In a move that should add a few more drops of perspiration to furrowed brows at Intel and AMD, ARM today unveiled details of its ARMv8 architecture, which will extend its ecosystem into the 64-bit world of enterprise computing, perhaps gaining footing in Windows environments.
ARM's push to power 64-bit computing means its rivals not only have to struggle to catch up in the smartphone and tablet spaces while protecting their consumer-oriented desktop territory, but will also have to tighten their defense in server rooms, data centers, workstations, and anywhere else that 32 bits just isn't enough.
ARM already has an impressive track record for baking energy efficiency and security features into its chip blueprints -- traits that should appeal to enterprise customers. Intel and AMD have time on their hands, at least; enterprise prototypes running the 64-bit ARM architecture aren't expected until 2014.
One arguable disadvantage for ARM's architecture: It's based on RISC, not x86, meaning it has not been Windows-friendly. ARM said that ARMv8 will initially target a range of open source operating systems (Apple's iOS and Linux already do ARM), applications, and third-party tools. However, there are signs that Windows will, down the road, run on the ARM architecture. For example, the Metro portion of Windows 8 -- meaning newer apps -- will run on ARM.
Redmond hasn't fully thrown its support behind ARM, and it's unclear whether Microsoft is going to stick it out with Intel and latch on to its forthcoming Atom. Still, ARM's move to 64-bit architecture has evidently caught Microsoft's attention. "ARM is an important partner for Microsoft," said KD Hallman, general manager at Microsoft, in a somewhat noncommittal statement. "The evolution of ARM to support a 64-bit architecture is a significant development for ARM and for the ARM ecosystem. We look forward to witnessing this technology's potential to enhance future ARM-based solutions."