At the press conference -- held a few hours before CEO Steve Ballmer will keynote the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) -- Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky showed off an early build of Windows 8 runnong on new systems-on-a-chip (SoC) platforms from NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments on ARM. To prove Microsoft isn't abandonning the x86 architecture with Windows 8, company officials also showed off Windows 8 running on x86 SOC.
Rumors that Microsoft would show off Windows 8 running on ARM have been circulating for the past couple of weeks. Earlier this week, TechFlash reported that Microsoft had cut deals with the aforementioned ARM chip makers, which will enable Windows 8 to run on ARM-based systems once the next release of Microsoft's operating system is available.
Sinofsky told press conference attendees they were forbidden from videotaping demos of the next version of Windows. Unsurprisingly, he also said Microsoft would not discuss its release schedule plans or show off the new Windows 8 user interface.
Microsoft has been working to port Windows to ARM for several years. I had heard about LongARM, a project to port Vista (codenamed Longhorn) to ARM a while back. Microsoft last year signed an architecture licensing agreement with ARM, but wouldn't say anything about its plans at that time.
Microsoft is believed to be finally backing ARM as that low-power processor is especially well suited to tablets and slates, which are one of the primary form factors Microsoft plans to target with Windows 8.
Windows 8, according to my tipsters, is just around the Milestone 2 mark, which is the second major internal build for the operating system. A public test build of Windows 8 isn't expected by most until later this year. Microsoft officials have continued to decline to say when the company is planning to ship Windows 8. GIven that Windows 7 was released to manufacturing in July 2009, one would think a 2012 launch date is a possibility. (I have heard from some that Microsoft, once it does talk dates, may say 2013 to eliminate any possibility of being "late.")
Update: More from the Microsoft CES press conference and press releases: