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OLPC urging Microsoft to makes Windows compatible with ARM

March 13, 2009 at 10:20 am


The next notebook due from the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, nicknamed XO-2, is likely to drop AMD’s x86 Geode CPU in favour of an all-in-one ARM processor according to PC World. While x86 chips have the potential to become more power efficient, ARM has the upper-hand in this area with advanced power management features and built in integrated graphics and Wi-Fi networking.

The “XO-1 uses an average of 5 watts of power, and while most people think that’s amazingly low, we think it’s our biggest problem,” said CTO Ed McNierney. By contrast, a typical ARM processor uses significantly less than 1W. Intel’s lowest-power Atom processor uses under 0.7W.

However, OLPC still considers Windows to be essential for the project. This will be a stumbling block given that Windows XP, Vista or the upcoming Windows 7 will not work on ARM processors. Whilst Windows Mobile or CE would be an option, it seems that OLPC wants the full version. “Like many, we are urging Microsoft to make Windows – not Windows Mobile – available on the ARM. This is a complex question for them,” said OLPC head Nicholas Negroponte.

In our view, given the close ties that Microsoft has with Intel, this is an unlikely move. ARM has readily touted its advantages for netbooks, including having an always-connected device and expects ten ARM-powered models to appear in 2009. Given the platform’s advantages and the knowledge that Windows would readily operate on it could provide huge competition to Intel. Analysts are already estimating that ARM will take 55-percent market share by 2012.

The XO-2 will focus on dual multi-touch screens and may eventually include 3G or WiMAX to get Internet access. The XO-2 is also now scheduled to ship in late 2010.

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