SAN JOSE, Calif. Microsoft Corp. said it held successful summit meetings with ARM Holdings plc and MIPS Technologies Inc. last winter that it plans to continue. Scott Horn, Microsoft's director of the embedded devices group, said the company would have an increasing level of input into ARM and MIPS processor architectures.
In particular Microsoft is developing a wish list of hardware support that it wants from ARM and MIPS. This includes security features, biometric identification, chip-level identification, multimedia playback support, including support for specific instructions and cache sizes to be included in processor architectures for embedded applications.
But it's not a case that Microsoft is a software Goliath bearing down on the twin Davids of the licensed processor core space. Both ARM and MIPS are well aware of the significance of operating systems and software applications and are seeking out Microsoft's aid, Horn said.
" They're asking for it," said Horn. "The challenge is the mismatch in the lead times. While we [Microsoft] can turn something round in 12 to 18 months, developing a next generation ARM or MIPS architecture can take three years."
Horn pointed out that this can result in ARM or MIPS asking Microsoft what ideas it has for three years out, which in software is almost unknowable, while Microsoft can be asking ARM and MIPS, or their licensees, to add support for particular features by the next holiday season, which is usually undoable.
While it is well known that ARM and MIPS talk to their licensees, usually silicon manufacturing partners, and work with them on future architectures Microsoft's role in these discussions is less well known.
"We're having the conversations," Horn said.
"The summits with ARM and MIPS were a great success. We were really trying to get to the ARM and MIPS communities," said Horn (see Februar y 5 story)..
Horn added that the summits were partly an attempt to educate the ARM and MIPS communities about the potential for Microsoft and Windows in the embedded space, and partly an attempt to get them to engage with Microsoft.
"We're not quite committed in time but we certainly intend to do them [the summits] again. We'd like to engage with 100 percent of the ARM partners that use an MMU [memory management unit]," said Horn. He also pointed out that it was through conversations with MIPS that Microsoft had decided to concentrate on voice-over-internet protocol as one its four main application themes for the embedded devices group within Microsoft.