With Windows 7 as the highest yielding version to date, Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer caused quite the stir in the tech world recently with the unveiling of Windows 8.1 Although it may sound like Microsoft is coming out with yet another update to their famous operating system, this one may break barriers for the company. The most differentiating feature in Windows 8 is that it will support ARM architecture.
As mentioned in last week’s post, ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) is a more efficient version of RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computers.)2 This means given the correct hardware, Windows 8 ARM has the potential of running faster and using less power all on a physically smaller computer.
ARM technology has been around for a while but has stayed prominent in only smaller niche markets. They are used in devices like phones and tablets due to its smaller size. Since Intel does not specialize in ARM archeticure yet, Microsoft has partnered up with other companies like NVIDIA (a leading visual computing company,) Qualcomm and Texas Instruments instead.3 These ARM processors are expected to become increasingly more popular over time, but it is not because Microsoft is now switching over. Instead, it follows the same reasoning that Intel had before: it’s smaller, cheaper and still does the same amount of stuff.
Now let’s look at some of the different opinions on Microsoft’s shift to ARM technology:
Windows 8 will open up new doors for Microsoft?
- The ARM chip is physically smaller without reducing effectiveness. This means hardware like laptops and tablets can become smaller while increasing its capabilities. Now, more companies will have the potential to let their computers evolve into something physically compact more like the Mac Desktops that simply fit everything into just the monitor. This is why some critics see Windows 8 as an aggressive move from Microsoft to competitors like Apple, who already use this powerful technology.4
- Think of it as a long term investment: it may break your wallet now, but can save you some major bucks later on. True, it may be necessary to purchase updated hardware and applications in order to smoothly run Windows 8 ARM at full speed, however, when regarding hardware like laptops, you will need to upgrade less often since the new ARM technology is so efficient, powerful and therefore will last longer.4
Or is Microsoft stepping into a trap door?
- Many critics are nervous about how Microsoft will begin phasing Windows 8 into the market. It may be a slow launch for Windows 8 featuring ARM since it will not only potentially require new hardware for users, but it cannot run older applications.5 Just bought Office 2010? Well, try not to fall in love with the high speed of Windows 8 ARM since now you will need to buy a new version of Office that is compatible. The same goes for all non-Microsoft applications as well, so if you are a game addict this may not be your cup of tea.
- Just as I mentioned earlier, the switch to Windows 8 ARM will cost more than just a software upgrade and a full body makeover for your computer and new hardware may be necessary. It is up to Microsoft to make Windows 8 significantly more efficient and effective in order to entice users into taking the plunge.
It is important to remember that when Windows 8 is released that it will be shipped in two forms: Windows 8 running with ARM and Windows 8 with the regular x86.6 Therefore, if you still want the new Windows 8 features without paying for all the new equipment, Windows 8 for x86 is perfect for you. Just remember that it will not run with the speed and lowered CPU (Computer Usage) levels as it will with the ARM architecture. Also, there is no official release date yet for Windows 8 so we all still have some time to breathe and continue figuring out Windows 7.