ARM: Windows RT will improve as ARM does


So far, Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet has been one of the few Windows RT devices released.

The ARM version of Windows hasn't been as commercially successful as its x86 counterpart, but the CEO of ARM said in a recent interview that Windows RT will improve as ARM processors also continue to improve.

In an interview with PCWorld, Warren East, chief executive of ARM, admitted there hasn't been the consumer demand some expected for Windows RT tablets, but noted Windows RT will only get better.

"I'm well aware there is a perceived wisdom that RT hasn't been as successful as lots of people thought it was going be," he told PCWorld at Mobile World Congress. "Quite certainly I'm sanguine about it."

One of the issues, East admitted, was the fact that ARM processors are only 32-bit currently, whereas an increasing percentage of x86 products use the 64-bit version of Windows. That will change next year, however, when the first processors featuring a 64-bit version of the ARM architecture are scheduled to be released. 

East said Microsoft is well aware of the disconnect but noted it's planning for the future.

"Companies like Microsoft, everybody in the technology space, when they look at ... ARM in the future are thinking about 64-bit," he said.

So far, few Windows RT products have been released beyond Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet. That's not expected to change anytime soon, as Microsoft representatives have said no new Windows RT products will be released this spring. Samsung has decided not to launch its Windows RT-based ATIV Tab in the U.S., although Acer representatives recently said the company will launch a Windows RT device sometime this year.

One of the major advantages of devices with ARM processors is typically their low cost. So far, however, many Windows RT products have featured similar prices to their Windows 8 counterparts.

Source: PCWorld | Image via Microsoft

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Xbox SmartGlass still the most popular free Windows 8 app

Next Story

Panasonic's 4K 20-inch Windows 8 'tablet' could be released this summer

38 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

as Tegra4 are now available and starting to be used in new ARM devices,
the SurfaceRT that using outdated Tegra3 already in obsolete stages.

Torolol said,
as Tegra4 are now available and starting to be used in new ARM devices,
the SurfaceRT that using outdated Tegra3 already in obsolete stages.

with that sentiment nothing would be developed because you'd always be chasing the next best chip that comes out next year.

I think the divide between normal Windows and WinRT/Metro apps is more obvious than apps meant for, say, Win7 or Vista instead of XP because of time and there's no way for most folks to tell the difference. When you go Metro, its obvious its meant for only one thing. I mean, really, look at the glacier's pace it normally takes applications, games, etc., to move up their OS requirements, or even DirectX versions! Plus, there's the abnormally long lifetime of Windows XP to consider.

I think RT/Windows 8 is doing okay for how young they are. I'd really like RT to do well in the future, since I've already got Windows 8 computers I use for real work, but aren't convenient for consumption purposes. I'm not going to use Photoshop, InDesign, etc., on a tablet, but sure would be nice to read my books (Nook, Kindle), watch videos, do browsing, etc. Even having it handy for all my gaming PDF's (I <3 DriveThruRPG) would be fantastic.

I have a feeling when blue is released to support smaller screen sizes,we will start to see cheap 7" winRT tablets start flooding the market.Like $250 cheap. This will kill off some of the ipad mini/android sales,and will help windows 8 penetration,because anything positive WindowsRT is a positive to Windows 8. Same with Windows 8, as Windows 8 gets more app support,it translates directly to WindowsRT.

People forget the reason there is an ARM version is because ARM is still cheaper than intel. Surface RT was meant to be a showcase device, not a mass market product. It was way cheaper than any other windows 8 tablet. Acer w510 had a similar price, but WinRT includes office.

SurfaceRT is not actually expensive for that device, BUT people would not be willing to pay for it if it didn't have a massive software library. $500 for a 10.6" tablet,with office,adobe flash support,great build quality and 9-10 hour battery life is a very good price. I think if they target cheaper devices with RT it would have a huge effect,and it would have many advantages that people wouldn't second guess buying these devices.

Edited by vcfan, Mar 1 2013, 8:01pm :

vcfan said,
People forget the reason there is an ARM version is because ARM is still cheaper than intel. Surface RT was meant to be a showcase device, not a mass market product. It was way cheaper than any other windows 8 tablet. Acer w510 had a similar price, but WinRT includes office.
Well, I don't think it was that so much as the older Atom CPUs were terrible - they offered poor performance compared to regular CPUs, and drew too much power compared to ARM. The new ones are much better, but honestly? I didn't see that coming, and had you told me that they'd be good back when MS was probably making these decisions (two, three years ago?), I would've laughed at you.

Things change @_@

Surface 2 will have a Qualcomm processor solving a lot of problems right there.

I would be surprised if Windows RT isn't the future of Windows and ARM isn't the future or processors.

Funny how many people still don't realize the ARM licensing model will beat the Intel proprietary model.

I have a Surface RT and a Surface Pro. Both are great devices.

But right now people want to still use desktop applications on a Windows based machine. Microsoft really needs to consider having a basic emulator of x86 to run on arm RT machines.

This does not need to play any games, but simply many of the desktop applications that people still want. If they can get games to work all the better but I'm going to doubt the performance will be there to do that.

The advantage to ARM is price, if you can get a really well performing Windows RT device that has 'some' backwards compatibility with x86 apps through emulation and still retain battery life then it will sell really well. You need performance + price and battery life for this platform really to take off. If Intel can get ATOM performance up and battery life up to near levels of ARM then RT will become redundant and not needed.

I personally think Windows RT doesnt fully capture the concept of Windows 8 in allowing access to both modern and desktop applications which means its basically just another ipad competitor which will only be judged by the number of apps it has. Full Windows 8 on an Atom processor (long battery life, low cost [in theory]) would seem to me to be the perfect alternative to the standard ARM device.

And just as Windows RT devices perform better with newer hardware so too will Atom devices with the Bay Trail platform which would make Windows RT an even harder sell.

It is ridiculous to me how many people say that Windows RT is already a failure.

Just by its existence, Microsoft (and by the same token, the consumer) is winning. With an app platform that works across architectures in WinRT, and by untying themselves from Intel's CPUs, they can stand back and let ARM and Intel duke it out for superiority. It doesn't matter anymore who has the better chip, Windows can take advantage of both of them equally well.

And really, does anyone think it's a coincidence that Intel has been reusing the same Atom design for five years, and only now is doing a complete redesign of the Atom chip in Bay Trail? Windows is Intel's big cash cow too, and now they're being forced to compete for it. That only means good things for users.

jhoff80 said,
It is ridiculous to me how many people say that Windows RT is already a failure.

Anything that doesn't sell like the latest Call of Duty or iDevice is considered a failure by people these days.

jhoff80 said,
Just by its existence, Microsoft (and by the same token, the consumer) is winning. With an app platform that works across architectures in WinRT, and by untying themselves from Intel's CPUs, they can stand back and let ARM and Intel duke it out for superiority.
WinNT has always been portable, it's just that the "mainstream" version has always been x86/x64. Here's a quick list of the supported (at one point) platforms: IA-32, x86-64, Alpha, MIPS, PowerPC, ARM, Itanium.

It's sort of like saying AMD is a failure. At the end of the day they are all plugging into the same app store and using the same OS interface. Continued development of Windows on ARM is essential because of Windows Phone and the sudden success of small tablets under 8".

ARM certainly lit a fire under Intel.

Rudy said,
WinNT has always been portable, it's just that the "mainstream" version has always been x86/x64. Here's a quick list of the supported (at one point) platforms: IA-32, x86-64, Alpha, MIPS, PowerPC, ARM, Itanium.

Well, of course, but the mainstream / consumer version is what we're talking about here. And there hasn't traditionally been cross-platform application compatibility like there is now with the WinRT framework, as far as I know of.

MorganX said,
Hopefully the current RT will be optimized for the current hardware

Spoken like some that doesn't use an RT device.

I own it, and use it. the 64 GB model, and absolutely it can use optimization. It is far from unusable, but it is not realistic to pretend it doesn't lag, regularly, and cannot use continued performance optimization and general improvement.

This article is not a kind one for existing owners. There is an admission v1.0 can clearly get better particularly in the performance area. Looking forward to future releases on future hardware is not what a current owner wants to hear. I would hope where things are now, is not as good as they're going to get.

siah1214 said,

Spoken like some that doesn't use an RT device.

I own the 64GB Surface RT and would agree it could use some optimization. I'm not saying it's unstable or insanely laggy, there's just some minor -- but noticeable -- lag.

MorganX said,
I own it, and use it. the 64 GB model, and absolutely it can use optimization. It is far from unusable, but it is not realistic to pretend it doesn't lag, regularly, and cannot use continued performance optimization and general improvement.

This article is not a kind one for existing owners. There is an admission v1.0 can clearly get better particularly in the performance area. Looking forward to future releases on future hardware is not what a current owner wants to hear. I would hope where things are now, is not as good as they're going to get.

Part of the problem was using tegra 3, I think this cpu in general struggles no matter what device and OS it was used on. It was touted as a super performing chip but it didn't turn out so much. MS really should have looked toward QUALCOMM's chips with the Surface RT.

pgn said,

Part of the problem was using tegra 3, I think this cpu in general struggles no matter what device and OS it was used on. It was touted as a super performing chip but it didn't turn out so much. MS really should have looked toward QUALCOMM's chips with the Surface RT.

Nvidia had more resources and experience with Windows. Also, Windows is heavily parallelized and makes good use for the four cores. Of course, all else being equal, a faster CPU (and GPU) would be nice.

I don't really know why he mentioned 64-bit. But the point that faster ARM chips will benefit future Windows RT devices shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone.

I agree with all you said. I just hope the current release isn't being written off so soon.

Brandon Live said,

Nvidia had more resources and experience with Windows. Also, Windows is heavily parallelized and makes good use for the four cores. Of course, all else being equal, a faster CPU (and GPU) would be nice.

I don't really know why he mentioned 64-bit. But the point that faster ARM chips will benefit future Windows RT devices shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone.

I actually don't think there is anything wrong with ARM, just that Windows 8 was late to the game and there are tons of other ARM tablets to choose from with apps people want and use. If MS had some more core apps at launch, they would have been better off.

My Surface is PLENTY fast for surfing, apps and games.. would I like a newer tegra 4, sure.. but 64bit won't change anything unless they plan on adding 8 gigs of ram to Surface RT2.

Larger SSD, Higher resolution or unlock that extra core and bump up the MHz a bit.. also, if they fixed the MicroSD so you could consume it to expand the native storage or use it as a library that would help too

64bit.. lol

I don't see how Microsoft's success in Zune has to do with Windows RT. Microsoft succeeded in Xbox 360, so that could be used to justify anything as well.

No it won't.. The only way ARM/RT will die is if everyone ditches arm all at once.. Zune was proprietary from the getgo and engineered PMP.. ARM systems are standing on their own 2 feet with or without MS.. so its high time they took it serious and I love my RT

the ARM version of windows might die off a slow death, just like the alpha processor version of windows nt... people don't make devices for it, MS looks at it as why did we even bother

alpha was already dead/dying at that time..

ARM is still largely in growth and with MS having experience on ARM for Windows 8, they can leverage that in MinWin kernel updates for Windows 2012 as people contemplate ARM in the datacenter

You mean ARM in general, or specifically ARM Windows devices? ARM devices are pretty massive now, to the point that it's got Intel concerned. But I do agree that ARM devices running Windows are few and far between. Although that might change over the coming year or so. It remains to be seen whether Windows RT can make an in-roads against Android, which is fairly proven and popular.

Majesticmerc said,
You mean ARM in general, or specifically ARM Windows devices? ARM devices are pretty massive now, to the point that it's got Intel concerned. But I do agree that ARM devices running Windows are few and far between. Although that might change over the coming year or so. It remains to be seen whether Windows RT can make an in-roads against Android, which is fairly proven and popular.

Pleas explain your sentence next time. Intel might be concerned for the mobile market but they sure as heck are not for the PC market.

ARM support for Windows won't die because they tied app support directly to x86 Windows Store. This means you don't have to worry how many other people bought ARM devices since app support is currently coming from x86 success. Already 45,000 apps.

The Windows kernel has to be developed for ARM phones, so I suspect we will see Windows RT turning up on small tablets and maybe merging completely with Windows Phone.

alwaysonacoffebreak said,

Pleas explain your sentence next time. Intel might be concerned for the mobile market but they sure as heck are not for the PC market.

Within the context of the sentence that preceded it, I figured it was self-explanatory. My apologies .

Avatar Roku said,
ARM support for Windows won't die because they tied app support directly to x86 Windows Store. This means you don't have to worry how many other people bought ARM devices since app support is currently coming from x86 success. Already 45,000 apps.

The Windows kernel has to be developed for ARM phones, so I suspect we will see Windows RT turning up on small tablets and maybe merging completely with Windows Phone.


Windows Phone uses the same kernel as Windows 8 / RT already.

Brandon Live said,

I don't think this could be further from the truth.

the who thing was a hypothetical... and why would no one buys it ms looks at it as why did we do it further from the truth? that is the truth with ALL hardware and Software Mfg's... if you put more money into it then you got out of it, it's not seen as a "good" thing...

neufuse said,
the ARM version of windows might die off a slow death, just like the alpha processor version of windows nt... people don't make devices for it, MS looks at it as why did we even bother

Not likely. ARM systems are the future of computing. Why would Microsoft kill of Windows RT?

neufuse said,

the who thing was a hypothetical... and why would no one buys it ms looks at it as why did we do it further from the truth? that is the truth with ALL hardware and Software Mfg's... if you put more money into it then you got out of it, it's not seen as a "good" thing...

But it's not a separate codebase. Windows RT is basically Windows 8 with the HAL of WP8. All the bits are basically already there.

neufuse said,

the who thing was a hypothetical... and why would no one buys it ms looks at it as why did we do it further from the truth? that is the truth with ALL hardware and Software Mfg's... if you put more money into it then you got out of it, it's not seen as a "good" thing...

First off, you don't have any data on cost or revenue directly attributable to Windows RT (or indeed to the WOA work overall, which also includes WP8).

Second, you're obviously not thinking of other impacts (effects on partner relationships, for example, or not being tied to one or maybe two CPU vendors).

Third, much of the "ARM" work was really SoC work, also applicable to Intel SoCs (connected standby, for example).