I was stunned when I saw that giant sign behind Steve Ballmer behind at the CES 2011 keynote saying that the next version of Windows would support System on a Chip (SoC). Simply stunned.
You see, back in late October last year, one of my very first feature pieces for this site was about Intel‘s string of recent acquisitions (Moblin, McAfee, Infineon, etc) and how I thought that Intel were attempting to develop the ultimate SoC that had absolutely everything on it. In this article, I was commenting on how I thought that this wasn’t a vote of no confidence at all, it was in fact the opposite – Microsoft could make the ultimate power play by making their next version of Windows compatible with these SoC’s (and others) and Microsoft and Intel could put themselves back on the map in mobile computing.
Here’s the key quote from the article:
Now, this brings me to Microsoft. I truly believe that the next version of their mobile OS – let’s call it Windows Phone 8 – will be sold in an SoC configuration. Think of the above pitch to handset manufacturers I mentioned before – if Microsoft are already designing the hardware chassis of Windows Phone and the chassis for Phone 8 includes an SoC with all the chip functionality tested, rock solid and drivers all written and ready to supply, then Windows Phones can hit the market at a very VERY cheap price point due to the cheap cost of making them, compete aggressively with the iPhone on price vs features and still leave a lot of profit for the manufacturer. It’s an enticing option. Combine this concept with the fact that MS are working hard to ditch Windows CE and move all OS’s to Windows NT – which is written for x86 – and Microsoft have the best operating system to offer on Intel SoC’s. I actually believe that Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Windows Embedded 8 will be much the same thing under the hood – MinWin (core NT kernel) and virtualized operating system layer (more on this in another post) which means these same chips could be put in phones, tablets, netbooks, notebooks, media center devices, consoles, cash registers, cars, portable music devices and even PC’s – you just boot up MinWin, pick your interface OS (Windows Home, Professional, Ultimate, Phone, Embedded, Auto, Media Center, Xbox etc) and you’re off and away. Mass producing these chips and selling in huge volume means the chips themselves will be cheap, and Windows will go just everywhere these chips do.
Now fast forward to today – this is pretty much what Microsoft are wanting to do and are going to do. Windows and Windows Phone might not meet down the middle at the point that Windows 8 comes to market but you would certainly have to believe that Windows Phone 8 will be heavily influenced by Windows 8 with the core of the OS replaced with NT and fully seperated from the shell which would be virtualised and sandboxed in a dedicated core(s) of the CPU. It makes a tonne of sense.
To top all that off, we’re hearing rumours that Windows Phone-like features are coming to Windows 8, such as a Metro-like second UI, an App Store and new Application deployment model are all making their way into the new operating system. These are going to make things fun.
Anyways, this is one prediction that I am extremely pleased to see come true merely for the fact that it is by far the best thing that Microsoft could do with Windows and it makes the most sense. For us computer users, this truly will be the biggest change in IT we’ve seen for a while and will allow IT to advance forward into a true mobile computing age. It’s very exciting.