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Windows RT: Moving from x86 to ARM is not that simple

Software & AppsFeatures
by Desire Athow
, 22 Nov 2012Features
Windows RT: Moving from x86 to ARM is not that simple

We got in touch with Gérard Metrailler, Senior Director, Product Management, Graphics at Corel Corporation and asked him, what the main challenges in developing ARM-powered, Windows-RT versions of existing applications are.

As a general rule he said, the Corel sees the new Windows Store apps both for ARM and Intel-based devices as a platform with very strong potential for applications development, adding that the priority when developing for apps stores is to “focus on the user needs based on where they will be using different devices, from smartphones to tablets to powerful workstations.”

The power of ARM processors and GPUs is, in his own words, “perfectly suited for the tasks users are using tablets and their rapid evolution opens up many opportunities in the future”.

Indeed, the biggest long term limitation for ARM-based devices is not necessary hardware-linked. Instead, it has more to do with the APIs available from a development perspective although running a best-of-class x86 processor against the top of the range ARM processor would only yield one winner by a very wide margin.

Gérard points to the fact that Windows RT apparently has the same limitations around background processes as iOS does. On the other side though, he underlines that Microsoft has managed to port Office 2013 to Windows RT in record time, showing that recompiling a flagship product can be done, fairly easily.

In addition, the content creation industry is already leveraging resources provided by GPU hardware from Nvidia, Intel and AMD. The momentum needed to move applications that have been developed for over two decades with millions of lines of code, will be massive.

This can be made easier if the APIs that the applications are developed on don’t change, something we’ve seen when Apple transitioned from PowerPC to Intel’s x86 architecture.

Generally though, most applications are written with a specific set of OS APIs, something that makes it more difficult to switch from a software vendor’s perspective.

Gérard concluded our discussion by saying that while the Cortex-A15 will definitely compete with the Atom Cloverview, AMD's and Intel’s top of the range processors are likely to remain unchallenged for a long time.

To learn more about ARM, read our feature on ARM and its processor architecture

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