Thursday, September 22, 2011

The day broke up Wintel - II

Microsoft has the culture of "all Windows" younger probably do not know, but before that the iPhone does not come to change everything, there were phones with a "Start" menu as well as on PC. Now that divorce is consummated, the two old cronies are not without bitterness toward each other: Microsoft explains its inability to react in touch with the absence of a credible product for this market at Intel , and Intel says the insolent form of ARM by the inability of Microsoft to provide an operating system designed for touch interfaces. The exchange of friendliness was held during the CES, even though the two huge stands of both companies were facing in the central hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

skitchedThis culture of any Windows continues to show its effects: that Microsoft can hope for a level playing field in the market shelves, it is necessary to offer an operating system that runs on hardware with the same value as platforms running on ARM processor. Alas, the Atom processors are far from the case, far too greedy and too expensive: a single tablet running Windows 8 can match either in price or in terms of autonomy (see Intel Crossroads). It is only the tip of the iceberg: Steve Ballmer can not conceive that the Windows interface to be unsuited to the shelves. The touch overlay for Windows 7 was actually one of the points put forward to its release. Two years and two after iPad, the function does not figure that gadget, and Microsoft has finally draw some lessons from its mistakes by integrating Windows with Metro 8. But Ballmer did not completely disavow: For Microsoft, the tablet PC is almost like the others, since the interface "classic" Windows will continue to persist on these new platforms, in addition to Metro.

If Microsoft has shown so much patience before stopping to wait for a response from Intel is that it leaves changing architecture of the first power of its operating system: its repository. In fact, when Windows will be available on ARM processor, it will be reduced to zero. For software designed for the couple to run on Windows Wintel for ARM, it will go through a rebuild, as well as the capabilities of tablets are not commensurate with computers, be it in terms of RAM ( iPad has 512 MB RAM, unthinkable not only for Windows as it is but for a large amount of its software as well).

Especially since Microsoft has already had the experience to offer Windows on other architectures: Windows NT was once proposed for PowerPC, Alpha, and MIPS, but the Ports were abandoned with Windows NT 4.0, as well as the system had a hardware abstraction layer, porting software on RISC architectures (for which data are arranged in reverse order in memory) has been particularly difficult.

And specifically, ARM processors are RISC architecture. Born with the Acorn Archimedes in 1987 and improved with the help of Apple to equip the Newton in 1992, ARM processors have specialized in energy restraint in spite of very respectable performance. Better yet, ARM only sell licenses of its architecture, leaving it to each licensee to manufacture its own processor with its measurement, personalizing if necessary, they never fail to do so. Not to mention that these processors are tailored for systems-on-chip that integrate both processor memory controller or the various bus and of course the graphics chipset in a single chip.If Apple has been successful transition of the 68 040 processor (CISC) to the PowerPC (RISC), it is only through the addition of a 68k emulator integrated within the processor, and the gradual replacement of one by the other. Conversely, Mac OS X has integrated PowerPC emulator called Rosetta, on its way to Intel, this time at the cost of some delays. The transition from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X on the other hand has been through a common set of APIs, called Carbon. If emulation was the salvation for Apple, it is absolutely impossible in the case of transition from x86 to ARM mobile processors would be exhausted, consume more energy, and the result would be anyway much too slow to be usable.

Microsoft will be for expenses and will have to coexist different compilations (or at best replicate the method of "fat binaries" that incorporated both 68k and PowerPC code for Mac OS, but the cost of a top disk space and downloads longer). Go and explain to the average user from the huge population of Microsoft customers, and has no idea of ​​what a processor, software Windows/x86 why this does not work on his shelf, and vice versa .

If Microsoft has long left some doubt, the answers have finally come: Windows 8 will include the Metro as a standard interface as well as ARM on x86, but applications compiled for x86 will not work on ARM. Intel had predicted such a conflict, to the chagrin of Microsoft that it was offended, but in fact the prediction was correct. Applications designed to operate in Metro, however, work equally well on both processor families.Remains to be seen how Microsoft intends to address the many puzzles that await, the first of which is to facilitate the porting of Windows applications so you do not end up destitute when Windows will be available on ARM processor, and while the App Store keeps on swelling. It could well end up in a scenario unthinkable not long ago, where Apple could take advantage of numerical superiority in its repository, where Windows would the poor relation.

As for Intel, it simply say "not bad": Paul Otellini, CEO, even sees a growth opportunity for his company: "Today, Windows CE, Windows Phone applications, all run on ARM and ARM only, so it is advertised in addition to the shelf and phone version, they will support ARM Windows 8. What excites me is that Windows 8 will also support Intel into these devices. While today we have no way to get your foot in the tablets and mobile operator solutions from Microsoft. "Anyway, this is a turning point for Intel for Windows which represents the bulk of revenues. Certainly by the time it's put in difficulty, there are still very far, however, it is crucial that Intel is catching up in the highly strategic market represented by mobile and embedded devices: they embody the future of computer, which will eventually dissolve in our environment and our lives to become completely transparent. But in the worst case scenario (and largely improbable) that Microsoft would eventually abandon in favor of x86, ARM, there will always be in the market for Intel Mac ...! Observers predict that the repetition of history, modeled on Android and iOS the same destiny as Windows and Mac OS are for expenses: the story there has not yet reached its epilogue.

And while there is still writing for the two former partners: the first Android-based tablets Intel, as the first Windows-based tablets ARM processors, will not arrive on the market before 2012. And it also remains to show that there is a place for Apple to other manufacturers in this market so far, none have managed to score points. Intel also needs to contain the leak in the field of mobile phones and that is why it puts the packet on Ultrabooks.

The other notable is that this change has come to agree with Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer wrong: When Jobs was referring to PC as "trucks" and tablets as small city, that Ballmer hammered the shelves are just like any other PC, with no noticeable difference. Now he can no longer say that it is.

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