This release of the Windows operating system is creating flutters in quarters that were not affected earlier like the Tablet market, Phone Market, Embedded Market. The reason behind that was the announcement that the Windows 8 is arriving on ARM processors provided by TI, NVIDEA and Qualcomm. This is really path breaking and definitely a re-imagined route (like MS would call, in its BUILD Conference) taken by the leader in PC Operating System market.
But this one was expected because of 2 principal reasons, A. ARM got more powerful and B. There are no x86 processors available that is good enough for tablets today.
ARM has indeed become powerful enough to run the REAL windows on it. It is no longer the processor that used to trade in performance for power consumption. With the introduction of Dual core ARM Cortex cranking speeds above 1 GHz and supported by leading vendors like TI, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Freescale and the like ARM has definitely come a long way from its Strong ARM days. So basically ARM has provided an equivalent alternative to the "Powerful" X86.
Also Microsoft did not have a proper answer to the all-conquering IPAD and Android Tablet market. Though MS is keenly trying to address the threat in Mobile Phone market with its Mango version of Windows Phone, it seems that it did not target the same Windows Phone for tablets. To address this void in the tablet market it's not surprising to see Microsoft bring ONE operating system for the PC, Laptops, Netbooks and Tablets. That way MS can use the existing application developer community who would feel is easy to develop applications would run on PC as well as on the tablets (off course with some modifications).
Well is this move brilliant and would it serve as the right competition to the already strong contenders in the space? That's for us to wait and see and of course an inspiration for another article.
Now, the problem is that if Microsoft wants to adapt its mainline operating system to the tablet market, it needs to come out of its X86-ONLY approach. The reason is ARM is the market leader in Tablets and as things stand, would be in that place for a long time to come. So Microsoft had to adapt itself to the ARM platform, if it was really interested to break into the tablet market. That's what Microsoft just did with Windows 8.
The Windows 8 BUILD Keynote clearly focused on the User Interface aspect, the Metro tiled approach and Touch first … all pointing to tablets and panels. The keynote also demonstrated how the memory consumption was down to sub 300MBs and the processor usage was much better than the Windows 7 releases, again clearly going the tablet way.
So as I see this, Microsoft had compelling reasons to support ARM and ARM has the power and resources for Microsoft to adapt its mainline OS to ARM.(Win - Win!!)
Other interesting aspects behind Microsoft's strategic shift to include ARM support may be attributed to ARMs foray into the server and Mobile PC markets. There was an interesting analysis in WFD (http://www.windowsfordevices.com/c/a/News/ARM-Computex-2011-press-conference/) which claimed half of all mobile computers would be having ARM by 2015. That is aggressive and if it all it happens Microsoft would not want to allow Chrome, Ubuntu and the like claim that marketshare. With Windows 8 moving into ARM, Microsoft has created a checkpoint for its competitors. Of course, Windows 8 would be costlier than Chrome and Ubuntu but with it will come all of Windows Desktop luxuries and the ability to run the inevitable MS Office Suite.
All in One PCs with Touch interfaces are beginning to spring from every popular PC vendor. From HP to Dell to Lenovo, all of them seem to be coming up with interesting variants of this genre of PCs which includes HD video/audio, TV tuners, Full Multi Touch interfaces, etc. all packed into a monolithic, sleek design which can hang on your wall or use very less of your table space. There has been All-in-one PCs right from the early days, but their re-emergence has a lot to do with the touch and UI interface that is being promised by Windows 8 and is being done to some extent by Windows 7. We may not be a far away from the days when ARM based All-In-One PCs come up as well.