Jan. 5, 2011 at 5:10 PM ET
Ahead of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote tonight at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, the company showed off some coming hardware — including confirmation of a "system on a chip" running on ARM systems from NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.
ARM chips are the main chips running smartphones, and developing them for a version of Windows on laptops and tablets promises smaller, thinner devices that suck less battery power.
Windows President Steven Sinofsky and Windows hardware VP Michael Angiulo wouldn't talk about the next generation of Windows, as some had been expected them to — or software at all, for that matter. After a big buildup for this pregame show, replete with embargoes and a ban on video, Microsoft came in very low-key, clearly saving the neat stuff for Ballmer.
Sinofsky noted, however, that when Microsoft developed Windows 7, it significantly scaled back the hardware requirements needed to run it, and he said the next version — Windows 8? — "will follow the same track," because the evolution of netbooks led customers to demand "more integration between the software and the hardware."
The Windows kernel is very flexible, and "it's all just engineering," he said.
Redmond says the nickel-size system chip will run hardware-accelerated graphics and Web browsing in Internet Explorer on small forms like a prototype convertible slate with a slideout keyboard from Samsung. It uses so little power, Sinofsky said, that it doesn't come with a fan to keep it cool.
From Microsoft's press release:
SoC architectures consolidate the major components of a computing device onto a single package of silicon. This consolidation enables smaller, thinner devices while reducing the amount of power required for the device, increasing battery life and making possible always-on and always-connected functionality. With support of SoC in the next version of the Windows client, Microsoft is enabling industry partners to design and deliver the widest range of hardware ever.