Microsoft embraces ARM at BUILD

Intel may be celebrating all things x86 at its annual developer forum in San Francisco, but that didn’t stop Microsoft from talking up ARM in all of its RISC-based glory at the BUILD conference in Anaheim.

Although the two industry heavyweights continue to profess their love for each other, it is quite clear that a definite chill has permeated the once cozy WinTel relationship.

Indeed, Intel reps, likely feeling rather scorned by Microsoft’s decision to support ARM architecture, spent the morning touting Santa Clara’s collaboration with Google on Ultrabooks and how Android was being optimized for x86 chips. 

For its part, Microsoft chose the BUILD venue to once again highlight ARM’s new role in Windows – a universe dominated for decades by Intel, AMD and x86 processors. 

“Everything we showcased today also runs on the ARM-based Windows PCs being created by ARM partners and PC manufacturers,” Microsoft rep Steven Sinofsky confirmed.

“[Of course], ARM requires a deeper level of integrated engineering between hardware and software, as each ARM device is unique, and Windows allows this uniqueness to shine through.”

Sinofsky also noted Microsoft was releasing a slew of new development tools to help devs build Metro style apps that will seamlessly run on either x86 (32 and 64 bit) or ARM architectures.

“Even if you use native C/C++ code, these tools will enable Metro style apps to target specific hardware if you choose.

.. As new PCs become available for testing, PC manufacturers will develop seed programs for developers,” he added.

Clearly, Microsoft is getting the better end of the deal with ARM, as hardware (whether tablets or laptops) powered by RISC-based architecture will likely offer users a truly all day Windows experience on a single charge. 

And while Google’s Android currently dominates the smartphone market, it remains unclear how a future x86 Intel handset will compare to an ARM-powered device, both in terms battery life and price.

Of course, it should also be noted that Google has yet to seriously threaten Apple’s hold on the tablet space with Android. Adapting the popular operating system for x86-powered chips certainly can’t hurt, but it may be too little too late for Intel.