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Microsoft Ready To Talk Windows On ARM

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the hole-in-the-marketshare-dike dept.

Microsoft 342

An anonymous reader writes "After many months of working in secret, Microsoft is nearly ready to start talking about its plans to bring Windows to ARM-based processors. However, while the company is set to discuss the effort at next month's Consumer Electronics Show, there is still a lot that must be done before such products can hit the market. Among the steps needed is for hardware makers to create ARM-compatible drivers, a time-consuming effort that explains in part why Microsoft is talking about the initiative well ahead of any products being ready. Meanwhile, Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM devices and running on many others."

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342 comments

No surprise (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655244)

It's not exactly a surprise. Don't produce something for ARM, and it's likely that Microsoft will be left in the dust in the few years on a major platform. I wonder if the NT guts of newer versions of Windows are still as portable as they were a decade ago.

Re:No surprise (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655256)

They can just trot down to the Azure lab and ask Dave Cutler how he got it to work last time.

Re:No surprise (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655288)

The Biggest Open Source Star

Mr Reiser exhaled deeply. Cigarette smoke drifted slowly towards the back of the car, dancing on the stuffy air slowly circulating the 1983 Cadillac Coupe Deville. Hans cracked the window a little; things were getting too musty even for his tastes. It had been a long day, and he feared it would be an even longer night. He reached towards the old stereo and twisted the tuning knob. Static. "I guess that's all you're gonna get in the deserts of Nevada", he thought. Onwards into the night.

Some time later, Reiser was startled by the headlights and horn of an approaching vehicle. He jumped wide awake. "Damn, must have started to drift off..." he mused, not slowing down for one second. Perhaps the sweet release of death would have been welcome. Perhaps not. Best to purge such thoughts. Another oncoming car passed. "Must be getting close to Vegas now...", Hans muttered. Time for another cigarette. Inhaling the sweet smoke for all it was worth, Mr Reiser reached over to the passanger seat. Sitting there was his trusty Thermos flask. Bringing the flask towards his lips, he gulped down the hours old coffee. It was still quite warm. Sweet nectar. "At least this should keep me awake for a while". Hans washed the coffee down with some more smoke. They might have been cheap cigarettes, but damn they were good. Hans knew he shouldn't smoke. "Why worry about something that could kill you in 15 years when there's so much that could kill a man now?", he always concluded.

Rumble. "Did I hear something..?" Rumble. Hans started to wonder if there was something wrong with his trusty Cadillac. Rumble rumble. Suddenly it hit him. That wasn't his car, it was his stomach, his bowels, his very innards. "Can't be long to Vegas now Hans, hold on in there old boy, you can make it." He had planned to have a weekend of whores and slots, having taken care of some long overdue business that very weekend. Maybe then he'd leave the country. Who knows. Rumble. The coffee and cigarettes were taking their toll with increasing aggression. Hans' ageing body couldn't take the laxative effect as it once could. "I'm getting too old for this shit", he mumbled, and wondered once more what it'd be like to just flick the wheel and end it all. "I'd probably get even that wrong and end up as a vegetable", he thought with a sadistic grin creeping across his face.

The urge had gotten too strong, Hans knew he had to stop the car. Hesitant to pull over in the pitch black, he slowed down and wondered if there was anywhere off the beaten track that might be safe. Rumble. Things were getting desperate. Reiser reasoned that things would probably be ok, after all no cars had passed in quite a while. And god knows he had to shit. It was decided, the choice was taken from him. Slowing down some more, Hans pulled off the old road and into the desert. A couple of hundred meters down the road, Reiser slammed on the brakes, almost jumped out of the car and pulled his jeans down. They hadn't been washed in a month or more, but who cared about that? He only masturbated once per day, and his weekly shower ensured his nob didn't poison his jeans with stale semen too much. Besides, whores were paid to fuck and keep their mouth shut.

Hans was squatting now, his stomach rumbling like an earthquake and anus hanging inches from the floor. "Let's get it on", he said aloud. Reiser barely had to push. With a god like blast, liquid diarrhea gushed from within him. Pints of glorious brown liquid spraying in all directions onto the hard rocky floor. Hans inhaled deeply. Could it be that this was better than inhaling a cigarette? Quite possibly. The stream finally started to slow, chunks spluttering from his filthy shit caked ring. "Liquid shit truely is the only way to shit", Mr Reiser thought. The almost paedophilliac smile crept back across his face. This was the life.

Finally, Hans was ready to get back on the road. He had some old tissue to clean up the mess, but he was unsure if it'd deal with the state of his ass. He didn't care. He wiped as much of the dripping brown goo from his sphincter as possible, and went to pull his jeans up. Squelch. Uh oh. In his haste, Hans had shat into his jeans, filling them to the brim. A brown swamp of shit soup was now floating in his y-fronts, and he could feel the overflow dripping down his inner legs. It felt good. Damn it felt good. Hans removed his jeans, his lower half now smeared entirely with his own feces. The smile was back. He looked down, and realised he was sporting an almighty erection. "I dont think I've ever been this hard..." The smile spread. Hans knew what he had to do.

Scooping up half a litre of the foul excrement, Hans rubbed his hands together and lubed up. Shit made for the perfect lube. The colour allowed for contrast; his skinny pale white cock against the dark browns of his poo, the glorious smell, the perfect thick liquid texture. Dawn was approaching, allowing him to see his immediate surroundings, to see his disgusting body hunched over in the dark. He'd have to be quick, lest he be seen from the road as the lightness grew. Unable to contain himself any longer, Hans began masturbating furiously, inhaling and groaning. His legs grew weak, fuck it - he lay on the floor and rolled around in his own filth. Backwards and forwards, his throbbing member getting worked like a slave. Lumps of his shit made their way under his foreskin, down his japs eye and all over his balls. He had never felt so good. Never.

Just a few minutes later, Hans lay on his back and threw his legs into the air. He leaned back, his cock poised above his open mouth. Slowly now, he began to tease his shit stained penis. "Oh that's right big boy, you like this don't you, you're going to take a load aren't you, you little slut." Furiously fingering his anus with his free hand, his eyes started rolling. He began milking himself faster and faster, until something inside his lower stomach quivered and spasmed, hard. He released more ejaculate than he could ever have hoped for. Blasting into his mouth, the hot liquid sloshed around his tonsils as he gargled his own seed. Shit dripped down his shaft and off the end of his cock, creating the most orgasmicly delicious cocktail he had ever had the pleasure of tasting. Finally, he spat it out onto his rancid hands, stood up and rubbed the concoction into his hair. He needed it to look good for the whores, and he knew from experience just how well this worked as gel. He looked down at his unkempt pubes. "If I only I'd tasted my pubes as well..."

The sun was definitely rising now. Time to get back to the car. Fully naked, Hans picked up his clothes and shuffled back to his Cadillac. Throwing his clothes into the back, he lit a cigarette and resumed his drive. "Vegas baby", he said with a grin.

Re:No surprise (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655668)

bwaahaha, fucking hilarious mate.

Re:No surprise (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655402)

I've never owned as ARM computer (just C=6502, 68000-60, PowerPC, x86, MIPS, and EE). Why do you think ARM will be a dominant brand in the coming years, instead of the low-power Intel units? (just curious)

Re:No surprise (4, Informative)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655548)

ARM chips use a quarter of the power compared to the Atom chips.

ARM core designs can be licenced and integrated into SOC (system on a chip).

With Atom you need the Atom chip plus a northbridge chip, with ARM you can use a single chip. More space in a mobile device means more space for batteries.

Re:No surprise (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655584)

ARM chips use a quarter of the power compared to the Atom chips.

They are also a quarter of the speed.

Re:No surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655700)

They also get more done with that slower speed. Have you tested out Android on x86? When I checked 3months ago, it was slower on my 2Ghz x86 than my G1 phone.

Re:No surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655848)

They are? News to me.

Re:No surprise (4, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655410)

The NT Kernel might be, even after all this time slapping whatever each release thinks is a useful feature into it, but who cares about that. I think I can guarantee Office will not run on ARM, so its pretty much dead already.

Then there's the reason to run Windows at all - the 3rd party apps that are x86 only (many are not even x86_64 yet) and they won't run either. So all in all, this is just fluff. If you want a low-energy server farm full of ARM CPUs (and who wouldn't!) then you might as well run Linux there - many, many server apps run Linux anyway. If you want ARM on the desktop, don't hold your breath, and if you want ARM mobile .. you already have it, even for WinPhone 7.

So, I'm confused. The ARM share price has done well from the rumour, but we'll see what astounding piece of underwhelm-dent gets revealed at CES.

Re:No surprise (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655464)

Who said Office has to run on it? Or at least the full-blown Office. They've got pretty lightweight stuff like Works out there.

Re:No surprise (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655498)

Do you know anyone who uses Works?!? For real?

Besides, Works is anything except lightweight. For starters, it comes with a full blown Microsoft Word.

Re:No surprise (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655712)

The newest version comes with the older word processor.

I tried it and it crashes when you cut and paste more than a page of text from Firefox. I had to clear my temp files afterwards as it crashed each time I started it up. Talk about POS.

Re:No surprise (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655820)

My point exactly. That you even installed it is amazing.

Re:No surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655670)

I'm sure it will run OpenOffice.org/LibreOffice (as long as they don't use the iPhone model).

Re:No surprise (4, Interesting)

PRMan (959735) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655544)

But .NET applications compile Just In Time. So all they have to do is port the .NET framework and compiler and all .NET applications will work with almost no changes, especially if they virtualize the environment to make it look like a desktop (put a phony C: drive on an SD card, etc.)

Re:No surprise (2, Informative)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655688)

It is not that simple. The MSIL just converts the code to win32 calls. Some of these are for more modern versions of Windows that are x86 specific. You would need to rewrite and port part of the win32 apis and MFCs. Sounds like pure torture.

Re:No surprise (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655742)

well, since it might be hard, clearly they shouldn't try to get into a platform that is very likely to see much of the mobile market.

or maybe they already thinking about that:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?familyid=30092C39-22D1-4585-8E17-003C1ED00C49&displaylang=en [microsoft.com]

MS is actually getting their shit together. Maybe you should buy a clue?

Re:No surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655832)

Meh, Windows Phone already allows pure IL apps. If they don't intend to allow native code at all it's easier to develop for Android or any other platform. Why even bother. I'd hardly call calling native code a 'Frankenstein mix' either. Sometimes you actually want to use FreeType or Vorbis...

Re:No surprise (1)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655734)

.NET apps CAN be shipped as pure IL assemblies but as far as I can tell in the real world this is more rarely done than it could and probably should be. .NET assemblies can be compiled into platform-specific assemblies with some Frankenstein mix of pre-complied code in them, and there are many, many .Net apps built targeted for the x86 platform, and which only world when build in such a fashion.

Re:No surprise (2)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655638)

Really, why don't you think Office will run on ARM. First off more and more of it is being ported to .Net which we know the VM and runtime libraries are portable so all of that code should just work one ARM. Second any code I have ever seen from Microsoft has been really good about not making assumptions about the size if ints and endianness and things like that which generally cause portability problems. They already have an x86_64 Office that they ship, which is a pretty good sign they could make office run on other architectures as well.

Getting Office to work on arm probable would be a porting effort and not just a simple rebuild but its doable in short order if you have the resources and Microsoft does.

Re:No surprise (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655692)

endianness

It turns me on when you talk like that.

Re:No surprise (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655686)

I think I can guarantee Office will not run on ARM, so its pretty much dead already.

Not being able to "run Office" hasn't hurt iOS4.

Re:No surprise (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655760)

yes, it has. There market would be much bigger.

And it could run it, but you know the MS / Apple love / hate cycles. Right now it's closer to 'hate' then love.

Re:No surprise (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655764)

It has another first-party office suite (iWork). Stop confusing the issue.

Re:No surprise (4, Interesting)

PRMan (959735) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655528)

Actually, there's a video of Mark Russinovich talking about all the changes they made to the kernel to make it more portable. They broke it into 3 layers: MinWin, Server and Full and cut any ties that went up or down between them. I would say it's more portable than ever.

Windows still built on non-x86 platforms ... (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655824)

I wonder if the NT guts of newer versions of Windows are still as portable as they were a decade ago.

My understanding is that even though non-x86 retail versions are no longer available MS still built non-x86 versions for internal testing in order to maintain/verify portability of code. It also helps for debugging. A problem that is difficult to reproduce on one hardware platform is sometimes much more apparent on another hardware platform.

ARM now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655260)

Didn't we already go through this with the Alpha chip? Way too many bugs to keep track of on one architecture, let alone two.

Re:ARM now? (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655308)

And yet many *nixs through the last few decades have managed to port to other architectures. Heck, Linux can be compiled, so it's hardly that big an issue. NT was supposedly built to be portable and crossplatform from the very beginning, and in a way, we already seeing two architectures with 64-bit versions of Windows.

At any rate, the failings on the Alpha had nothing to do with architecture, and everything to do with the fact that, by and large, the Alpha platform failed. If Alpha had in fact taken off I have no doubt that Microsoft would have happily kept producing NT for it.

ARM has already proven itself, and there's a significant argument for Microsoft coming on board. If it doesn't have programmers who know how to manage an operating system codebase across multiple platforms, well, there are several kernel-level programmers out there that could be brought in, but honestly, I doubt it's a problem. I wouldn't even be surprised if they already have the kernel running on ARM hardware, but as the article says, the issues are drivers, just like they were for 64bit versions of Windows when Server 2003 x64 and WinXP x64 came out. The incentive for manufacturers to write Windows ARM drivers is going to pretty huge, so I doubt that will be a problem.

Re:ARM now? (4, Interesting)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655490)

NT was actually more stable on Alpha than it ever was on x86...

Drivers are not really a problem for ARM, since most of these devices will be small (tablets, netbooks etc) with fixed hardware, the hardware manufacturer will supply the necessary drivers.

The problem is apps...
Existing windows apps would need to be at the very least recompiled (or may require significantly more work depending on the code), and with most apps being closed source only the original vendor is in a position to do that... Now as with alpha, ppc mips and ia64, commercial vendors won't port their apps unless they see a market for them... And end users wont buy the platform unless they see available apps, catch 22.

Linux doesn't really have this problem because the vast majority of applications are open source, and have already been compiled for multiple architectures. If the original author hasn't ever tried to compile the app for another platform, chances are one of the distributors has (debian has been supporting arm cpus for years)...

The only advantage ARM has over alpha/ppc/mips/ia64 is cost of hardware, if those platforms had been price competitive with x86 they would have had a lot more sales to linux users (i know many people who wanted an alpha but just couldn't justify the cost).

There is a lot to be said for writing new applications which are actually designed for a tablet or netbook, rather than trying to shoehorn desktop apps onto small devices with different input methods... But if you're going to write new apps, why bother writing them for win32/arm instead of simply writing them for linux?

The only advantage windows has in this area is familiarity, they would lose their traditional selling point of compatibility/lockin, if you go arm you will need new apps regardless and if people have learned anything over the past 15 years they should take this chance to break free of the lock-in rather than getting caught up in another round.

Re:ARM now? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655718)

NT was actually more stable on Alpha than it ever was on x86...

Alpha NT was the best you could get at the time for Windows, but the FX86 or whatever software DEC offered to translate x86 to AXP can be very annoying, and after a while, not worth the additional hardware stability. The main benefit I got was that because I couldn't play very many games worth a damn, it got me off the game upgrade cycle so the computer lasted me eight years before I gave up, instead of two before I wanted to do major upgrades for the next game. I replaced it with a used Intel-based workstation, I've found that and succeeding workstations to be pretty much as stable. Maybe the lesson was to buy well-engineered and well-built components with good drivers.

Re:ARM now? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655768)

sigh.

It's for the mobile platform. It would be a different set of apps.

Not the recompiling is really the difficult.

Re:ARM now? (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655776)

How many real apps like Java and Adobe Flash can run in these alternative Linux platforms? Commercial apps only focus on 98% of the marketshare and deliberately make sure it wont run on anything else to cut down on support costs. Even Adobe tried to abandon the mac a decade ago.

The only thing portable are open source apps. That is the true problem. The Arm would have to emulate x86 to be optimal. All the win32 server apps will not be compiled for anything else as the PHB's love their low support costs. All the open software is for Linux. Sure Apache and PHP exists for Windows but how many people use it for a serious production environment? I use it to write software that will run on Unix when it is done.

Microsoft has a problem here. My guess is the arm on server blades are the only true market besides some Windows7 mobile tablets/phones. It is dead on the desktop. Solarisx86 should serve as an example of trying to port.

If Joe Six pack can't run World of Warcraft above 5 fps in emulation there will be hell to pay.

Re:ARM now? (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655842)

The kernel (for Linux) is cross-platform and only requires minor changes (the x86-bits). The same could be said for NT if NT hasn't done major x86 optimizations or ASM code.

The main problem is the applications. You can't just take a random app in Linux and put it on an ARM-based system. Some will cross-compile if the developer wrote very good code or if you're willing to do minor changes, others are written in interpreted languages like Perl. But besides that, the applications are limited.

And if you're going to rewrite or write your application from scratch, why not forgo the whole paying for licensing deal and just use a proven and stable system that has already been running on those type of CPU's for years. Windows for ARM will not be without major bugs and inconveniences for at least a few years and it's not like you could fix it yourself or recompile the kernel if your custom SOC doesn't behave well with the stock kernel.

Does this article really need to mention ... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655262)

Meanwhile, many other Linux distros have been shipping on ARM devices since before Ubuntu was a distribution.

"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM... (3, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655280)

...devices and running on many others."

Eh. Debian has fully supported ARM for years.

Re:"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM (1)

pslam (97660) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655324)

Eh. Debian has fully supported ARM for years.

Indeed - I've been using Debian on ARM devices for at least 12 years. I'm always amused when someone new comes along and assumes a big distro running on ARM is a new thing.

Re:"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM (1)

tukang (1209392) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655474)

If you don't mind could you please share more about your setup and what your user experience is compared to any other x86 systems you have? Thanks

Re:"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM (1)

inf4mia (1583323) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655588)

There is a metric ton of software available. Lots of web browsers, window managers, office suites etc. make for a nice experience. Windows will have many years worth of software ecosystem catch up to play. In the ballpark of a 500-800MHz or better processor and 192MBs RAM (256 is a lot nicer) is required for a pleasant user experience.

Re:"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM (0)

pslam (97660) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655614)

If you don't mind could you please share more about your setup and what your user experience is compared to any other x86 systems you have? Thanks

This might help [lmgtfy.com]

Slightly less flippantly: Netwinder, empeg car, various prototype boards, various MP3 players. Just irks me that apparently this stuff is news to people.

Re:"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655720)

Join #debian-arm at irc.debian.org, pretty sure they can help.

Re:"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655746)

Almost all the debian packages (at least that I've seen) are available for ARM. The only exceptions I know of are some architecture specific stuff (like Xen or virtual box). Oh, no gnat either. Hope you don't like ADA. (Maybe you could cross compile it if you're desperate).

Some combination of git and libz is flaky as hell, though. That's the biggest problem I've had.

Re:"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM (3, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655342)

Ubuntu is the Arduino of Linux distros.

Re:"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655624)

hahahahaha so true!

Re:"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655796)

Arduino is the gigaboo of ... what the fuck are we talking about here?

Re:"Ubuntu is already starting to ship on some ARM (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655752)

I remember seeing Linux running on Netwinders sometime around 1998.

That's nice... (4, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655282)

But Windows' main (and practically lone) selling point is that it works with all your old software. If they rewrite it for ARM, it may say "Windows" on it but it won't run your apps or play your games.

And I'm sure users will enjoy discovering that after they buy "Windows" tablets and netbooks.

Re:That's nice... (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655326)

Why wouldn't the ARM Windows run x86 apps?

I thought the point of the OS was to create a layer between the hardware and the software, so programs could continue to run regardless of the machine being used. The only apps that would not work are Demos & such that dive direct to the silicon (i.e. misbehaving programs) instead of using Windows built-in system calls.

Re:That's nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655378)

In other words, if you had a good cross-compiler, you might be able to get away with it, but it'd still be as clunky as trying to run PowerPC-based Mac apps on an x86. And yeah - any direct hardware access and you're screwed.

Windows can handle any platform that supports the core x86 instructions, because programs, drivers, and kernel code can be written in a way that's binary-compatible. Go beyond that and you're opening up a giant can of worms. It's easier to virtualize a different OS written for the same platform than it is to emulate another architecture.

I should add... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655566)

You won't have any problems with .NET apps though - even those which directly access system DLLs. So as long as most of your software is built with .NET on Windows, you might be just fine. This is a better approach for running a large number of existing Windows apps on a netbook or tablet than, say, Linux with WINE or Mono.

Re:That's nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655386)

Because ARM and x86 are two completly different machine language.

Re:That's nice... (1)

zn0k (1082797) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655396)

Uhm, because it's a different CPU instruction set?

Is there some joke I'm missing here?

Re:That's nice... (1)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655502)

i believe he's talking about emulation like rosetta on OS X.

Re:That's nice... (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655570)

There's a lot of things that won't run under Rosetta. Besides, Rosetta was emulating a RISC architecture on higher-powered CISC chips. This would be emulating a CISC architecture on lower-powered RISC chips. Good luck.

Re:That's nice... (1)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655604)

"like rosetta" not rosetta

Re:That's nice... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655672)

Classic Max OS 8 and 9 did that (if I recall correctly).

It emulated 68000 CISC apps on the new PowerPC RISC machines. Although not very well. I remember the first PowerMac was slower than the 68040 QuadraMac, when running classic apps like WordPerfect, Eudora, and so on. For awhile I specifically avoided the PPCs when going to the college lab, since the Quadras ran faster.

Ahhhh... those were the days (1996). Even the college line loaded the Web as slow as a dialup connection. "Looking for scifi.com"...... "Finding scifi.com"..... loading scifi.com/index.html..... loading scifi.com/titleimage.com. I became very familiar with that animated Netscape logo as I stared at it, and wondered if my page would ever load: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/78/Netscape_throbber_2.gif [wikimedia.org]

Re:That's nice... (1)

rekenner (849871) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655400)

Uhm?
No?
That's not how OSes work at all. They mediate programs accessing hardware, not do all the work for the programs. They control what program gets what memory (and if things are in RAM or virtual memory) and take care of getting things from the hard disk, etc. But software runs directly on the processor. That's (part) of what virtual machines do.

Re:That's nice... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655442)

Okay I was wrong. (shrug) I knew old OSes provided little protection (which is why Amiga500 programs often don't run on newer A3000/4000 machines), but I thought modern OSes blocked the software from running directly on the hardware, so then it could run on a wide range of setups. Oh well.

Re:That's nice... (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655480)

I thought modern OSes blocked the software from running directly on the hardware

In the end.... everything that runs on your machine, runs directly on the hardware. Even Java Applications, even Perl scripts... They just are passed through layers and layers and layers of checks and sandboxes, but in the end, what has to be done is done on the hardware. Directly. There is no magical layer which does the work without the CPU, you know.

Re:That's nice... (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655476)

Which is why Apple wrote a translation app called Rosetta to enable PPC-only binaries to run on Intel Macs (while pushing for universal binaries, since using Rosetta is obviously slower). It wasn't quite full emulation like a VM - just a dynamic translator, so it had some limitations but it was pretty successful in most cases.

I have no doubt the same could be done for x86 software written for Windows.

Re:That's nice... (1)

zn0k (1082797) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655512)

The advantage ARM has over x86 is that is much more efficient when it comes to power requirements. This comes at a trade off in regards to speed. When Apple went Intel they had at least equivalent processors, and Rosetta often was quite a bit of a dog.

Running an x86 emulator on ARM doesn't sound like a very good idea at all. Binaries made for very fast processors running emulated on a slow processor would be a bad user experience, and there's quite a lot of evidence that in the mobile space the average person values user experience over everything else.

Re:That's nice... (1)

damnbunni (1215350) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655632)

Not only could be done, it has been done.

Windows NT/Alpha could run Windows NT/Intel programs via Digital's CPU Transcription software.

It worked two ways: When you first ran a program it just ran in a Pentium emulator. Then, later on in the background, the transcription engine would disassemble the Intel code and reassemble it as Alpha code. It still wasn't as fast as actual Alpha code, but it was a lot faster than the plain emulator.

At the time, the fastest Alpha was enough faster than the fastest Intel that some Windows/Intel programs ran faster on the Alpha than on a Pentium.

Re:That's nice... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655422)

Why wouldn't the ARM Windows run x86 apps?

While I think it would be technically feasible, doing so wouldn't be practical in any fashion. Writing a middle layer to translate the x86 instructions to the compatible ARM instructions would be a worse task than trying to develop a C compiler using COBOL. The first, and biggest, problem I see is taking the CISC from the x86 and breaking it into the multiple RISC commands ARM is designed to see.

If they managed to get this right, I would suspect even 10-15 year old applications running slower than frozen molasses in the middle of an Arctic winter.

Re:That's nice... (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655436)

Troll or serious question?

Every CPU architecture has its instruction set and to run the code it needs to be in that instruction set. Imagine that the code 01 means ADD 1 to the Accumulator on architecture 1, but 01 means apply NOT on the Accumulator. So, the "same" instruction means something completely different on the two architectures.

The task of the operating system is not to abstract the hardware from the software in that sense, because the software that runs is still in pure machine instructions (It's the only thing your machine actually understands). The task of an operating system (as we know them today) is to provide a way for the machine to use the resources in a (relatively, for coders) easy way. Programs running on the operating system still need to be compiled, which results in the binary which are nothing more or less than numbers having meaning to the CPU. You change the CPU, you must change those numbers.

If you think of libraries... Yes, they make it easier for applications to be more portable, but still in the end the binary must match the binary of the library. There is no way around it

What you want would be a kind of on the fly compiler or interpreter, which was the original goal of Java. Java Chips would be there "any day now". Not many around, eh?

Your vision on what an operating system is, seems a bit off.

Re:That's nice... (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655526)

The OS does abstract the hardware to some extent but in almost all cases the application code still runs directly on the CPU (with the CPU running in an "unprivileged" mode so the user code can't just do what it likes).

It IS possible to add CPU emulation to an OS, indeed it's been done at least three times I can think of in operating systems from major vendors. However it carries a significant performance penalty.

The performance penalty is tolerable if your new architecture is faster anyway and you don't care too much about power (e.g. when apple went from m68k to PPC and from PPC to x86 and when NT was ported to alpha) but I'd expect it to be a problem for running existing windows software on arm. I very much doubt an arm running x86 code in emulation will be competitive on either performance per watt or overall performance witha true x86 chip.

Re:That's nice... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655546)

The OS provides an API layer at the code level, that is if you have source code you can usually recompile it to work on different architectures...

This works well on Linux, because the source code for most applications is available making it easy to port apps to other architectures... On windows, the sourcecode for most apps is not available and the owners of most of this source won't recompile their apps unless there is a sufficiently large market for them, and will usually take quite a long time to do the porting... Users similarly won't buy the hardware unless apps are available, catch-22 situation.

The only things that would work, are apps which don't come as machine code... That is, apps with source, or apps in a language thats compiled to hardware neutral bytecode such as java.

Most windows apps come in the form of x86 specific binaries, and these would only run on ARM if you used emulation... Emulation is slow at the best of times, but when you consider that ARM cpus are generally designed for power efficiency and lack the raw performance of x86 chips... The extra overhead of emulation would result in code which performed terribly and kept the cpu running flat out negating the power efficiency.

Re:That's nice... (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655348)

Microsoft has already stopped supporting a good deal of its legacy software with the 64 bit editions of Windows (no more DOS or Win16 support). Quite frankly, I don't think supporting legacy software is as big a deal as it once was. Write everything under the .NET platform and it isn't that big a deal. Yeah, your old games won't work, but I'm wagering a lot of folks running Windows-for-ARM are not exactly going to be looking at running that old copy of Office 2003 anyways.

Re:That's nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655352)

ummm no, Windows abstracts the kernel from the UI and API, there is no reason for applications not to run on an ARM version unless they have low level drivers which would need to be rewritten

Re:That's nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655448)

Maybe, with a recompile. The executable itself won't run on both ARM and 386 CPUs, obviously... but if the program is well-behaved, and uses the windows API properly, it shouldn't be too hard of a job porting it.

Re:That's nice... (1)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655366)

Windows is portable at it's core though, obviously programs will need to be recompiled for ARM, but if they were written correctly this should not really be much of an issue.

Microsoft should be able to get Office to run on ARM without too much hassle, even then the Microsoft Office Web Apps will still work. There are HTML+Javascript and Silverlight versions of these. Both of which should be able to run on ARM, no problem.

Also all programs written in .NET should automatically be compatible without recompiling.

Re:That's nice... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655404)

That could work in their favour, however.

One of the biggest problems with Windows security is the need for backwards compatibility - an ARM version can do without all the legacy support, which would make that version a lot more secure (in theory) and potentially smaller and faster than the x86 versions. It would also allow Microsoft to enforce some of the programming standards (no random 'system' files in programs, nothing writing to \Windows\ and only installers writing to \Program Files\, proper use of \Documents and Settings\\, etc...)

That in turn would make a cull an easier sell for a future x86 version. So, if they use this correctly it could be a huge boon.

That said, most developers will probably just do a lazy recompile of their code for the ARM platform and ship dual-installers on the disk, as happens with OSX applications that still support the PPC machines.

Re:That's nice... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655704)

There are many security weaknesses that are externally exposed design flaws, and could not be dropped... Such as the use of weak password hashing types which are integral to the networking protocols (google for pass the hash).
If they fixed this, you would lose the ability to use most of the ms networking protocols.

Re:That's nice... (1)

TheNarrator (200498) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655466)

x86 is such a funny architecture. If you've ever done operating system development in x86 it's crazy to see how much old crap there is in there from the 80s. Real Mode! Hello? Not to mention such inglorious hacks as getting the keyboard controller to reset the CPU!

Re:That's nice... (1)

Etherized (1038092) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655522)

But Windows' main (and practically lone) selling point is that it works with all your old software. If they rewrite it for ARM, it may say "Windows" on it but it won't run your apps or play your games.

And I'm sure users will enjoy discovering that after they buy "Windows" tablets and netbooks.

I would be very, very surprised if they would port Windows to ARM and *not* include something like Apple's Rosetta. Sure, you take a performance hit when running legacy, crusty apps, but considering that those were probably designed for much slower computers originally it hardly matters if you're running them with a hefty performance penalty now. I know I was quite pleased with the PPC -> Intel transition process on my Macbook Pro.

Re:That's nice... (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655558)

ARM is a RISC design. It's easier to emulate CISC on a RISC than RISC on a CISC.

Re:That's nice... (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655780)

It worked pretty well with Itanium. Applications generally ran transparently, at roughly the same speed as a Xeon at the same clock speed as the Itanium (1.4-1.7GHz). Some stuff (later versions of Office) specifically checked for IA64 and refused to install, but even these had workarounds.

Chapter 1 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655284)

September 16, 1991. Today it finally began! After all these years of talking and nothing but talking we have finally taken our first action. We are at war with the System, and it is no longer a war of words.

I cannot sleep, so I will try writing down some of the thoughts which are flying through my head.

It is not safe to talk here. The walls are quite thin, and the neighbors might wonder at a latenight conference. Besides, George and Katherine are already asleep. Only Henry and I are still awake, and he’s just staring at the ceiling.

I am really uptight. l am so jittery I can barely sit still. And I’m exhausted. I’ve been up since 5:30 this morning, when George phoned to warn that the arrests had begun, and it’s after midnight now. I’ve been keyed up and on the move all day.

But at the same time I’m exhilarated. We have finally acted! How long we will be able to continue defying the System, no one knows. Maybe it will all end tomorrow, but we must not think about that. Now that we have begun, we must continue with the plan we have been developing so carefully ever since the Gun Raids two years ago.

What a blow that was to us! And how it shamed us! All that brave talk by patriots, "The government will never take my guns away," and then nothing but meek submission when it happened.

On the other hand, maybe we should be heartened by the fact that there were still so many of us who had guns then, nearly 18 months after the Cohen Act had outlawed all private ownership of firearms in the United States. It was only because so many of us defied the law and hid our weapons instead of turning them in that the government wasn’t able to act more harshly against us after the Gun Raids.

I’ll never forget that terrible day: November 9, 1989. They knocked on my door at five in the morning. I was completely unsuspecting as I got up to see who it was.

Read more... [avrtech.com]

About time (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655292)

If they want to keep relevant on cheap, portable devices - they'd better support ARM.

Even the atoms use a lot more juice, and for simple appliances ARM can be enough horsepower.

Although - they might be advised not to put too much into it, as I don't think there will be much margin on SW for $200 devices and whatnot... And good luck with getting manufacturers to make ARM drivers, I think they'll be needing it.

Re:About time (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655444)

And good luck with getting manufacturers to make ARM drivers, I think they'll be needing it.

They shouldn't even need to bother doing that. They'd be better off if they get with the program: Slap their user space on top of the Linux kernel (which already has all the ARM drivers). That's what Google did with Android.

All the old x86 Win32 API apps won't run on ARM anyway, so the Windows kernel won't enable their traditional strategy of leveraging the installed software base. Instead, Microsoft should just port their .NET runtime onto an ARM Linux kernel and call it a day. A lot of modern Windows software would run on this environment without too much modification, and Microsoft's development and vendor relations costs would be a fraction of that required to develop and distribute a custom kernel.

Of course, hell will freeze over before they go this route.

Best of luck there, Microsoft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655296)

Heh... Never mind that the memory profile of most of the ARM machines won't hold Windows 7 in it...

They've got to say something to stem the tide and to buoy the stock price up since it's going to start sagging here fairly quick unless they've got something to show for themselves in this new space here.

Why? (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655304)

Why port it to ARM and talk about it if there's no clear strategy or reason for doing so?

It's odd that Intel are trying to get people off ARM and onto Atom (low power x86) while Microsoft are thinking of moving people from Intel to ARM.

Re:Why? (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655374)

WTF? how is there no clear strategy or reason? ARM is rapidily proliferating in low powered devices, it performs better than the Atoms. The strategy is obvious, they need to ensure they are not locked out of a rapid growing part of the hardware market by being incompatible with it.

Re:Why? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655454)

Precisely. Besides, any project to produce an ARM-capable version of Windows means that they have a fully portable OS, and are no longer tied to Intel. They tried this in the early 1990s, but Intel's penetration was so great that it didn't make sense to continue putting resources towards Alpha and PowerPC ports. Times have changed, and the proliferation of ARM-based hardware out there is immense.

Re:Why? (2)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655726)

Why port it to ARM and talk about it if there's no clear strategy or reason for doing so?

My guess is the strategy and reason for doing so is to encourage device makers thinking about, e.g., ARM netbooks to hold off on committing resources to things like Chrome OS (which Google has made it quite clear they want to be on ARM devices as well as the initial x86 devices) and Ubuntu.

My guess is that Chrome OS is the big trigger, from timing and the fact that Chrome OS is being actively and heavily promoted by a well-funded company that is clearly focussed on competing with Microsoft on a wide range of markets, and for whom weakening Microsoft's OS dominance in the keyboard+mouse/touchpad market is a key lever to weakening (in the case of, e.g., office suites) or preventing (as in the case of, e.g., cloud application hosting) Microsoft's market power in a wide range of other markets in which the two compete.

It's odd that Intel are trying to get people off ARM and onto Atom (low power x86) while Microsoft are thinking of moving people from Intel to ARM.

Microsoft isn't trying to move people from Intel to ARM, Microsoft has realized that stopping people from moving to ARM isn't something they have the power to do, and is trying to minimize the likelihood that those who does decide to use ARM support competing operating systems in the process.

Nahh (3, Insightful)

Co0Ps (1539395) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655330)

Streamlined hardware with bloated software? Doesnt sound like a great combo IMO.

Usual Microsoft (4, Funny)

surfdaddy (930829) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655334)

Among the steps needed is for hardware makers to create ARM-compatible drivers, a time-consuming effort that explains in part why Microsoft is talking about the initiative well ahead of any products being ready

Isn't Microsoft always talking about initiatives well ahead of products being ready?

Windows Phone 7 (1)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655338)

As countless articles have already pointed out, it's extremely strange for Microsoft to start "porting" or whatever Windows 7 [embedded|CE|whatever] to ARM. They made a touch interface, they supposedly think it's awesome.. why aren't they using it?

Talk about fragmentation.. This is just making development/platform targeting even worse, with no gain.

Re:Windows Phone 7 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655738)

This is talking about the kernel. Windows Phone 7 has a UI layer that runs on top of a CE kernel - the CE kernel exposes an interface close enough to that of the NT kernel that it's not far fetched to think they could run the Windows Phone 7 UI layer on an NT kernel without a whole lot of changes.

CE made sense when mobile hardware had 4 MB ram and no protected mode hardware or memory map units. Modern mobile hardware looks a lot more like desktop hardware, so it makes sense that they would want to use a mature kernel that was built from the ground up to take advantage of those features.

They only need enough drivers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655360)

This isn't like Windows 95, where they needed drivers for every piece of hardware that had ever been released. ARM based PCs are all new netbooks. They'll only be using a handful of devices between them. It's not hard for MS to work with the manufacturers, and they'll both be delighted to work together on this.

Come on RISC OS! (1)

QJimbo (779370) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655370)

Everyone is rushing to get on the platform you were running on twenty years ago!

Time for you to make a dramatic comeback and show how an ARM powered Operating System is done properly.

Why Windows? (3, Interesting)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655382)

Why are they trying to keep Windows? Yes it's a well-known brand name, but so is Microsoft. All they have to do is create a tablet-specific OS and leave all the compatibility headaches behind. And even without any compatibility headaches, most Windows applications weren't written with a touch interface in mind, so having a goal of Windows on a tablet is just asking for trouble.

Microsoft has an opportunity to start fresh, leave the Windows problems behind and create something new. But yet they don't.

Re:Why Windows? (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655492)

And even without any compatibility headaches, most Windows applications weren't written with a touch interface in mind

Are you missing the part where it will be using ARM CPU's, thus what "most windows apps" are doing is moot?

This is like pointing at a Linux tablet and asking "Why are they trying to keep Linux?"

Re:Why Windows? (1)

ByteSlicer (735276) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655680)

All they have to do is create a tablet-specific OS.

You mean like Windows CE [wikipedia.org] ?
Even though it shares the 'Windows' name, it's a different OS (only reusing some of the Win32 and .NET APIs), with different kernel flavors, one of which targets ARM (and has done so for over 10 years).

Re:Why Windows? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655814)

And even without any compatibility headaches, most Windows applications weren't written with a touch interface in mind, so having a goal of Windows on a tablet is just asking for trouble.

ARM is not the same thing as touch. Google has been rather upfront in that while the first consumer netbook for Chrome OS following the Cr-48 pilot device will, like the Cr-48, be Intel devices, they really want to get hardware partners for ARM-based Chrome OS netbooks, as well, and eventually they want to deliver (via the Portable Native Client technology now in development on top of the existing x86/ARM Native Client that allows platform-specific native code to run in the Chrome browser) "native" Chrome OS apps in LLVM bitcode that can transparently be run as sandboxed native apps on both x86 and ARM (initially, and potentially more architectures over time) systems without any need to maintain separate source code or even separate architecture-specific builds.

Pushed by Chrome OS? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655458)

With the Chrome OS hardware/software in a kind of semi-public test phase with fairly imminent general release, even though the initial hardware (both the Cr-48 and the announced initial planned consumer units) is x86, there is some pressure on MS, since Chromium OS -- including Native Client -- as I understand is already working on ARM and Google has stated that they intend to work with hardware manufacturers to get branded Chrome OS delivered on ARM devices.

Announcing plans for Windows on ARM is potentially a way to try to dilute manufacturer support for Chrome OS on ARM to avoid or at least mitigate Google getting a foothold in the OS market at the inexpensive end of the keyboard & pointing device market that Windows still dominates.

Especially once Portable Native Client is working (delivering code over the web in LLVM bit code form that is verified on the client and compiled to native code for x86, ARM, and potentially future supported platforms) rather than NaCl only using platform-specific compiled code, Chrome OS may be one of the strongest challenges MS has seen in that market since its dominance was established.

Windows Has Been Running On ARM (1)

nato10 (600871) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655560)

This is a strange article; Microsoft has had their Win32-based Windows CE operating system running on ARM processors for 14 years. In many respects, Windows CE (now called Windows Embedded Compact, for some confusing reason) is a far superior operating system to desktop Windows, especially for the sorts of devices that are going to typically be running ARM processors.

Microsoft had the right idea 14 years ago; create a new operating system from scratch that is appropriate for lower-power processors and provide as much API compatibility as possible but without layering on all the bloat. They'd be better off moving Windows CE to the desktop -- preferably with a modern graphics API and touch support -- something like what Apple is trying to do with iOS.

Re:Windows Has Been Running On ARM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655616)

Yes, and the development cost for WinCE must be huge. Presumably they are talking about putting 'real' Windows on these ARM devices the same way Apply has managed to make a mobile OS that wasn't extremely weird.

The right idea 14 years ago is not always the right idea now.

Re:Windows Has Been Running On ARM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34655620)

You may be right, but this article isn't about Windows CE. It's about Windows, the desktop OS.

With such an excellent track record.... (4, Funny)

u19925 (613350) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655602)

Microsoft has an excellent track record of supporting Windows on non-X86 processors. MIPS, PowerPC, DecAlpha, Itanium. With such an excellent track record, I am sure, the industry will take it very seriously and we will see tons of devices, computers in the market very quickly. Thank you Microsoft.

Where's the beef? (1)

kraln (1477093) | more than 2 years ago | (#34655650)

Lots of people commenting that Microsoft is missing the point: Apps.

But they're not missing the point. Anything written for .NET won't need a recompile for the new architecture. In fact, I'd imagine that's part of their plans for world domination: Imagine the power of targeting one platform, and having your stuff run on Xbox360 (console), Winodws Phone 7 (mobile / tablet), and Desktop (x86/arm)?

I don't think they're getting the credit they deserve, here.
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