Microsoft to Show Windows on ARM Slate at CES?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said last summer that launching computers powered by Windows is "job one."

Perhaps it's job two, as well.

According to published reports, Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) leader will demonstrate a slew of new Windows 7-based slate devices -- built on Intel processors -- during his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas early next month. But recent reports suggest there will be more to the presentation.

Ballmer is also expected to show off an ARM processor-based slate running a version of Windows designed especially for battery-powered devices that use the chip, according to stories Tuesday by Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, both quoting anonymous sources.

The bad news, though, said the Journal report, is that Microsoft's unannounced version of Windows won't be ready for another two years -- an eternity in the fast moving mobile tablet arena.

There may have been hints.

In late July, Microsoft expanded its relationship with ARM, the English company that designs the predominant CPUs used in mobile phones, but declined to say much more than that.

"ARM is an important partner for Microsoft and we deliver multiple operating systems on the company's architecture, most notably Windows Embedded and Windows Phone," KD Hallman, a general manager at Microsoft, said in a joint statement with ARM at the time.

In fact, Microsoft does have an embedded version of Windows that supports ARM processors. Dubbed Windows Embedded Compact 7, however, it is an evolution of Windows CE. The company released a community technology preview (CTP) in June but its release has been delayed until 2011.

Still, it's unknown whether the rumored system is built on a CE variant, or whether it uses a full-scale version of Windows 7. Bloomberg's report claimed its sources said the system would also run on Intel and AMD CPUs.

Finally, if the rumor regarding its schedule of two years turns out to be true, it may be a version of Windows 8, which is due in approximately 2012, some observers speculated.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.


Microsoft, Windows 7, ARM, tablets, slates