An (Almost) Epic Win for Microsoft -- and Developers


Say what you will about the Mac maker: Apple (NAS: AAPL) needs to copy Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) in at least one important way.

This week, Microsoft unveiled a number of changes to Windows Phone 8, and none was so important as a shared code base. The mobile and desktop editions of Windows 8 will share native C and C++ code.

For those who don't understand under-the-hood geekery, the idea is to give those who write the 1s and 0s needed to create apps, games, and the like the ability to do so much more efficiently. Most code written for one format -- say, the desktop -- will be reusable for the other.

What's more, because the code is "native," meaning it is tied to the underlying hardware and processor, developers will be free to write graphics-intensive and other high-stress code. Windows 8 phones and PCs will use onboard hardware to accelerate the speed by which the code is executed.

Those writing for the new Surface tablet could benefit similarly. Or at least, one of the tablets.

Surface comes in two styles. The "RT" edition is blessed with a fast core built around ARM Holdings (NAS: ARMH) designs and may suffer from enough architectural differences to lose out on the benefits of native code support.

Microsoft's other tablet has more drive space -- 128 GB -- and is built around the same Intel (NAS: INTC) architecture that powers most PCs. The Intel edition of Surface should execute native Windows 8 code as fast as any desktop or smartphone.

Who else is missing out? Apple. True, iOS and the newest editions of Mac OS X are merging, and they will even more so when forthcoming Mountain Lion edition of OS X reaches consumers next month. (The new version adopts many more iOS traits, including Siri and dictation.)

The difference is that Apple long ago struck a deal with Intel to replace the PowerPC chip for its various Macs. Apple's line of mobile iDevices is built on the AX series of chips the Mac maker designed in-house, and which are based on the ARM-based P.A. Semi architecture Apple acquired in 2008.

So far, Apple hasn't merged its chip architecture to make life easier for developers. My guess is it won't be long before CEO Tim Cook makes the leap.

In the meantime, it's Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showing developers the love. And this time, there's no creepy, sweat-soaked dance to accompany the gesture. Well done, Mr. Softy.

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Fool contributorTim Beyersis a member of theMotley Fool Rule Breakersstock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim'sWeb home,portfolio holdings, andFoolish writings, or connect with him onGoogle+or Twitter, where he goes by@milehighfool. You can also get his insightsdelivered directly to your RSS reader.The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Intel, and Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Intel and creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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