Ballmer said "Anything that works on Windows 7 will work on Windows 8 x86." That's the Intel/AMD/VIA version, so what of compatibility with these ARM chipsets? We saw a recompiled version of Microsoft Word and a recompiled printer driver, but if every programme and driver needs to be rewritten how much legacy support can we expect? Will we need two versions of new software or can it be coded to work on both?
Despite this Ballmer remained defiant: "Whatever device you use, Windows will be there." Given Microsoft's famously tight relationship with Intel over the years this marks a major change of policy. After all Windows may be open to almost infinite combinations of hardware, but until now only if it was x86 based. With Intel pushing ahead with Meego, a potential rival to Windows Phone 7, this certainly gives the chip maker food for thought. It also gives Intel many new enemies.
Most obvious is Nvidia. The GPU giant endures a fractious and litigious association with Intel and Nvidia chief Jen-Hsun Huang must have been licking his lips when described ARM as "the fastest-growing CPU architecture in history."
It was no coincidence that Nvidia announced its own ARM-based processor - Project Denver - on the same day proclaiming the combination with its "massively parallel GPU cores create a new class of processor." Nvidia not having to bow to Intel anymore should create fireworks.
On the flip side, while Windows 8's compatibility with ARM creates a huge opportunity for chipset makers, it was something of a necessity for Microsoft. The company has made it clear that Windows, rather than Windows Phone, is its preferred platform for tablets and it is impossible to ignore ARM chipsets in the mobility sector. With Android Honeycomb (above) wowing the crowds this same week what will amount to a near two year wait for Windows 8 to come out suggests Microsoft really needed to adopt ARM sooner.
Despite this Microsoft has set the cat amongst the pigeons. Windows circa 90 per cent hold on the world's computer systems means it can get away with being late to hop aboard the good ship ARM and it has opened up the processor industry to realistically compete across every product sector for the first time. ARM shares rose 8.2 per cent on the news, expect them to rise considerably higher than that over the next few years...