Microsoft wants Windows 12 to run on its own silicon. God help us

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 front open with pen visible
(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

It's been a little over two years since Apple introduced its in-house silicon and apparently, it's gotten Microsoft's hackles up because now a handful of new job listings indicate that the company might try to copy Apple's success with its own bespoke Arm chip. 

All I can do is hang my head and sigh.

According to a report from Windows Latest, a number of job listings at the company have popped up for positions with the "Microsoft Silicon Team", specifically for a lead system-on-a-chip architect with a background in "high-performance" SoC architecture with CPU and GPU design experience. If that sounds like the Apple M2 chip, you're not wrong, and it's been rumored for a long while now that Microsoft has been exploring making its own Arm chip for its Surface products.

Now, to be clear, this is all speculation as Microsoft hasn't said anything officially, so take a couple of job listings with a grain of salt. Microsoft has been trying to push Windows-on-Arm for a while now, so it's entirely possible that this is nothing more than having some dedicated engineers working with some Qualcomm chips to make Windows-on-arm less of the hot mess that it's been over the past few years.

At least that's what I'm hoping for, because if this latest report is accurate and Microsoft is hoping to "optimize" its as-yet-unannounced Windows 12 for its own in-house silicon, then Windows 12 is running the risk of making Windows 8 look like the pinnacle of performance and design by comparison.

Microsoft is terrible at hardware

Personally, I have no idea if Bill Gates is a good guy or not, and I wouldn't put his business prowess too much on a pedestal, but if there's one thing Gates got right back in the 1980s, it was intuiting that the 1990s PC revolution would be driven by software, not hardware. 

By licensing DOS and then Windows to PC manufacturers to run their products rather than have to design an in-house OS for every machine they produced, Microsoft was able to establish a hegemonic monopoly over the PC that even today remains unchallengeable, even by MacOS.

And, for all its faults, Microsoft's products worked pretty damned well considering the enormous programming challenge of designing an OS to operate on an infinity of hardware configurations and provide a more or less consistent user experience.

To that end, I still couldn't tell you why Microsoft decided it wanted to let that fall by the wayside and try to make its own Surface line of products. Some of my TechRadar colleagues love a Microsoft Surface device or two, but I have yet to see one that didn't cost a small fortune just to run like garbage when a far cheaper Lenovo laptop running a "less-optimized" Windows 11 install will — not could, but will — absolutely blow the best Surface laptop away across every metric of performance, design, and price. Microsoft gets top marks for its focus on accessibility, so credit where credit is due, but still.

Microsoft, look at me. Stop. Just stop it.

Just sell your OS to Dell, Lenovo, and Asus, and work on security updates and driver support whenever you're not kicking back on the beach counting your money. Hell, I'd even throw your substantial market power around and force the other PC makers to adopt all of your accessibility improvements as a requirement for your OS. 

You gotta play to your strengths, and flexing market muscle is what Microsoft does best. Let the PC hardware folks continue to make the best laptops while you keep focusing on your strength: making the best operating system in the world.

Microsoft makes the best operating system in the world, don't ruin it with Arm

Yes, Windows has its issues. That's why we have a helpful Windows 11 problems page with various fixes. And yeah, sure, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is having all kinds of PC issues, as did The Last of Us: Part 1 and Horizon: Zero Dawn before it, but you know what's a real problem? Having the best MacBook Pro possible with an M2 Max chip in it, 64GB memory, a 38-core GPU, and not being able to even run the game at all because your OS isn't compatible.

Microsoft's strength is its unparalleled compatibility and, yes, stability. The fact that an OS as robust as Windows 11 can run on just about any modern-ish hardware configuration is a technological miracle. It's a feat of software engineering that is simply unmatched, and, Microsoft, you have every reason to hold your head up high, no matter what the haters say.

But, if you're hoping that a Surface laptop with a bespoke Microsoft Arm chip is going to compete with the MacBook Air with M2 (or the Apple M3 or whatever), you need to stop laying off software engineers and fire the executives who convinced you that you were ever going to compete with Apple for this market. 

The MacBook Air is the best laptop around for those people who need a portable laptop for general computing and light-to-moderate productivity tasks. That's a lot of people, I know, but far, far more people around the world absolutely must use Windows because it is an OS that can damn near do it all and do it all remarkably well. It's far from perfect, but even though Apple's marketing team absolutely scored a bullseye with those Windows Guy ads, it didn't matter. Windows went onto every single office machine and home PC in the world for the better part of two decades. 

But, no Surface device is ever going to compete with a MacBook, it simply won't, and trying to optimize your next OS iteration for a chip that you have little to no experience making (while Apple has been designing iPhone and iPad chips for more than a decade now) is just going to leave you with an inferior OS running on an overpriced and underpowered Surface device that nobody is going to buy over a MacBook Air unless they do absolutely no research beforehand.

Why do this to yourself? An old pastor in Texas once told me that if your momma had to borrow a prettier baby to take to church on Sundays, you're probably not cut out to be a leading man in Hollywood — but that doesn't mean you can't make it as an actor. You just have to know your roles and do them better than the other guys.

Microsoft, buddy, you're a trillion-dollar company. You are very clearly doing something right, but let's be honest: hardware isn't your thing, and that's OK. Please, for the love of God, don't wreck your next flagship product trying to play a role that simply isn't written for you.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.

Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).