back to article Microsoft's ARM deal fuels hope of a chilled-out Xbox

Microsoft has licensed ARM's architecture, but while an ARM might be found in every mobile phone it seems Redmond is more interested in putting some ARM goodness into the Xbox. An architecture licence isn't necessary for most things – 200 licensees happily make ARM chips without bothering to licence the architecture itself, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The Xbox 360 still suffers from the concentration of heat that this approach creates, depending on a heatsink that expands and contracts until it eventually touches one of the chip's contacts, shorting out the system."

    This may explain why even the new Slim console is RROD Prone, in that it still uses many of the critical (and problematic) components of the previous bodged versions.

  2. Cameron Colley

    My tinfoil hat tells me.

    This is about making a custom ARM chip for Windows Netbooks and Tablet PCs -- that way MS can say to people like Dell "want to use Windows on a cheap ARM netbook? Then you will have to use MS certified ARM chips." - that will stop them mucking around with that horrible Linux stuff.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Isn't a tinfoil hat supposed to stop thoughts being injected into your mind, rather than actually putting them there itself?

      1. Captain Thyratron
        Black Helicopters

        No good as Faraday cages.

        They're actually terrible at attenuating RF because they're just domes--the bottom part is wide open, and the whole thing isn't even grounded. In some bands, they provide a few dB of antenna gain. Some guy tested this out once with a fancy network analyzer and some antennas.

        Some of the bands in which the hats provided gain were government bands, too...

  3. Anonymous Coward

    software piracy prevention strategy?

    this mod at the chip level may be a way of making software piracy a lot more complex

  4. MinionZero

    @"Redmond is more interested in putting some ARM goodness into the Xbox."

    Ahh but is that a new *mobile* XBox branded console? e.g. a Microsoft hand held Xbox-ish games console?

    Plus combine it with a phone and you have a backdoor way to get more into the phone market (and an instant way to create an XBox live like software sales system).

  5. amehaye

    Not the XBox

    ARM does not make sense in an XBox, it is too underpowered. A more plausible reason is that Microsoft is building their own phone/pad/mobile device.

    1. Random Coolzip

      @Not the XBox

      Maybe it's not for the main CPU, but an aux I/O processor(s). This could offload some work from the main CPU, possibly enabling the use of a lower-powered (=cooler-running) chip in that position.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Not the XBox

      Bzzzzzzt... keep up.

      "Cortex™-A9 MPCore™ hard macro implementations for the TSMC 40nm-G process, [enable] silicon manufacturers to have a rapid and low-risk route to silicon for high-performance, low-power Cortex-A9 processor-based devices. The speed-optimized hard macro implementation will enable devices to operate at frequencies greater than 2GHz."

      Paris, because even she must have noticed ARM are going ra-ra servers to try and eat Intel's babies at the moment.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        What about compatibility?

        Backwards compatibility turned out to be a boon to Microsoft. Their backwards compatibility, while not perfect, kept popular franchises alive during the changeover and gave them a sales boost. Choosing an ARM-based CPU for a new console would put a severe damper on compability for that console because the Xenon CPU in the Xbox 360 is POWER-based.

        1. Ed

          Xbox was X86

          The Xbox was X86 based, so they lost compatibility when they brought out the 360. They really should be able to emulate the Xbox 360 given it's getting on for 10 years old.

  6. Stefan 2

    One reason.

    MS would need to muck about with the architecture of the processor if they needed to include similar security features as currently employed in the Xbox 360. Specifically, including a hardware encryption key and stuff.

    ARM chips may not be as powerful as the tri-core, multi-GHz monster in the current 360, but it would be cracking in a handheld.

  7. Nik Simpson

    Maybe be more about cloud servers

    The other possibility is that this is about doing something for energy efficient servers in large cloud data centers. I agree with others, don't think ARM is a good fit for XBox unless they plan to do most of the hard work in the GPU and see the processor as more of a conductor than an orchestra.

  8. RegisterThis

    Putting a stop to an Apple 'purchase'?

    Could it be that this is designed to make sure that any 'rumoured' purchase of ARM by Apple even more less likely when evaluated by any kind of competition commission?

    Seems odd given those old rumours, so either it means MS know they are untrue/unlikely (market take note!) ... or MS knows there was something to it and decided they wanted to secure their slice before it *may happen* and they get cut out of the activity.

    Also sounds like a bit of a vote of no confidence in Intel and AMD's prospects in this space.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It's highly unlikely that Apple would be allowed to purchase ARM, the competition authorities would not like it. Apple are a big user of the ARM chip, as are many of Apple's rivals and having a mobile device manufacturer controlling the #1 processor for mobile devices the world over is not a desirable situation. The only way that I can see that Apple would be allowed to purchase ARM is if they sold off all their hardware which is ARM based, as this is iPod and iPhone, the most profitable parts of Apple, it's just not going to happen.

      1. lpopman

        titular informatic

        Also, why buy the whole company when you can get an Architecture License for a lot less, and still be able to do what you wish with the design?

  9. Mage


    I begin to wonder have MS lost the plot.

    Buying Danger (Sidekick), cripple the design of new phone, release Kin and kill it 46 days later.

    I suspect if Phone 7 is not a roaring success it and Zune will be gone by Easter.

    Xbox wants to make a big profit (not just outsell Wii & PS3) or after Christmas it will be turfed out to the Animal shelter too.

    Why on earth would they want to fiddle with CPU innards? Did someone click wrong box on ARM shopping trolly? Do they want to prove that they are better than Intel or Intrinic/PA Semi/Apple at fiddling with Silicon?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    In other possibilities

    Area's Microsoft could be using this:

    1) Kenetic needs some local processing and a cheaper version would mean a custome ARM SOC perhaps.

    2) Peripherals - Microsoft love to dable in this area

    3) Logical expansion option to there mobile phone market

    4) ARM is FOTM so why not, nobody got sacked for buying IBM^H^H^HARM :)

    5) They have finaly realised that if they sold there operating system with a added securty/coprocessing/extra omph hardware bolt-on (PCI, network sudo firewall/software dongle affair, USB, many options) then they could ileminate piracy, offer the customer better value/security and make more money.

    6) There after more pull with Intel. Or perhaps playing playground business jibes to counter Intel from doing there own operating systems - not like they aint done deals like that in the past given windows NT was aimed at many vendor CPU's at one stage and now the Itanium is being disgarded by microsoft in increasing moves then you can see Intel's and Microsofts unwritten agreements start to disapear.

    7) Microsofts cload based service needs and edge and a custom rack/box they can sell that is low power would certainly help with that edge give a cload based OS not as complicated as a user interacting one as the input is alot more limited/controled and sanatisable. Cload based services aint just about the software, its the total cost in the end.

    8) MULTI-BALL err I mean multi cpu. Besides dont need them multi core when you can multi chip cheaper overall even a 3 chip single core setup would beat a dualcore setup on the overall usage of such a system - memory always the bottleneck for cross thread communications when you look at the overall usage as a whole and a nice unified memory area with local memory per core/chip would make things realy cheap and funky.

    Either way as long as i end up with the ability to use my old mobile phones as cload processing units, then I'll be happy. Not like they dont have UPS/low power usage and a USB dataport already to chain em all up as well as operating without extra cooling. If you compare the running costs per MIP to a server you realy do wonder at this untapped market.

    Either way it only means more goodness to come as they will either come up with something or not and if they dont then others will so from a consumer level, this a good news.

    Also its nice to still think Britian plays a bigger part than most think in the computer industry :-).

  11. Def Silver badge


    I would assume this is more about designing a modified processor that can run .net byte code natively for future Phone 7 devices. Replacing/reworking the Jazelle silicon with something actually usable by Windows makes more sense to me in the long run.

    I would not be surprised if the NextBox only runs managed code too, so having custom silicon to help that out makes a lot of sense as well.

    All the backwards compatibility in the Xbox 360 is already software based, so there's no reason that technology can't be ported to other architectures. Throw in a (relatively) cheap array of 16 or so ARM processors and you should be able to match the performance of the existing PPC processors with ease. Especially if you add instructions such as dot product the existing Xbox 360 processors have.

  12. Stuart Halliday
    Thumb Up

    At last

    Great, finally I'll get Windows running on my RiscPC machine ! ;-)

  13. Doug 3

    it could be about optimizing for Silverlight

    ARM has long had optimizations for Java in their chips and if Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 OS is going to make it, then it needs optimizing for their software platform for that OS and that's Silverlight.

    But then you also have the Microsoft Windows TV.. oh shoot, I wasn't supposed to say that.

    Remember, they are going to really crank it up and start pumping billions into the phone, tablet and 'other' devices so optimizing ARM for their special way of doing things is a must if it's going to have good enough performance.

  14. Torben Mogensen

    Azure and Bing?

    MS might want to use ARM to power the server parks it uses for Azure and Bing. Azure runs .NET, so it is not tied to the x86 platform, and nor is Bing tied to x86.

    It has been rumoured that Google is designing their own ARM processor to use in their own server parks, so MS doing the same is not far fetched.

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