Will Windows 8 run on ARM processors?

Windows Phone partner group program manager Charlie Kindel
Windows Phone partner group program manager Charlie Kindel

Every time we ask about whether Windows will ever run on anything other than x86-compatible CPUs, we get Steven Sinofsky's famous poker face: "[there's] nothing I would say right now," was the Windows President's most recent reply when TechRadar specifically asked him about rumours that kernel guru Mark Russinovich was working on an ARM version.

But the view from the Windows Phone side of the house suggests that there's plenty of cross-pollination between Windows, Silverlight and Windows Phone going on.

Explaining the optimisations for animation performance and graphics parallelisation in Silverlight on Windows Phone, vice president Scott Guthrie told TechRadar that "All that work will also show up in Silverlight on the desktop; you'll probably see it in an update to Silverlight 4 and certainly by V.next [the next version].

"The nice thing on the desktop is that you can get away with not having all those optimisations because you have a more powerful processor, but we'll certainly take them from mobile back to the desktop."

And Windows Phone partner group program manager Charlie Kindel suggested that not only will future versions of Windows Phone have more desktop features but that a future version of Windows could indeed move away from the PC.

Optimised for ARM

"We've done a bunch of work to make sure all the layers we put above that [Windows Phone runtime] are independent of that, because - over time - we'd like to get some of the advantage of the core CLR onto the phone and take some of the advantages that .NET compact framework has into 'big Windows'. For example it's optimised for ARM processors and battery usage…"

In the past Microsoft has used the term 'fluid' to describe its vision of how Windows will scale from the smartphone to the cloud, although that's been more about moving computation to where it runs best than having the same kernel everywhere.

We've also been hearing that reducing the amount of power used by PCs is a priority for the Windows team (which should be a more sophisticated approach than putting a phone OS like Android on a netbook and adding a big battery).

Whether that translates into Windows 8 running on an ARM netbook or Windows platforms that have the same sort of relationship as Mac OS X and the iPhone OS is anybody's guess at this point, but it's more of a conversation than the Windows Mobile team ever seemed to manage with their 'big' Windows colleagues.


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.