3 reasons Microsoft shouldn't port Windows to ARM processor

3. Microsoft already has an OS -- several, in fact -- that run on ARM.

Not well known to the general public is the fact that Microsoft already has a successful platform that works with ARM called Windows Embedded Compact, formerly known as Windows Embedded CE, formerly and better known as Windows CE.

A decade ago, Windows CE -- and its offshoots, such as the Pocket PC -- gained a bad rap as the unstable, bloated operating system on PDAs that competed with the original Palm.

Windows Embedded Compact has changed a lot since then. Its chief offshoots today are Windows Automative and Windows Mobile, the smartphone operating system.

With Windows Embedded Compact and its close sibling, Embedded Standard (based on a cut-down version of the XP kernel), Microsoft leads the commercial market for embedded operating systems, with about a third of the market by sales revenue, according to Venture Development Corp.

Despite the hype around Apple Inc.'s iPhone, Windows Mobile smartphones had 45% higher sales worldwide in 2008 than the iPhone, according to Gartner Inc., and ranked third overall behind Nokia Corp.'s Symbian phones and Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerries.

Analysts such as Gold are optimistic that the next version of Windows Mobile, called Windows Mobile 7, will be a vast improvement over current versions. It is expected to be released next year.

The logical move, he said, is for Microsoft to create a "souped-up" version of Windows Mobile to run on netbooks that takes advantage of their larger screens and keyboards.

Castellano agreed. ARM netbooks won't become popular for at least several years, giving Microsoft time to retool Windows Mobile and make it work well on netbooks.

"You might as well try to get a piece of the action without affecting Intel," Castellano said.

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Eric Lai

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