Windows 8 for ARM requirements leak

WARMed over iPad2

Windows 8 on ARM is going to be a lot more than Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is giving it credit for, and a lot less than the MS (NASDAQ:MSFT) hype. That said, Windows on ARM, aka WARM, has a lot of asterisks around every bullet point.

Word has come to SemiAccurate about how Windows 8 for ARM is going to be hamstrung, and there are a long list of restrictions that are put in place for manufacturers. MS seems intent on keeping the user experience as low on the awfulness scale as they can. I don’t think they will listen to my advice, but if they wanted to, here is a tip, no charge.

So, what is MS doing around WARM? The original plan was to make the OS ‘tablet only’, or at least that is what they told Intel. Given the war of words that just erupted between the two fading tech giants, you can guess when Intel found out that was not the case, and what their reaction was. Short story, WARM will be in netbooks/craptops from day one.

The way this will happen is simple, there are three or four chipset partners, TI, Nvidia, and Qualcomm, plus a strongly rumoured fourth player, possibly Samsung. These four will each be allowed to make two and only two designs, one clamshell with a keyboard and one tablet. There will be NO OEM designs, an Acer craptop will be one of the four, and so will a Lenovo tablet. If the CPU is the same, other than the stencilled logo, the rest will be too. Basically, you will get no diversity, 8 designs, the end.

To make matters more laughable, MS has some very hefty targets for usability, with their own OS exempted of course. Makers must hit several targets for boot time, sleep, wakeup, and performance. Everything will be qualified by MS, and failure on any count means the design is not green-lighted. MS is serious about speed.

Why? Well, people working on devices tell SemiAccurate that the numbers for ‘usability’ line up EXACTLY with the numbers for the iPad2. It is almost like MS had no ideas of their own, and had to copy the details from an innovative company. Not that this would ever happen mind you, but, well, it did. Again.

Given that the OS itself is a bloated pig ill-suited for the task, two problems arise. First is that to make it run at an acceptable, read iPad2-like, speed, you need massive CPU horsepower to overcome the performance drag of the OS. This is eminently doable, but it leads to short battery life, large batteries, or both. The other problem is that a high end CPU with a big battery and massive RAM counts means the BOM is going to be huge. Can you say subsidised? Apple is laughing all the way to the bank, trust us here.

If this all sounds like a replay of Wince/Phone7, it is. MS can’t make a decent OS to save their lives, and has absolutely no creativity left. To put on the veneer of creativity, they copy Apple, and do it with focus-groupthink. The end result is a list of check box features that are second to none, and an expensive doorstop to go with it.

The one thing MS can bring to the table that may move lots of WARM tablets is monopoly tactics. Like Wince/Phone7, people won’t knowingly buy it on merit, but MS can force it in to the channel, exclude competitors, and bundle in a legally dubious fashion. Don’t be surprised when they do, they have no other choice really.

In the end, according to their own technical requirements sheets, MS is copying the iPad2 on almost all counts. Until they ditch Windows though, they have little chance of success. The one thing you want from Windows is software compatibility, something that WARM craptops will not have. If you are dumb enough to buy something in this segment, you are much better off buying an Atom or Brazos variant. Both will be much faster and will run all the software you expect, but not at the speeds you want. The more things change, the worse Microsoft looks. Someone send a clue bat to Redmond, they are in desperate need.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate