Will Microsoft's Windows ARM assault be too late to matter?

News reports say that Microsoft will announce an ARM-based version of Windows at the upcoming CES show, targeted at tablets and smartphones. That's certainly good news, but there's one problem: It may be two years before an ARM-based version of Windows will be available. By that time, it may be too little, too late.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft will demonstrate an ARM-based version of Windows at CES. ARM chips use much less power than do the processors that Windows currently runs on. ARM chips are well-suited for smartphones and tablets, although they could also be used for netbooks and small, low-powered laptops as well.

Full-blown Windows likely wouldn't run on the tablets or smartphone. Instead, some kind of stripped-down version of the operating system would run. Windows simply has too much overhead and would weigh down tablets and smartphones. The Journal reports:

According to two people close to Microsoft, the company has had a project for some time to create a version of Windows running on ARM-based microprocessors. One of those people said the effort is part of a broader push at Microsoft to make Windows more "modular" so that pieces of the operating system that are unnecessary for smaller, low-power devices like tablets can be easily stripped away to make the software perform snappily on the gadgets.

The strategy is similar to the one Apple has employed with iOS, the lightweight operating system for iPads, iPhones and other devices that is derived from Apple's full-blown Mac operating system for traditional computers.

That's all well and good. But here's the kicker: The Journal reports that the ARM version of Windows "it isn't expected to be available for two years."

Two years is an eternity in the world of smartphones, tablets, and gadgets. By the time Windows running on ARM comes out, it's likely that the tablet market will already be sewn up by various iPads and Android tablets. And I wouldn't be surprised if in two years some new mobile gadget will start to supplant them.

So while a Windows-based version of ARM is certainly a good thing, by the time it hits, the world may have already moved on.

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