Can WinARM Beat Wintel?

Windows on ARM is coming. I've been bullish on Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) Windows 8 since it was detailed at the BUILD Windows developer conference in September.

The aspect I'm probably most excited about is the long-heralded inclusion of support for ARM Holdings (NAS: ARMH) -based processors, which is one aspect of my thesis for picking up shares myself. Even as Forrester Research has just said it believes Windows 8 may be too late to the tablet party, the laptop arena is a different story.

A recent Digitimes report now details a potential timeframe on when to expect Windows on ARM laptops. The report mentions that ARM chipmakers like NVIDIA (NAS: NVDA) and Qualcomm (NAS: QCOM) are pairing up with notebook manufacturers like Asustek and Lenovo to hit the market in 2013 after potentially making appearances in late 2012. They expect the WinARM platform to expand further in 2014 and chip away at Wintel's lead.

ARM chips will take on Intel (NAS: INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices (NYS: AMD) chips as they improve performance and get Microsoft's blessings. Although don't expect Intel to sit idly by; the chip mammoth is working on its new Ivy Bridge and Haswell next-generation architectures featuring significant power-efficiency improvements in preparation of a hopefully cold reception for ARM chips.

The two largest hurdles that ARM has faced in the laptop market have been software support and collaboration with notebook makers. Windows 8's ARM support addresses the former, and cooperation with Asustek and Lenovo potentially handle the latter.

NVIDIA is particularly excited about Windows on ARM, since the company increasingly has mobile on its mind, and its quad-core ARM-based Tegra 3 processor that just landed already promises "PC-class performance levels."

Talk of ARM-based laptops has been escalating lately, in part because of official Microsoft support. There have been rumors that Apple (NAS: AAPL) has tested ARM-based MacBook Airs, and support for quad-core ARM chips was found in Apple's Xcode. While there are plenty of possible explanations that don't include ARM-based Macs, it's still a possibility worth entertaining.

WinARM has some exciting prospects for numerous involved tech companies. Will the gang of ARM supporters be enough to topple Wintel? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of Apple and ARM Holdings, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdingsand a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Qualcomm, Intel, Microsoft, and Apple and has bought calls on Intel.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, NVIDIA, and Intel, writing puts in NVIDIA, and creating bull call spread positions in Apple, Microsoft, and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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