ARM announced today that they have signed a new licensing agreement with Microsoft.
The deal extends an existing relationship between the two companies. Since 1997, Microsoft and ARM have worked together on software and devices across the embedded, consumer and mobile spaces. ARM designs low powered processors and integrated chips for mobile devices and appears to be allowing Microsoft to specify and customise chips. This deal should allow for more efficient and integrated hardware/software experiences from Microsoft and its hardware partners.
What this will actually mean for products from Microsoft is unclear; the details of the agreement are being kept confidential. However, K.D. Hallman, Microsoft general manager, did say that “with closer access to the ARM technology we will be able to enhance our research and development activities for ARM-based products."
wARM chips are widely used in the mobile device market which could indicate that Microsoft has plans to release their own branded mobile hardware with a dedicated ARM chip, something along the lines of a future Zune device (it currently uses a Tegra chip from Nvidia). Microsoft might also work on a chip that it will offer to OEMs to really get the most of its software. This licensing agreement could be used to get more out of Windows Embedded or Windows Phone or even a future version of Windows, such as 8 or even further into the future. Microsoft could also be aiming to overhaul its Xbox architecture with a new ARM chip.
There is speculation already that Microsoft may plan to start designing and producing its own chips in the same way Apple does with its A4 chip. This deal will certainly allow a closer working opportunity with some of Microsoft’s hardware partners to allow its software to work more efficiently. There will no doubt be much more speculation on what exactly this deal could mean for both companies and what the outcome might be.
The official press release from ARM is live; there is currently no official statement from Microsoft regarding the agreement.