Analyst 'baffled' by Microsoft talk of Windows 8 on ARM

CES wrong place, talk of chips wrong message, contends Microsoft expert

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"What I'd rather be hearing right now [from Microsoft] is what are people telling you they want in these devices," said Cherry.

"I don't think people go into a store and say, 'Give me a tablet that runs Windows,'" Cherry added. "They don't say, 'Give me a tablet that runs on an Intel or an ARM processor.' I think they go in and say, 'Give me a portable device that turns on instantly and has interesting apps to read books, browse the Web, check my e-mail."

Microsoft's silence on those issues, and others, left Cherry uneasy.

"I think they can do it," he said, confident that Microsoft could pull off porting Windows to the ARM architecture, and in time for next upgrade. Cherry ticked off several other instances when Microsoft crafted a version of Windows for non-Intel processors, notably Windows NT, which in the 1990s also supported IBM's PowerPC, DEC's Alpha and MIPS' R4000 architectures. "It's totally possible. They clearly have the manpower."

But he's mystified why Microsoft would want to migrate the entire operating system to a tablet platform.

"Do you really gain anything by taking the entire client OS of today and porting it across?" he asked. "Why do they think that the power consumption [of Windows] will be any better on ARM? It's still going to be running a lot of processes."

The better strategy, Cherry argued, would be to emulate Apple, which stripped down its Mac OS to build iOS, the operating system that powers its iPhone and iPad, to provide only those parts necessary for a tablet.

"I saw this as a lot of hand waving," concluded Cherry of yesterday's announcement. "[Microsoft was saying] 'Look at the ARM architecture,' but there was no discussion about timing and other critical factors. I wanted to see some proof that doing [the port to ARM] will give me those attributes important on a tablet."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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