Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has realized that a strong play on the ARM platform is necessary moving forward especially in perspective of the competitive threat of the Google+ARM platform that has manifested strongly in smartphones and tablet devices.
Microsoft and ARM announced a new architecture licensing agreement that underscores the importance of ARM’s architecture on the Windows roadmap and perhaps heralds the game-changing arrival of the era of Windows+ARM based mobile computing and gaming platforms.
The convergence between mobile devices and classic desktop/laptop computing devices is resulting in new opportunities in a host of portable consumer devices such as E-readers, Tablets, gaming, media phones, and navigation devices.
While it indulged in the ARM space for smartphones where it failed to get sufficient traction, Microsoft did not see a compelling need to pursue an alternate platform for mobile computing since the WINTEL (Windows + Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)) platform had a stronghold in this sector.
Many prominent portable consumer devices however have now embraced ARM as the platform for such emerging devices. Notable examples include:
- E-readers (Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony (NYSE:SNE) Reader, Acer LumiRead)
- Tablet devices (Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Acer, Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Lenovo (HKG:992), Asus (TPE:2357), LGE, Samsung (SEO:A009150))
- Gaming devices (Nintendo (OSA:7974) DSi)
- Navigation/Infotainment (Garmin)
ARM’s Cortex A8 and Cortex A9 (with multi-core processing capabilities) platforms at ≥1GHz are cost competitive and more power efficient, and offer a compelling alternative to Intel’s processors for these emerging portable consumer device platforms.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), who has challenged Microsoft with new paradigms and business models, has sided with the ARM platform for its thrust into smartphones with its Android OS. This ARM+Android mobile platform has gained momentum among smartphone OEMs incl. Motorola (NYSE:MOT), Samsung, Sony Ericsson, HTC (TPE:2498), LGE, Dell, Acer, etc. that has translated into significant market share gain within smartphones.
Google is aggressively mounting a similar campaign to address the world of tablets, smartbooks, and netbooks leveraging the ARM hardware platform via its Android OS and the Chrome OS platforms.
Google’s royalty-free OS model combined with the cost and power advantage of high-performance ARM processors makes a potent combination that threatens the WINTEL alliance from extending its dominance into the smartbook/tablet/e-reader space. For example, notable players from the PC camp including Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Asus, Samsung, LGE etc. have chosen to introduce Android+ARM based tablets.
Most of these emerging consumer computing devices are ‘communication devices’ that have built in modems. As these devices become mass market plays, cost and power reduction will increasingly drive integrated (applications + modem) processors where ARM-based players Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), ST-Ericsson, Marvell, Renesas, etc. are well-positioned relative to X86 players (Intel, AMD (NYSE:AMD), VIA).
Microsoft has thus realized that a strong play on the ARM platform is necessary moving forward.
This announcement underscores the importance of ARM’s architecture on the Windows roadmap and perhaps heralds the game-changing arrival of the era of Windows+ARM based mobile computing and gaming devices. The proactive engagement will enable Microsoft to stay in sync with ARM’s roadmap and optimize their leading-edge Windows smartphone and Windows embedded OS platforms with corresponding leading-edge ARM-based products.
One thing is clear. ARM is the winner as Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Qualcomm etc. are doing the heavy lifting, and even Apple (with its ARM based A4 chip that is the foundation of its new iPad and iPhone 4) is doing its share.
Note: There’s more valuable insight on smartphones and new wireless frontiers at http://emblazeworld.com/ in the Resources section