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Windows 7 on ARM-based hardware: Potential future or wishful thinking?

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Warren East, president and CEO of ARM Holdings, has been loose-lipped recently about the prospect of Windows 7 running on ARM-based hardware. At an analyst's conference call following ARM's Q1 2009 financial results, East was quoted as saying, "Microsoft will continue to play an important part in this [netbook] space. If there was Windows support for the ARM processor today clearly it would be a very different marketplace." He concluded with this following thought: "Perhaps there will be support in future but that's really for Microsoft to comment on and not for us to comment on, I'm afraid."

East may desire ARM processor support from Windows 7 but thus far, the system requirements for the latest Release Candidate 1 continue to include only Intel-based hardware. Nonetheless, these comments by East leave us scratching our heads. Are they meant to hint that Microsoft is moving along the path of expanding Windows 7 to support a wider variety of hardware or is it just wishful thinking on his part? We sure hope it's the former, as an Archos Internet Media Tablet capable of dual-booting Windows 7 and Android would be sweet!

[EETimes]

This post was written by Kelly Hodgkins, long-time fan of mobile devices and news writer at The Boy Genius Report.

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Pocketables is a US-based online tech magazine that brings news, insights, opinions, and comprehensive reviews on various mobile computing devices, portable technology, and related topics to a global audience. We focus on devices that fit into pockets of all sizes, from jeans and jackets to backpacks and purses. The gadget experts that comprise our staff produce high quality articles and original features colored with real-life use of products over weeks and months, not first-impression opinions formed within hours or days.

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9 thoughts on “Windows 7 on ARM-based hardware: Potential future or wishful thinking?

  • Avatar of turn.self.off

    I would say its a bit of both.

    Im sure microsoft have contingecy plans if X86 should ever get seriously threathened. But unless we see ARM based netbooks explode in popularity, i do not see them taking the effort.

    Reply
  • Entirely wishful thinking. Even if Windows was ported to ARM, it wouldn’t do much, you’d still have many many applications that wouldn’t run since everything is compiled for x86. Besides that, look how difficult a time Microsoft is having just getting x64 off the ground.

    ARM-based netbooks just aren’t going to catch on with the general public, whether they’re running Android or Windows or whatever. (Though, I reserve the right to change my mind if the desktop version of Mac OS X is ported to ARM (not the iPhone version) because those Mac fanboys would follow Steve Jobs anywhere). And, for the niche geekier users who would be interested in that sort of thing, there’s already an Ubuntu ARM port which is much better.

    Anyway, it’s my opinion that once you get above maybe 7″, ARM is pushing it anyway. Sure, they’re more efficient and I’m a big fan of them in phones and Nokia Internet Tablet style devices, but if you get much larger than that you need real power.

    Reply
  • Microsoft needs to pursue a two-pronged strategy. They’d like ARM to fail overall, so it behooves them to promise to join up later and encourage people to wait for the (presumably better) Windows experience rather than jumping in with Android.

    They want ARM to fail because they desperately need to support fewer versions of Windows, not more versions. Therefore, they have to use the threat of possible ARM adoption to push Intel to build more battery / radio friendly hardware, so they don’t need more versions.

    One of the leaked MS anti-trust documents said that you have to keep smiling at your enemies while you crush them, so I would think they would try to play it as buddy-buddy with ARM as possible, even while struggling to suffocate ARM.

    Reply
  • I’m afraid that current ARM hardware simply isn’t powerful enough to run Windows. I haven’t tried Windows 7 yet, but I don’t believe it can be compared to Linux with XFCE desktop.

    Reply
  • Avatar of theluketaylor

    I agree. Windows vendors have shown considerable reluctance to add x86_64 to their builds even though visual studio makes it very easy and all new hardware supports it. An ARM port would be pretty pointless without applications.

    The Windows kernel is quite portable, currently running on itanium, ppc, i386 and x86_64. The interface bits and application libraries are much more an issue.

    I don’t agree arm netbooks are doomed however. ARM enables all day battery life and simplier board design at a much lower cost then any intel platform. An arm cortex 7-10 inch netbook could reasonably be the $200 subnotebook promised by the original eeepc. On the software side Linux distros have come a long way and are only getting better. I even have my grandmother using ubuntu on a laptop for surfing and email.

    Reply
  • Agreed. Porting Vista to ARM would result in a grand total of zero applications to run on it.

    Besides MS paint…

    They’d have to write an x86 emulator for ARM, thus defeating the point of a netbook

    Reply
  • ARM-based “computers” shouldn’t even be called netbooks. I was under the impression a netbook had to be able to run a full desktop OS.

    A UMPC running Windows CE isn’t a UMPC, it’s just a big PDA.

    Reply
  • A Cortex A8 at $200 would probably be pushing it, unless it was a company buying in very very large volumes, and there’s just not a market for that many. The OpenPandora project, as an example, is using them with a thumb keyboard for a portable linux computer/ gaming machine, and they’re going to be charging $350. I realize they only have a run of a few thousand, so maybe a big corporation would be able to hit $275-300, but I doubt it.

    And honestly, ARM CPUs any older than that will be pretty worthless for a netbook. They work fine for PDAs, but are just too slow for a netbook. So basically, it’ll be the top of the line A8 (or maybe even A9 eventually) or a horrible experience.

    Reply
  • But ARM-based computers can run Linux, which is a full desktop OS. You can run OpenOffice, GIMP, Firefox, AmaroK and other applications on such computers.

    Reply

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