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.
Steve Lohr reports at the New York Times that Intel is not going to upgrade its internal PC users to Windows Vista:
Intel, the giant chip maker and longtime partner of Microsoft, has decided against upgrading the computers of its own 80,000 employees to Microsoft’s Vista operating system, a person with direct knowledge of the company’s plans said.
The person, who has been briefed on the situation but requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of Intel’s relationship with Microsoft, said the company made its decision after a lengthy analysis by its internal technology staff of the costs and potential benefits of moving to Windows Vista, which has drawn fire from many customers as a buggy, bloated program that requires costly hardware upgrades to run smoothly.
“This isn’t a matter of dissing Microsoft, but Intel information technology staff just found no compelling case for adopting Vista,” the person said.
I would observe that there is a difference between upgrading everyone and an orderly migration, but this story was broken by Charlie Demerjian in The Inquirer where the decision is phrased as “Intel is not going to use Vista on its corporate machines… ever.”
Ouch! Such enterprise decisions aren’t uncommon for a variety of reasons, but for Intel to do it has got to hurt. The only thing that would hurt worse would be if Intel decided to go with a non-Microsoft operating system.
The final version details for Windows Server 2008 were revealed today at the Microsoft TechEd IT Forum 2007 in Barcelona by Bob Kelly, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Infrastructure Server Marketing. To anyone familiar with Microsoft’s past server operating systems, there isn’t much that’s particularly novel except in regard to the new Viridian virtualization capability which has now been formally named Hyper-V: