ARM and Microsoft tie up chip makers at summit

Eight silicon vendors are joining Intel, Texas Instruments and other influential companies in supporting Microsoft's latest embedded software

UK chip-designer ARM and Microsoft said they have added eight major silicon vendors, including Nvidia and Sharp, to the line-up of companies developing chips based on ARM technology and designed for Microsoft's latest embedded operating system.

Nvidia, Sharp Microelectronics of the Americas, Centrality Communications, Cirrus Logic, Conexant Systems, Globespan Virata, LSI Logic and MagicEyes Digital have all agreed to develop systems based on ARM cores and Windows CE .Net 4.2. Chip makers such as Intel, Texas Instruments, Motorola and Samsung are already planning to use the ARM and Microsoft technologies.

Windows CE is the basis for Microsoft's embedded software products, including Pocket PC, Windows for Smartphones and others, and competes directly with the Palm OS and embedded versions of Linux, as well as a variety of established embedded operating systems. Microsoft and ARM are holding their second joint Executive Summit in Redmond, Washington on Thursday and Friday to convince more chip makers to support Windows CE, with 80 executives from 40 ARM partners in attendance.

Critics charge that Windows CE -- which is being pushed for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones, network gateways, IP set-top boxes, cars, and other non-PC products -- relies on proprietary technologies that have the effect of extending Microsoft's desktop operating system monopoly into other markets. Microsoft says that one of the benefits of its embedded software is its guaranteed compatibility with technologies from the PC world, including the market-dominating -- but not standards-compliant -- Internet Explorer browser.

ARM, which sells ready-made chip-building blocks -- or "cores" -- to chip makers, is one of the dominant players in the embedded industry, its cores powering most mobile phones and handheld computers.

Attendees at the Redmond summit are given the opportunity to provide input into the roadmaps of ARM's cores and Windows CE, with Microsoft planning to discuss its Windows CE "shared source" initiative.

"Through our close collaboration, we will be able to ease the development path and help device manufacturers easily and cost-efficiently deliver ARM Powered, Windows CE .Net products that will meet consumer demands," said Mike Inglis, executive vice president of marketing at ARM, in a statement.