Intel: Atom's multiple OS feature an edge over ARM

Intel believes the option of running multiple operating systems gives its chips an advantage over ARM

Intel officials say vendors are beginning to use Atom processors to power tablets not only because the chips can run Windows 7, but also because they allow the devices to run multiple OSes, providing an advantage over rival ARM Holdings.

At Taipei's Computex trade show, Intel has been showing off tablets running one of its newest Atom processors, Oak Trail. The tablets are capable of running Windows 7, Android and Intel's own MeeGo mobile OS. Several tablets at the trade show have been installed with multiple OSes.

ViewSonic unveiled a tablet called the ViewPad 10Pro, which can run both Android and Windows 7 simultaneously, with the user allowed to switch between them with a click of an icon. A tablet by Australian company Evolve III incorporates Windows 7, Android and MeeGo, allowing users to choose an OS when the device boots up.

"Because Intel architecture runs each one of these environments, we are now seeing innovation to run all of these environments on a single device," said Doug Fisher, the general manager of Intel's' system software division.

Intel officials detailed the company's tablet and notebook strategy at Computex on Wednesday. Intel has been working to develop low-power chips suitable to run on tablets. Intel has said that 35 tablets using the new Oak Trail tablet would be available in May.

Currently, most of the tablets on the market use chips from ARM because the processors are considered more power efficient. But Windows 7 does not run on ARM chips.

One of the major objectives of Intel's Atom processor Oak Trail was to run Windows 7 on a tablet, said Doug Davis, general manager of the company's netbook and tablet group. Many users, like those in education or finance, want to see Windows 7 applications in tablet form, he said during an interview with the press. "That's where we are seeing a lot of interest in our product," he added.

But Davis also said vendors are taking notice of how Intel's Atom processor can run multiple OSes on a single device, a feature Intel believes will make their tablets more appealing to users.

Fisher said Intel is working on virtualization technologies to make switching between multiple OSes on a tablet more seamless and convenient. "You are going to see an evolution and innovation around how you run multiple operating environments," he added.

While ARM chips cannot run the current version of Windows, Microsoft intends to change that with its next version of the OS. Intel and Microsoft, however, recently provided countering views over the capabilities of the new platform. Intel said the upcoming Windows version for ARM will not be able to run applications from older versions of the OS. Microsoft has said Intel's statement is inaccurate and misleading.

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