Microsoft Considers Reinventing MS Windows: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft is reportedly working on a brand new edition of Windows specially designed specifically for tablet devices. The goal would be to overcome battery life problems with existing portable Windows machines.

The key to the new edition would be how it interacts with the processor. The CPU (or "processor") is the the chip in any computing device that carries out calculations and processes information. There are two main types of processors in common use for portable devices: Intel's x86 architecture and the ARM chip. The two chips are very different inside, which means that the operating system has to be specially written to fit the architecture.

Battery Life An Issue For Most Mobile Devices

The full-blown version of Windows runs on the x86 chips, which are present in virtually all Windows-compatible PCs. However, most smartphones run ARM chips. That's because ARM uses less power, thus extending battery life. The downside of ARM is that systems running on it can't run full-blown multitasking operations, in which two or more applications can be active at the same time. (Source:

Historically, that's not been a problem for mobile devices. When it comes to phones, size and battery life is more important, and users have lower expectations about what a smartphone can do.

That's changed, however, with the iPad and the subsequent explosion of interest in tablet devices. With many buyers thinking of such devices as more of a slimmed-down portable computer than an oversized smartphone, manufacturers have to make difficult decisions about how to deal with the limitations of such a device.

In Apple's case, the decision was to use an ARM chip and get the maximum battery life, while using a "workaround" version of multitasking: in most cases applications that are "out of sight" aren't technically active, but rather frozen in the background of the operating system.

Reinventing Windows Likely Problematic

Freezing a process just isn't viable with current Windows devices. Because users expect the Windows experience to largely replicate a desktop or notebook computer, many manufacturers have stuck to x86 processors, with the result that battery life is usually quite limited.

If reports are true, Microsoft will be working on a dedicated edition of Windows that will be specially designed to run on ARM chips without sacrificing functionality. Though the firm may show the technology off at next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it could be two years before such a system is complete. By that time, it may be too late. (Source:

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