Today at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft announced that “the next version of Windows will support System on a Chip (SoC) architectures, including ARM-based systems from partners NVIDIA Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. On the x86 architecture, Intel Corporation and AMD continue their work on low-power SoC designs that fully support Windows, including support for native x86 applications.”
To drive the point home:
Microsoft demonstrated the next version of Windows running on new SoC platforms from Intel running on x86 architecture and from NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments on ARM architecture. The technology demonstration included Windows client support across a range of scenarios, such as hardware-accelerated graphics and media playback, hardware-accelerated Web browsing with the latest Microsoft Internet Explorer, USB device support, printing and other features customers have come to expect from their computing experience. Microsoft Office running natively on ARM was also shown as a demonstration of the potential of Windows platform capabilities on ARM architecture.
“Windows will continue its industry-leading support across the widest possible set of devices, delivering the breadth and choice that customers demand. Intel and AMD continue to evolve and improve the x86 platforms, including new low-power systems, and advance new designs such as the recently announced 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ processor family and AMD’s Fusion accelerated processing units (APUs). NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments are joining Microsoft to provide ARM-based designs for the first time.
To those with long memories, Windows NT supported other processor architectures besides Intel, but that support disappeared over time due to lack of market interest. Now the situation is reversed with the mobile market compelling “light” architectures and operating systems that have the traditional Wintel players scrambling. Windows 8 is unlikely to arrive before 2012, but the real question though is whether a full-fledged Windows OS is really the right fit for the mobile market and when touch enabled apps will arrive to run on it.
It’s been a long time coming but the steady progress of x64 technology from both Intel and AMD has finally impelled Microsoft to drop future support for Intel’s variant Itanium 64-bit processor family.
Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the last version of Windows Server to support the Intel Itanium architecture. SQL Server 2008 R2 and Visual Studio 2010 are also the last versions to support Itanium.
Current support for Itanium remains unchanged. Each of these products represent the state of the art of their respective product lines. Each fully support Itanium, support the recently-released Itanium 9300 (“Tukwila”) processor, and Microsoft’s support for these products will continue – following the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy. Mainstream support for Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-Based Systems (and R2) will end, in accordance with that policy, on July 9, 2013, while extended support will continue until July 10, 2018. That’s 8 more years of support.
Why the change? The natural evolution of the x86 64-bit (“x64”) architecture has led to the creation of processors and servers which deliver the scalability and reliability needed for today’s “mission-critical” workloads. Just this week, both Intel and AMD have released new high core-count processors, and servers with 8 or more x64 processors have now been announced by a full dozen server manufacturers. Such servers contain 64 to 96 processor cores, with more on the horizon.
Microsoft will continue to focus on the x64 architecture, and it’s new business-critical role, while we continue to support Itanium customers for the next 8 years as this transition is completed.
Once upon a time, Windows NT (the precursor to Windows Server) supported a variety of microprocessor architectures, but they have been steadily whittled down over the years. Itanium remained as long as it did because of its early promise of an industrial strength 64-bit Intel architecture. Now it mainly exists to power some Hewlett-Packard HP-UX (Unix) servers.
Intel is no longer the sole star of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 show.
Microsoft Corp. today trotted out the second beta of Windows Server Virtual Server 2005 service pack 1 (SP1), a version that supports virtualization features on AMD and Intel processors.
Beta one of the product supported Intel virtualization from the get-go; R2 SP1 debuts support for AMD, a clear indication that customers don’t want to virtualize solely on Intel-based machines.
Michael Kanellos and Tom Krazit at CNET have the story which is aptly titled Strike Three for Intel:
AMD’s surge can be seen most strongly in the U.S. retail market, which accounts for about 9 percent of global PC shipments. In the first seven weeks of 2006, AMD’s share in desktops in that area climbed to 81.5 percent, while Intel’s has slid to 18.5 percent, Baker said. That’s almost a complete reversal of their typical relative positions.
In notebooks, Intel’s share has declined to 63 percent, even though (NPD Techworld analyst Steve) Baker and others generally agree that Intel enjoys a technological advantage in laptops.
Just to be clear, this is only sales in US retail stores which excludes direct PC vendors like market leader Dell, which is exclusively an Intel shop, but it’s still a stunner. Hit the article for some analysis, but a key factor seems to be pricing and AMD relationship building. AMD is gaining share in servers as well.
It likely makes little difference to Microsoft whether Intel or AMD is leading, although it undoubtedly gives them more leverage in their dealings with Intel. There’s one area though where all three are getting hit and that’s 64-bit:
It looks like the world isn’t clamoring for 64-bit desktops just yet.
Nearly two and a half years have passed since 64-bit processors started going into PCs. But the software to take full advantage of these chips remains scarce, and customers aren’t buying much of what’s out there.
The dearth can be seen in a lot of ways. Microsoft released a 64-bit version of Windows for desktops last May, but has sold few copies, according to analysts.
Instead, most PC makers and software developers will wait until Vista, the next version of Windows
“There is just not enough driver support for 64-bit Windows,” said Rahul Sood, president of VoodooPC. “We don’t offer it. We are waiting for Vista.”
The slow emergence of a 64-bit ecosystem also means that those consumers who bought 64-bit systems in the past few years to “future proof” themselves against a software conversion really didn’t. By the time Vista comes out, those early 64-bit computers will be 3 years old, closing in on the typical four-year replacement cycle.
There’s more analysis in the article, but lack of driver support is always the kiss of death. If the drivers were there, you could make a case for running 32-bit apps on the 64-bit operating system in compatibility mode. Instead, most folks are running the 64-bit processor in 32-bit legacy mode.