Well, here we are. The unthinkable has happened. Our most fervent rumors have proved true and, to the surprise of some and the resigned acceptance of others, the Windows platform is expanding. Nothing is sacrosanct anymore- not even ARM. At the CES 2011 Microsoft keynote, Steve Ballmer announced that Windows 8 will support damn near everything- including ARM-style SOC processors.
And that's just the start of it. Make no mistake. This announcement is the (much quieter) equivalent of an atomic bomb on the industry- especially in the tablet market. Windows 7 slates have been dismissed by many reviewers due to their crappy battery life and often-sluggish speeds. But a Qualcomm-packing tablet running Windows 7? That's a productive slate that (hardware depending) could really challenge the iPad in longevity.
More to the point, this move means that Microsoft can stand up against the bevy of new Android slates rolling out in 2011 and 2012. This isn't theoretical tech, or a light promise from Microsoft. The keynote featured multiple Windows devices running on SOC architectures from ARM, AMD, Qualcomm and others.
They worked too. We even got to see an ARM laptop boot up Word and Powerpoint. The hardware accelerated graphics make for zippy presentations.
This is more than just a reason to be excited. It represents a possible rejuvenation for the entire Windows platform. This is Microsoft's key to the future of mobile computing. There were a lot of things I found annoying in the keynote- Ballmer and friends repeated Apple-style buzzwords (I heard "magical" like 20 times) like they were going out of style. But, where it mattered, Microsoft delivered.
As we filed out of the keynote room, I joked with a fellow journalist that, with this new announcement, Windows 7 phones might be a future competitor to Windows Phone 7. Tongue and cheek as that was, the core point is worth some focus. Microsoft now has the ability to get their OS onto literally any mass computing device on earth.
This is Redmond's great leap foward- an acknowledgment that, even in this time of booming Windows 7 sales, Microsoft recognizes the coming twilight of PC computing. The mobile sphere is the future, and Windows will be there- no matter the architecture.