Does Windows 8 give Intel an edge?

Late last week, Microsoft was busy showing off a preview of its forthcoming flagship, cross-platform Windows 8 operating system – a development that will have an impact on Nokia, Intel and ARM.

The biggest ace Microsoft has in the hole with Windows 8 is that the OS will run on both x86 Intel and ARM-based devices, making it attractive to a wide range of device manufacturers as well as giving it an edge among the enterprise and business consumers.

The OS is designed to deliver the same experience across the PC, laptop, tablet and smartphone, giving Microsoft a cohesive software strategy across a range of devices. What’s interesting from a software perspective is that Microsoft can use its expertise in multiple user accounts in the PC domain, to leverage that functionality across all these devices, introducing the first proper multi-user or ‘family’ tablet that can be shared around the house while maintaining personalisation options for each user.

Microsoft and hardware partner Nokia have a lot riding on this. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s ticket to making real headway in the mobile space, while giving Nokia the opportunity to up its game in the higher end device tiers. It also gives Intel scope to push into the mobile domain after last week making its first foray with an Orange-branded Atom-based Android device. Intel’s x86 platform has a significant advantage over Windows 8 on ARM in that Intel-based devices will be able to run legacy x86 applications, whereas ARM will only be able to run the latest software. This makes Windows 8 on Intel very attractive in the enterprise space.

Craig Cartier, an analyst for ICT practice at Frost & Sullivan, had this to say: “While Microsoft dominates market share in PC operating systems, it has struggled in the smartphone sphere, never surpassing the low single-digits in market share in the mass-market smartphone era. Windows needs a foothold in the mobile space if it is to continue to be one of the world’s premier technology brands, and it is desperately grasping for one.

“It is reflective of Microsoft’s strategy that this announcement of its historically-PC software would come at the largest mobile conference in the world. Microsoft recognizes the future of its business will be hugely affected by mobile, and that’s why Windows 8 is built to be a cross-platform OS: delivering the same experience on the PC, laptop and tablets.

“Tablets are an important and growing part of the mobile world, and while they have found their initial niche as multimedia-centric devices, the jury is still out on what role they will play in the future device ecosystem. What the future will hold for the tablet is an open question, but Microsoft is showing it will fight for this important and growing piece of the mobile space from its platform of historical strength – the Microsoft Windows OS family and Windows 8.”

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