updated 08:00 am EDT, Fri July 23, 2010
Microsoft may chase Apple, servers with ARM
Microsoft surprised the industry on Friday by becoming an ARM licensee. The deal gives it access to the ARM architecture and the rights to develop processors based on the technology. What exact aims weren't explained, but the license would "enhance [its] research and development activities for ARM-based products," according to general manager KD Hallman.
The Windows developer has already had to work with ARM in software, as it has developed Windows CE, Embedded, Mobile and Phone to run using the platform. A license doesn't necessarily equate to developing processors but could lead Microsoft to suggest optimizations to companies making chips running its mobile operating systems.
Its move, however, appears to follow a similar approach to Apple, which licensed ARM under two years ago to develop what would ultimately become the A4 chip in the iPad and iPhone 4. Microsoft is currently struggling in tablets without either a mainstream Windows 7 device or any contemporary Windows CE hardware, and won't see Windows Embedded Compact 7 devices ship until 2011. Smartphones may also be affected, although Microsoft has multiple WP7 launch partners and may not need to spur extra development.
An ARM license won't accelerate work in the short term but could lead to faster launches in the future and would leave open the option of Microsoft producing its own chips to design some or all of a phone or tablet itself.