Tom Halfhill, formerly a senior editor for Byte magazine and now an analyst for Microprocessor Report, wrote in an interesting piece (as he always does) in the currently shipping August issue of Maximum PC magazine (perhaps you've heard of this rag?) on how Apple's iPad is doing Intel a favor. Halfhill argues that even though Apple snubbed x86 in favor of ARM's architecture for its iPad, the iPad will generate demand for low-power x86 chipsets.
"Intel is trying to push x86 processors into cell phones, where ARM's lower-power processors reign supreme," Halfhill writes. "Intel's latest attempt is an Atom-based chipset code-named Moorestown... Moorestown will be an ARM-breaker for high-end smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices."
Halfwill brings up some excellent points, which makes today's announcement that Microsoft has signed a new agreement to license technology for the ARM processor architecture all the more interesting.
"We have licensed our architecture and our instruction set to Microsoft," said Ian Drew, executive vice president of marketing at ARM. "This type of license allows you to design your own microarchitecture."
Microsoft joins just a handful of companies with similar licenses, such as Qualcomm (and its now infamous Snapdragon chipset), Marvell, and Infineon.
"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," Microsoft said in a statement.
What this also does is further entrench ARM into the development community, putting the company on more solid ground to fend off Intel's x86 advance into low-power computing devices. And for Microsoft, the options are plenty, especially now that there seems to be renewed interest in Windows 7-based tablets. Apple, remember, custom designed its own ARM-based A4 chip for its iPad, and though the highly anticipated Courier was ultimately scrapped, it's not a foregone conclusion that Microsoft won't still jump into the tablet space with its own branded device.