Can We Expect a Miracle at BUILD?

Microsoft is set to launch a new software development event called BUILD in just a few hours. At the center of the show is the upcoming Windows 8 and its new touch-centric interface. We’ve already had a small taste of what to expect, but the big reveal will be the unexpected. Will Microsoft astound us or leave us unimpressed?

The event is all about Windows 8 and the new Metro-inspired touch UI. Without question, we will see tablets at work. Whether they’ll be new models, like the rumored Samsung reference unit, or tablets we currently have is uncertain. Safe money is on new hardware, but will they be earth-shaking? Possibly.

Over at Microsoft’s Building Windows 8 blog, there’s as post entitled “Designing for Metro style and the desktop“. The running message is that the dual UI system is a no-compromise approach, developers and users will get the best of both worlds in one operating system. At least on the software side. As much as we’d like it to be otherwise, on the hardware side, there’s always a trade-off. Keyboards are better for typing but add weight and bulk. Pen input is more precise than touch but more expensive. ARM processors are lighter and cheaper, but they can’t deliver the computing power of 64-bit x86. Can’t do much about the input options, but if Windows 8 will support both ARM and x86 processors, there is potential to see something ground-breaking.

Some years back, a company called DualCor emerged with the idea to combine Windows Mobile and Windows XP in a single handheld computer. It fell apart before a final product could be delivered, but the idea remains a worthwhile though unfulfilled pursuit. One computer with an ARM processor to provide low-powered, always-on functionality and an x86 processor to provide full computing power would be a truly no-compromise system, one that would fit in with Microsoft’s description of Windows 8.

Such a system is not a pipe dream or forgotten experiment either. CUPP Computing has been showing off their PunkThis Module to add ARM processors to x86-based notebooks. Microsoft, if they truly intend on delivering on a no-compromise OS, cannot simply have it work on either ARM or x86 separately. but on a hybrid system that provides the benefits of both. Yes, Microsoft will deserve their proper due for delivering Windows on ARM, no question about that, but it won’t be a surprise. Microsoft needs something bigger to get folks to stand up and take notice.

There are other ways Microsoft can surprise us, but a dual ARM-x86 system would be the one that tops it all for me. What do you hope or expect to see?

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