Windows 8 is being touted as a victory for ARM, but it's really a raw deal. The ARM Fanboys have been waiting for the game changing moment, and this may not be it. To really understand the reason why, it's time for a little bit of history.
Microsoft's history with ARM goes back more than 15 years. Mobile computing on small ARM based devices isn't new. Back in the day Microsoft came up with Window CE (Compact Edition) which then became Windows Mobile. Small ARM devices even back then were capable of running Excel and Word. They had the familiar start screen, life was good.
When they tried to bring Windows Mobile to the phone it was a disaster. Who needs a start screen on a phone? They seemed to have fixed it with Windows Phone 7. And here's where the problem that Microsoft has been facing for years which Apple also faces. Two platforms. Apple has OS/X and iOS. Microsoft has the traditional Windows and Windows Phone. Both companies say that they are going to merge platforms. Microsoft will be the first.
Microsoft's version will to use the Windows Phone look and feel on the desktop. Extremely large and simple. I have to be honest, I'm not loving this idea on the desktop. We'll see how it plays out.
So the fanboys keep pointing to Windows 8 as the jumping off point. The Wintel days are over? Not so fast. Windows has a sub-platform called the Metro interface. ARM fans are stating that they will be moving into Buckingham palace, which is true. But they will be chained up in the backyard.
The metro apps are being developed. Windows Phone has 40,000 apps as of today
Sounds promising? Android has over a quarter million and iPhone has 400,000! So, to say that people aren't developing for Windows Phone like the other operating systems would be correct.
The attraction to the Windows tablet will be two things. First the ability to run legacy software on it which you can't do with ARM unless it's done through emulation or extensions built into the processor, both of which slow down the operating system. The second thing is the apps. For as little as there are for Windows Phone there are fewer for Windows. These apps will be available in the metro marketplace. Developers are encouraged to develop for both ARM and x86.
To add insult to injury, Windows Phone has lost market share, from 3% to 1.55 of the market.
So, when you look at this, there is very little to be excited about for ARM fans. They got a raw deal. We'll see how Apple handles it. Google has a different deal, they have a phone OS but no computer OS. There is a rich history in Linux which Android is based off of, but so far they have avoided cleaning up Linux for the PC.
When we talk about processors in the future and who will succeed the operating systems play into that equation. Too many variables to clearly state who will win or lose.