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Are Multiple ARM Versions of Windows 8 Coming?

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Microsoft plans at least four versions of Windows 8 for ARM processors, but they won’t be able to run “legacy” applications for the x86 versions of Windows, according to published reports. However, the software giant described the statements attributed to an Intel exec as “inaccurate and misleading.”

The news, while not really a surprise, came when an Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) official told several publications, including Bloomberg News, about Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) ARM plans during the chip maker’s analyst day on Tuesday at Intel’s Santa Clara, Calif. headquarters.

At the event, Renee James, head of Intel’s software business, reportedly said that Microsoft is planning four versions of Windows 8 that will run on ARM Holdings’ processors, plus one that runs on Intel’s x86 processors. However, since the ARM uses a different chip architecture and instruction set, the ARM versions will not be able to run applications written for the x86 architecture, the reports said.

Microsoft announced in early January at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)in Las Vegas that it will have versions of Windows 8 that will run on the ARM processors but did not say how many versions there will be.

ARM processors power most of the smartphones in use currently, although Intel has indicated it will come out with low-power versions of its Atom processors — dominant in now waning “netbooks” devices — that will also support Windows 8 for the mobile market.

Last summer, Microsoft disclosed that it had broadened its licensing pact with ARM.

Microsoft is widely seen as an “also-ran” in the mobile device market so far, and it is doing its best to shore up its Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, which already supports ARM CPUs.

The software giant has also been criticized for being late to the tablet computer market, one currently dominated by Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad.

“Intel’s statements during yesterday’s Intel Investor Meeting about Microsoft’s plans for the next version of Windows were factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement emailed to

“From the first demonstrations of Windows on SoC [system-on-a-chip], we have been clear about our goals and have emphasized that we are at the technology demonstration stage. As such, we have no further details or information at this time.”

Apparently, Microsoft’s took umbrage at the number of versions.

“The ‘4’ number was arbitrary — simply used to help demonstrate a point. Beyond that, we are not commenting further on the statements from yesterday at this time,” an Intel spokesperson said in an email.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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