My colleague Bridget Botelho just posted a much more detailed follow-up to this story with insight from IT professionals and analysis of Microsoft’s past investments in the tablet market. Definitely worth a read.
ORIGINAL POST 12/22/2010
It was always going to come to this, wasn’t it? Reports have surfaced this week that Microsoft is set to change the Windows OS as you know it in an effort to make a bigger splash in the mobile device market.
Bloomberg (followed by several other news outlets) reported that Microsoft has begun work on a new version of Windows designed specifically for tablets and smartphones. Though plans for the OS are officially confidential, leaks have flooded the Internet with news that Microsoft will provide more details during next month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
The Bloomberg report states that the “new Windows” will be built on architecture from ARM Holdings PLC in addition to the usual x86 chip technology from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). The ARM design is a better fit for smaller mobile devices because the chips consume less power. In fact, many devices – including the iPad – already use it.
A source close to Microsoft told The Wall Street Journal that the goal is to make Windows more modular — in other words, easier to strip down and apply to low-power devices like tablets and smartphones. But the real goal is obviously to better compete with Apple. The uber-successful iPad and iPhone products have benefited from Apple’s lightweight iOS, which allows necessary software to be easily stripped away from the full-blown OS and applied to mobile devices. It’s clear that Microsoft sees the need to follow a similar strategy with Windows.
The news isn’t completely out of the blue, however. John Cook over at TechFlash writes that there has been speculation about something along these lines ever since Microsoft and ARM expanded their licensing agreement back in July. Unlike the recently released Windows Phone 7 that utilizies ARM technology but runs on a 1GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, the new OS will be written specifically for the ARM architecture. The International Business Times describes the move as a way to potentially “create a ground-up version of the OS [for] tablets.”
Of course, this is all being done with an eye on the consumer market. But as we saw this year, folks are choosing the smartphones they want and adapting them to the enterprise, whether the enterprise is ready for them or not. Results from TechTarget’s latest Windows Purchasing Intentions Survey show that while BlackBerry is still the king of mobile endpoints for businesses, iPhones are gaining ground, with 53% of respondents saying they will support Apple’s smartphone next year. (The iPad came in at about 34% as well.)
Microsoft recently touted Windows Phone 7 by reporting that 1.5 million devices have already been sold. (Of course for perspective, Apple said that it sold over 14 million iPhones between July and September.) So with so much ground to make up and no Windows tablet yet to speak of, it’s no real surprise to see Microsoft change its stance on what Windows needs to be in order to reach any level of parity in the mobile device market. It will certainly be interesting to see what other details come out of the CES presentation on Jan. 5.
One thing we know for sure, however, is that it will be at least two years before the “new Windows” is ready to make its mark on the mobile device map, which by then could look very different than it does now.
For more information on mobile devices for the enterprise, visit SearchEnterpriseDesktop.com.