The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a new Microsoft OS will support the ARM processors used in most smartphones and tablets. The report matches the rumours that Bloomberg dished up earlier today, with one new wrinkle: the Journal’s sources say the new OS won’t be out for at least another two years.
No kidding. Of course Microsoft has a new version of Windows coming out in 2012 or later. It’s called Windows 8.
So maybe Windows 8 will support ARM. According to sources with knowledge of the plans for that OS, improving energy efficiency and battery life is a big focus of development for Windows 8. In addition, Microsoft did a lot of work breaking the core of Windows into components for recent releases of Windows Server (where IT administrators don’t always want to install every piece). That work could now be put to use creating a specialised version of the Windows desktop OS with limited features for ARM-based tablets.
That doesn’t change the fundamental problem with Microsoft’s tablet strategy: waiting for Windows 8 will also put Microsoft at least two years behind the iPad and the forthcoming crop of tablets running Android and other operating systems designed for mobile use. Two years is an eternity. During that time, every customer who buys a new hot tablet will be one less customer using a Windows PC.
Plus, power management is only one piece of the puzzle. A successful tablet also has to be designed for finger-based touch screens and have a lot of touch-enabled apps.
A quicker, cheaper, and easier way to get into the tablet market would be to take an OS that already works on ARM processors and was designed for touch screens from the get-go, and move it into tablets. It’s called Windows Phone 7, and while it may be too late to help Microsoft in smartphones, it’s only a year behind the iPad.
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