Journey to the next release of Windows

The journey to the next release of Windows has begun with groundbreaking support for System on a Chip (SoC) architectures.  Keep reading after the break to learn what this means for students, e-textbooks, and collaborative learning.

Today, at CES 2011 Microsoft announced the next version of Windows would run on System on a Chip (SoC) architectures (see sidebar for more details on SoC) from Intel, AMD, and ARM. This is a significant announcement for the Windows ecosystem and the economics of next-generation computing devices.  I believe this announcement lays the groundwork for the ideal student mobile computing device to become a reality.

Windows Ecosystem and Economics

Today, AMD and Intel are the de facto central processing unit architectures for Windows.  With the introduction on SoC manufacturing methods, many of the components needed to power operating systems like Windows are consolidated onto a single processor component.  This reduces the overall cost and size of the computer and provides for more innovative form factors.

In addition to AMD’s and Intel’s SoC efforts, Microsoft is also announcing native support for ARM processors that run many smartphones today.  ARM processors are made by several chipmakers including graphics card juggernaut–NVidia, my alma mater’s founder–Texas Instruments, and mobile devices powerhouse–Qualcomm. So a market of two major chip makers is now five.  More competition provides greater market efficiencies in which consumers are the ultimate beneficiaries.  In our case, the beneficiaries are students and schools.

The benefits are greater than the price of the device.  By increasing the market size, Microsoft is also fostering greater diversity of devices and products that will meet diverse consumer preferences.  A single-source vertical solution cannot by design meet the diversity of the market—unless your favorite colors are silver and black.

The Ideal Student Mobile Device

Last year, I wrote about the requirements for student mobile devices in Tablet PCs for Education: Fundamentals. In the Project Hawaii article, I introduced the concept of data shards—the fragmentation of our digital lives due to disconnected technology.  I encourage you to revisit those two articles because the SoC announcement provides the path to addressing each.

The SoC announcement signals that the Windows operating system will soon run on devices never before consider for running Windows.  Because of the form factors enabled by SoC, Windows could run on everything from a tablet device to an HDTV; on the phone in your pocket to the robot cleaning your floors; or on your watch and even your clothes.  It is that radical of an announcement.  With Windows running efficiently everywhere, your data becomes super portable to any experience you desire.

With new types of smarter devices comes new types of smarter experiences that take advantage of the local and cloud computing resources.  It will be the two working in harmony that will enrich our consumer and learning experiences—not one working at the exclusion of the other.

There is so much to uncover in this announcement that we will need to revisit it again in the future.  In the meantime, this marks the beginning of the public communications about the next version of Windows and gives some direction to where Microsoft is going.  I’ll return this topic again in the months ahead.

As you talk to students about careers and college, you should let them consider this announcement and what new devices would they make powered with Windows. It is a great time for them to consider the road ahead. Share your conversations below.