There was a time when computing, to many people, meant Windows running on an Intel chip. While variations on this theme have been in play for well over two decades, it’s clear now that mobile devices are here to stay, and so far their architectures have been vastly different from the Wintel solutions of the past. While we wouldn’t expect Microsoft nor Intel to flat-out abandon their traditional product lines, both companies have now expressed interest in taking a larger slice of the mobile pie, most recently with Intel discussing its processors running Windows 8 in the next generation of smartphones.
Microsoft announced at the CES that it would direct its resources towards making sure that Windows 8 is able to run on processors typically reserved for embedded systems and smartphones. By supporting ARM chips, the company hopes to take some of the mobile OS market back from the likes of Android; after all, five years ago Windows was pretty much your only option for a tablet OS.
With Microsoft looking towards the mobile market, and new CPU manufacturers, you might expect Intel to panic, but apparently it’s treating this move as a blessing. CEO Paul Otellini identified Microsoft’s planned efforts as key to creating a homogeneous platform for both mobile and desktop computing; if all your devices are running some kind of Windows 8, it could give Intel even more opportunities to get its chips out there. Specifically, Otellini sees Windows 8 on smartphones benefiting from the company’s future low-power mobile chips.
It’s hard to get a grasp of the potential impact from such a market-crossing platform like Windows 8, especially when we don’t know how its user interface will play out. Success on both PCs and touchscreen devices is a tough job for any OS, but Intel, at least, seems confident that Microsoft can pull off something impressive as it designs the UI from the ground up. For now, our eyes are on Intel to see if it can come up with some sort of Atom-lite with even lower power consumption – just what the next wave of smartphones could use.