Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

Summary: An Intel Senior Vice President shared more details about Microsoft's Windows 8 this week. To the Microsoft doghouse for you, Intel

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There was nothing too terribly revealing in Intel Senior Vice President of Software and Services Renee James' comments about Windows 8 during Intel's shareholders meeting this week. But even the fact that James called Microsoft's next-generation operating system by its codename will, no doubt, be ill-received by the powers-that-be in Microsoft's Windows division.

According to reports, James told attendees of the May 18 meeting that there will be multiple versions of Windows 8 -- something that's in line with Microsoft's current multi-SKU Windows strategy (and something that seems likely to continue, based on early Windows 8 leaks, as reported by WinRumors.com earlier this year).

James also told shareholder meeting participants, as The Register reported, that there will be two classes of Windows 8 PCs: Ones running x86/x64 chips that will be able to run legacy applications, and ones running ARM processors that will not. The x86/x64 version will include a Windows 7 mode, she said, that will enable this legacy-app support.

James' statement doesn't contradict the little that Microsoft execs have shared about the company's future Windows plans. Here's a clip from Microsoft's January 5, 2011, press release, which outlined Microsoft's plans to support system-on-a-chip (ARM) processors with the "next version of Windows."

"Microsoft Corp. today announced at 2011 International CES that the next version of Windows will support System on a Chip (SoC) architectures, including ARM-based systems from partners NVIDIA Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. On the x86 architecture, Intel Corporation and AMD continue their work on low-power SoC designs that fully support Windows, including support for native x86 applications. SoC architectures will fuel significant innovation across the hardware spectrum when coupled with the depth and breadth of the Windows platform."

During CES, Sinofsky said that “normal” Windows software will continue to run on Intel’s SOC with the next version of Windows without requiring any rewrites, according to my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott. But he never promised "normal" Windows apps would run on ARM. Instead, Sinofsky only said Microsoft will insure that Microsoft Office will run on ARM SOC systems going forward. He said Microsoft will have Office running natively on ARM, which we Microsoft watchers have taken to mean that Microsoft is developing a version of Office for ARM. (If Sinofsky hadn't said "running natively on ARM," I might have assumed he meant that Windows 8 ARM PCs would be able to access Office Web Apps in the cloud from their tablets.)

The "four Windows SOCs for ARM" referenced by James in the Register's report don't necessarily mean four different Windows 8 SKUs. I take this more to mean that there will be an NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and AMD (?) ARM systems-on-a-chip designs.  Intel has an ARM license, but no plans to use it.

As we Microsoft watchers have widely expected, the ARM versions of Windows 8 are designed for tablets/slates and other devices where low-powered chips would be appropriate. (Remember Microsoft's leaked slides from April 2010 about Windows 8? There were "lap PC," "workhorse PC" and "family hub PC" design points? ARM-based PCs would most likely be those lap PCs....)

So all in all, not a whole lot of new Windows 8 from Microsoft's friends at Intel this week -- beyond the "Windows 7 mode" for legacy-app support -- which may be something akin to Windows XP Mode in Windows 7 PCs (perhaps?). But enough to put Intel in the doghouse for mentioning anything at all about the "operating system that shall not be named," no doubt.

In case you're wondering, Microsoft is still declining to comment on anything to do with Windows 8 or Windows Next that company officials have not said previously.

Update (May 19): It seems the Windows management has changed its mind and decided to comment after all. A spokesperson sent the following statement:

"Intel’s statements during yesterday’s Intel Investor Meeting about Microsoft’s plans for the next version of Windows were factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading.  From the first demonstrations of Windows on SoC, we have been clear about our goals and have emphasized that we are at the technology demonstration stage.  As such, we have no further details or information at this time."

The spokesperson said Microsoft would have no further comment beyond this statement, leaving us to wonder exactly which parts of James' claims were incorrect. As I know from person experience, just because Microsoft says something you've said is "wrong," it doesn't mean the bulk of what you said is right.

I'm still expecting Microsoft to make available to testers a first beta or CTP version of Windows 8 at the upcoming "Windows Developer Conference" (the renamed PDC, happening in mid-September this year). And I'm still not hearing that Microsoft plans to deliver the ARM-supporting versions of Windows 8 before the legacy-supporting versions. My contacts continue to believe that Microsoft is on track to release to manufacturing all versions of Windows 8 in the summer of 2012, in time for PC makers to get it on new systems for holiday 2012.

Topics: Hardware, Intel, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Processors, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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34 comments
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  • RE: Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

    I guess Intel is still pretty angry at MS for the Nokia deal. I for one am ready to jump ship to the Arm architecture... even for a laptop
    vhaakmat
    • And, I will bet that Apple is right now working on an Arm based version of

      MacBook Air. With quad-core and 2 days of battery life.
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

        @DonnieBoy Doubt it! They are probably working to get their A5 or whatever the next version of it is going to be called to run in their portable computers.
        findsomecommonground
      • RE: Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

        @DonnieBoy not sure if this is fact, but didnt Apple make a statement to stay with intel in their laptops? I also beleive that the A series chips by Apple are built on the ARM architecture. Sure will be interesting to see where this all goes!
        apetti
      • RE: Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

        @DonnieBoy

        No problem. there are already several Linux on arm systems that work. Some have even been used to build supercomputers.
        YetAnotherBob
      • RE: Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

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        Shamrock12
    • RE: Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

      @vhaakmat As such, we have no further details or information at this time.??? <a href="http://www.portedeurope.org">Uebersetzung</a>
      prolanguage1
  • Applications need to be recompiled for ARM

    It's understandable that legacy Windows applications won't run on Windows 8 for ARM because Visual C++/C# emits lots of x86-64 low level instructions into the code that are unlikely compatible with ARM. However, I guess a simple recompile of the source code with Visual C++ next version will do the work.
    UseYourHead
    • I do not know how much assembly language code MS has for Windows, but,

      I would imagine that it should not be that much work to re-compile for Arm and write the assembly language pieces for Arm. You can bet there will be native Win32 Arm libraries, so that other software companies can easily re-compile their programs for Arm based Windows.
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

        @DonnieBoy It generally isn't that easy. That's why it took a while to go from PowerPC to Intel.
        DevGuy_z
      • Shouldn't have too

        Modern GUI style apps spend a majority of time in the toolbox. Native toolbox (e.g. ARM) with emulated applications (e.g. x86) will provide acceptable performance and backward compatibility.

        DevGuy_z it really is that easy and was done for the switch from 68k to PPC, then PPC to x64.

        However I don't think the clowns at MS will realise this from their bubble. I use to joke about all the versions of windows. Now they be adding another 10+ SKUs. Its a riot;-)
        Richard Flude
    • Also, look for them to only support USB peripherals to start to avoid all

      of the nasty driver problems they had with Vista. Windows 8 Arm systems will probably ONLY be available as sealed units, with all of the drivers included.
      DonnieBoy
    • That'd be interesting, re: Visual C

      and it might explain why MS is upping its focus on C++ with the coming WinC++:

      http://zd.net/jtMaon

      Thanks. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
    • If you used C . If you chose C# then no recompile, then .NET clr will

      just jit it to ARM at runtime. The IL remains in the images even for ngen'd apps...
      Johnny Vegas
      • RE: Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

        @Johnny Vegas : Not all of the popular apps are written in .NET

        Remember Photoshop/SQL server/Dreamweaver/Visual studio etc?
        thandermax
    • RE: Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

      @UseYourHead If your C# application is structured right, and they make the JIT-compiler right, you shouldn't have to recompile any of those applications. CLR should just make it work.

      That's a big should though. Ball's in Microsoft's court to do that.

      As for Visual C++, its all a matter of getting the libraries built right for it to compile. Something tells me that Microsoft might "trim the fat" of some of the older libraries and completely kill deprecated code that many applications still use. You don't want to have that much excess when you are running on a smaller platform.
      vel0city
    • Just a slight correction...

      @UseYourHead... C# (and for that matter any managed code language like VB.NET, F#, Cobol#, Visual RPG, etc.) generates "architectural-neutral" CIL code.

      Rarely, you'll see C# compilers generate native code (Mono offers this facility when developing for Linux and for the iPhone).

      C++ on the other hand is available in both managed and unmanaged.
      cosuna
  • New Application model on its way

    Forget about native ARM applications besides the traditional x86/x64 binaries. The retail market will never support this alternative (the original Windows NT ecosystem was partially like this).

    This is why Microsoft will probably rely on a new application model, managed code based, that will be able to run on all the CPU architecture variants.

    This new application model will offer a new level of security, run in isolated sandboxes, leverage a new set of touch enabled widgets and for the first time, support the vision of multiples devices: the phones, tablets and the desktop. It is reasonable to project that it will also heavily leverage the new "Metro" design direction.

    The only potential problem with this model is the ecosystem that has to be rebuilt - therefore, time! The x86/x64 platform is a non-issue since it can natively run legacy applications. Meanwhile, tablets are - they will be late in the game. One way to solve this would be the progressive migration of Windows Phone applications to the updated application model that could then run directly on tablets - the Metro UI is already designed for larger screens, just look at panoramas. Using this path, the Windows tablets could, upon lauch, already have thousand of applications available and a well trained development force.

    We'll see soon enough.
    TheCyberKnight
    • RE: Intel exec shares more on Microsoft's Windows 8 plans

      @TheCyberKnight interesting way of looking at it!!! What you are saying makes good sense!!!! I mean Apple did something similar with iOS (I think)... isn't iOS an extension of OSx?

      Either way this idea makes the most sense to me!
      apetti
  • ARM? which one?

    I started development for ARM since pocketPC era, but I don't think ARM has a future at all. What if Windows 8 to run on phones, and in x86/x64 chips. actually, that's not if, that's soon to be a fact.

    I won't be surprised if no one will talk about ARM any more in two years. I know no one agreed with me now, but lets see who is right.
    jk_10