Microsoft Finally Takes Tablets Seriously: It’s Porting Windows To ARM

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It looks like Microsoft may finally be taking the tablet market seriously: next month at CES the company will announce a version of Windows for the ARM processors used in most smartphones and tablets, according to a report today from Bloomberg.

Processors using ARM’s designs generally offer longer battery life, making them ideal for mobile devices. 

The move doesn’t show a lot of confidence in Intel’s plans to establish a stronger presence in tablets. Earlier this year, Microsoft executives talked up Intel processors code-named “Oak Trail,” which are supposed to offer longer battery life.

The Bloomberg report says that the OS will also work on Intel and AMD processors, like Windows has for eons. This suggests it won’t be a completely new version of Windows, but rather a revamp of Windows 7 with some new user interface elements on top of it. That’s a good first step, but it will still have a hard time competing against devices like the iPad, whose user interface was designed for finger-touch from the beginning, and which already has thousands of touch-enabled applications.

Microsoft and ARM signed an expanded licensing deal in July that gave Microsoft access to ARM’s designs. Other companies with similar licensing deals include chipmakers like Qualcomm and Marvell Semiconductor, but Microsoft is the first software company with this kind of deal. Microsoft has toyed with porting Windows to ARM in the past, and has reportedly built internal prototypes.

No word on when the ARM-enabled version of Windows will actually start shipping.