you were selling your products in 2003, which means Alpha had been officially dead for two years) or you are just making stuff up because you dislike MS (given that your statements do not fit the facts).

      So, what'll happen with Windows on ARM (presuming they release it, could be just a test or for embedded applications)? Well that'll depend on the market. If there is strong demand, they'll keep making it. If nobody wants it'll they'll phase it out.

      Same shit with IA-64. MS supported that in Windows 2000 Server, and has continued support for it with Windows 2008R2. However demand has been declining, so they've said 2008R2 will be the last Itanium version unless anything changes. They didn't support it for one version and drop it, they supported it as long as there was demand, and if demand picks up again, so can support. It also isn't like they make it a surprise. They've announced support is stopping, however 2008R2 will be supported at least until 7/10/2018 (that is their guaranteed date for support, they can extend it). So it isn't like there isn't some time to make a change.

  • I think Intel and Microsoft both know they need to loosen up their partnership. MS has to become more platform agnostic. Intel has to be more willing to support more of the popular dev environments with tools and architecture.

    These are good things. Having MS and Intel branch out into the wider world of mobile will only increase competition.

    • by jbplou ( 732414 )

      Big deal Atom is just x86 plenty of other OSs run on the architecture other Linux's, BSDs, Solaris, etc...

  • The more that Microsoft tries to squeeze the square Windows peg into the round hole of current and future computing needs, the more ugly splinters that will be flying and injuring the innocent bystanders. Microsoft needs to wake up and smell the non-Windows world. Until it does, it will never be able to compete. What else is there to say?
  • Windows had been ported to the DEC Alpha, and was going to be running on mainframes, MIPS, and SPARC soon after.
    How is this any different?

  • Intel has just launched Oak Trail, which is the name for the combination of Atom Z600 and SM35 PCH. In particular, the SM35 PCH provides compatibility with the main IBM PC compatible x86 platform with all the legacy, so it can run any standard x86 OS, but it is still low-power ("Put together, Oak Trail's Atom Z620 processor and SM35 Express hub have a thermal envelope of just 3.75W."): []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @11:56PM (#35803594)

    So... I will surprise everybody.

    WIN8 running very very well already on ARM processors.

    They rebooted WIN8 to the originally planned WIN7 micro kernel.

    Win8 is a one microkernel with multiple interfaces to be booted up within 3sec.
    1. It can be traditional PC
    2. CAN be Tablet
    3. Can be WInphone (Bye bye WInphone 7... if you didn’t realize it was/is just a research and UI project)
    4. It runs inside TVs (Hello Samsung!)
    5. Runs in the cloud.
    6. It is the embedded.

    The same Win8.

    The Winphone 7 software delivery packaging implemented and further enhanced for consistent solution delivery.
    One development toolkit to develop solution across all platforms.

    You think it is not true. You don't believe that MS can pull this off. They already did it!!! Just they have learnt from Apple. SILENCE! You will be shocked.
    People talking about the backward comp ability as an issue. This is NOT a problem anymore because of what MS done in the virtualization.
    The virtualization is part of the kernel and can natively virtualize anything to achieve backward compability.

    Have you ever thought what this Really really means? You should have goose bumps...

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle