Up front: Will Windows get 'smart' with ARM chips?

What's Now | What's Next main bannerThree years ago, there was some talk about whether Microsoft would help define the small, portable device category by making a version of Windows for it. That's when we learned that devices at that level will not -- perhaps ever -- be defined by their operating systems. When Microsoft started marketing a concept called "Origami" by answering consumers' questions with a question, "What Am I?" customers in large numbers resoundingly responded, "We don't care." Now, there's yet another new class of small devices supposedly in the works, and reporters this morning are asking, will it be defined by a new version of Windows? Time once again to wake up and smell the history.

Windows for smartbooks?

Morning of June 3, 2009, Taipei time • As promised yesterday afternoon, Microsoft Corporate VP for OEMs Steve Guggenheimer told a keynote audience at the Computex trade show that October 22 would be the ship date for Windows 7 to the general public. There's only one ship date this time, it appears, unlike the skewed "businesses first, regular people later" affair that marred the Vista premiere.

Now, small devices are huge in Taiwan, because that's where a huge number of them would be assembled. So one of the big questions on reporters minds there concerns a clever new niche for handhelds and portables called "smartbooks," which would be smaller than netbooks and which, by virtue of which chips they use, consume less power. These use ARM processors, which vendors literally design on a mix-and-match basis to their exclusive specifications. There's been reports of manufacturers porting Windows XP to ARM processor-based systems in the laboratory.

With Windows Starter Edition likely to run on netbooks later this year, folks are wondering, will it run on smartbooks also? Last March, the executive in charge of the company that funds ARM asked that question rather directly himself, in an interview for Computerworld's Eric Lai. And the answer to that question from Guggenheim was an emphatic...what was that question again? As IDG News Service cites him, Guggenheim actually sidestepped the question (despite the headline), simply stating that it would be hard to create yet another category of small device just for Windows.

Maybe. But then again, there is this little fact: There actually already is a version of Windows for ARM processors. Okay, so it's not the same code base exactly, but Windows Embedded CE is a branded Microsoft operating system that is designed to be customized through Visual Studio and deployed to small devices in a vendor-exclusive fashion, which is what smartbook manufacturers actually want anyway. And if those small devices can use the same documents and be otherwise interoperable with Windows, perhaps that's all they need anyway. Maybe it would be a good thing to talk with those OEMs making the smartbooks first, and ask them what they want and what they are planning...because it won't be Microsoft that defines smartbooks either. And that's a good thing. More on that in What's Next.

AMD endorses instant-on Linux for its own netbooks

8:30 am EDT, June 3 • Meanwhile, the netbook (as opposed to the smartbook) is coming unto its own as a market sector (and we can say "netbook" now without fear of lawyers, isn't that nice?). Just as ARM device makers prefer a way to easily assemble their designs, and notebook manufacturers love the idea of Intel's Centrino platform, netbook makers want there to be a preferred way to put parts together.

AMD is assembling its next generation netbook platform, and today for Computex, the company sent word that it will have an embedded instant-on operating system as its preferred choice. Yes, it's an embedded Linux, specifically Phoenix Technologies' HyperSpace. That means you power on your system, and before you go to whatever operating system you go to (if you do), you'll get instant functionality provided by the likes of...the Opera Web browser, which will come pre-installed.

Eric Brown heads into the PR breach at Yahoo

5:45 pm PDT, June 2 • All Things D, where internal memos go to not-die, has the scoop from a Yahoo insider on the hire of Eric Brown as the new SVP of global communications. Brown was previously with NetApp and before that at Adaptec -- two very business-oriented firms to be sure. Ought to be interesting, Kara Swisher points out, to see how life at a general-consumer concern like Yahoo suits him.

Wednesday's tech headlines

The New York Times

• Online newsletter publishing fail: A federal newsletter covering secrecy revealed on Monday that a 266-page report with "highly confidential" status had somehow made its way to the Government Printing Office, where it could be reviewed by the general public. The Times looked into the matter and now the report on civilian nuclear sites and programs is offline. One really cannot wait to see the letters to the editor in the next edition of Secrecy News, can one.

• Is multitouch more than just a curiosity? Ashlee Vance reports on various companies who hope that consumers who like the interface on their phones will love it on their computers.

Ars Technica

• If the judge bars file-sharing evidence acquired by MediaSentry from being introduced in Jammie Thomas' retrial, that long-running prosecution ends. Her new lawyer, Kiwi Camara, is giving that tactic a try. Ms. Thomas' retrial begins June 15.

• Jon Stokes summarizes two separate reviews of AMD's six-core "Istanbul" chip. The results are mixed, but all the tests so far were done on two-processor systems; he's curious (and so are we) to see how the server processor behaves on systems where it's handling four processors, as intended.

• Users of Hotmail via three offline email clients -- Outlook, Outlook Express, and Entourage -- are reminded to get right with the demise of the DAV mail protocol, which is happening within the next three months. The post includes guidance for updating configurations for each of those three user bases. Warn your mom.


• CNET's web-apps blog spends quality time with Google's Wave, calls it "weird and quite wonderful," though set-in-their-ways e-mail users are in for a jolt.

• Do you need a Twitter-centric phone? Doubtful, but an under-$140 offering from the UK's INQ Mobile points the way toward a world in which smartphone users do not have all the social-networking fun. That's good news for the social nets, but getting other phone manufacturers on board that train could be interesting.

The Wall Street Journal

• Larry Ellison, purveyor of netbooks? The Oracle head suggested at JavaOne yesterday that mobile device offerings are a possibility once Sun has been digested.

• The government's about to spend $7 billion to improve broadband access in rural areas, but the biggest provider of the maps that tell where the money needs to go is partially underwritten by -- you guessed it -- the big telecom companies that stand to benefit the most by telling the administration where the money ought to go. There's been precious little oversight in the creation of Connected Nation's maps, critics say, and other says that the organization's data-collection methods are dubious.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

• A bunch of people found a way to defraud Microsoft's Live Search cashback program, and now Microsoft's suing 10 John Does under the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The program is now the Bing cashback service.

• The P-I's Geek of the Week is the guy who runs the official @starbucks twitter feed. Brad Nelson, a former barista at the Twitchy Mermaid, fancies himself quite the Rain City rebel ("odd duckling") for being a lifelong Mac aficionado. (Confidential from AG to BN: Dude, you work for Starbucks. The Fremont Starbucks. If you were any more echt-Seattle you'd grow gills.)

• The P-I republishes a story from KING-TV reporting that after the Seattle Police Department spent over $1 million last year on new laptops, most of the gear is barely used. Officers blame the clunky Seattle Police Information Dispatch and Electronic Reporting software on those laptops for actually making their jobs harder -- and maybe even more dangerous.

Los Angeles Times

• Jon Healey once again crosses over from the Op-Ed section to talk tech. He's got a good in-depth look at whether eMusic's pricing plan still makes sense in the current iTunes/Amazon era. Protip: When the writer's drawing a comparison between the service and those old-school record clubs, you may have a problem.

• NBC Universal -- the people working to turn your brains into alien-nourishing goo with Hulu -- are preparing a full lineup of Web-only shows that will have even more product placement than an average episode of Chuck or 30 Rock. The article doesn't say how that law of physics will be broken, but the first shows will turn up on Hulu and other services over the summer.

WHAT'S NEXT? Microsoft steps back from an OS battle...

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