Most high end mobile devices these days seem to be equipped with some sort of ARM processor. They are fast, cheap, power optimized and highly embedded. These days, however, the status quo seems to be challenged by Intel who tries to establish the x86 design in the mobile world with their Mobile Internet Devices (MID) initiative. This could have a number of interesting consequences:
- It looks like Intel is betting on Linux as an OS for those devices and not on their traditional relationship with Microsoft. I guess their main reasons are that Windows Mobile requires an ARM platform while Linux happily runs on pretty much everything, including ARM and x86.
- Linux is a lot cheaper to use (no royalties) and can be easily extended inhouse without having to ask anyone.
- Linux has a large developer community. A lot of software already written for Linux (without a GUI) needs no or only small changes to run on x86 based mobile devices. Software does not even have to be cross-compiled as would be the case for devices using an ARM processor.
- Using XP or Windows Vista for a Mobile Internet Device seems to be out of the question due to the huge amount of processor and memory requirements.
So where does this leave Microsoft? With Visa and XP too big and Windows mobile to closed / too limited / too expensive they have a gapping void in their product portfolio. Also, they do not build and sell their own mobile devices but leave it to third party companies such as HTC to develop devices using their OS. I would not be surprised if many of them can’t wait for Google’s Android. Tough times ahead for Microsoft in mobile…