Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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5/18/2011
04:40 PM
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Intel: Windows-On-ARM A Compatibility Mess

Chipmaker claims only its mobile processors will offer true backwards compatibility for Windows 8 tablets.

The version of Windows 8 that Microsoft is developing for mobile chip manufacturer ARM's system-on-a-chip architecture won't be capable of running applications that were written for current or older versions of Windows that run on x86 chips, a senior exec at ARM rival Intel said.

"On ARM, there'll be the new experience, which is very specifically around the mobile experience, specifically around tablet and some limited clamshell, with no legacy OS," said Renee James, Intel's senior VP for Software and Services, at the company's investor meeting Tuesday. "Our competitors will not be running legacy applications. Not now, not ever," James said.

Intel believes that fact will give it an edge over ARM in the market for chips that power tablets—at least in the Windows segment. Its thinking is that IT managers will be loathe to deploy tablets that don't natively support their companies' existing fleet of Windows business applications.

Whether that's true remains to be seen. With more business apps moving to the OS-agnostic cloud, specific client architectures are becoming less crucial. Indeed, many enterprises are already accessing business apps through Apple's iPad, Google Android-powered devices, or other non-Windows clients, like RIM's PlayBook.

Intel has just begun rolling out Oak Trail, its answer to ARM's SoC chips for tablets. The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday reported that the company plans to introduce as many as 10 Oak Trail-powered tablets from various OEMs at the Computex trade show in Taiwan later this month.

Microsoft has previously said it would develop tablet-optimized versions of Windows 8 for both Intel Oak Trail and ARM chips, as well as for traditional desktops and laptops. Microsoft has not formally announced a release date for Windows 8, though some industry watchers believe the software maker could roll out at least some versions of the new OS as early as this year's back-to-school season.

Officials for ARM and Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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