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Mi­crosoft to join Ap­ple’s In­tel ex­o­dus? New chips could be used in the Win­dows ecosys­tem

Ap­ple might not be the only com­pany set to jet­ti­son In­tel’s pro­ces­sors. Mi­crosoft has ported Win­dows 10 to its own chip ar­chi­tec­ture, giv­ing In­tel’s share­hold­ers cause to be very ner­vous in­deed.

Mi­crosoft has been work­ing on a pro­ces­sor ar­chi­tec­ture – E2 – for sev­eral years, but the project is re­ceiv­ing fresh at­ten­tion with re­ports claim­ing the com­pany has man­aged to port both Win­dows 10 and Linux onto the pro­ces­sors.

While the chips might not be des­tined to ap­pear in PCs, they could play a role in a wide Win­dows ecosys­tem, ex­perts said. “Mi­crosoft has ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign­ing pro­ces­sors for speci c ap­pli­ca­tions, such as the SoCs for the Xbox,” said Shane Rau, re­search vice pres­i­dent for com­put­ing semi­con­duc­tors at re­search rm IDC

“The E2 ex­per­i­ment sug­gests that Mi­crosoft is re­search­ing what would be an ideal pro­ces­sor ar­chi­tec­ture to run Win­dows and carry it to dif­fer­ent kinds of sys­tems,” Rau con­tin­ued. “Yes, maybe PCs, but more likely the very di­verse world of end­point and edge sys­tems on the in­ter­net.”

Mi­crosoft has played down the break­through, which was re­ported in an ar­ti­cle on The Reg­is­ter that cited sources close to the project. Mi­crosoft says: “E2 is cur­rently a re­search project, with no plans to pro­duc­tise it.”

While In­tel’s short-term prospects aren’t un­der im­me­di­ate threat, it’s the long-term shift to a post-PC era that it should be wor­ried about, ac­cord­ing to Rau. “Tech­nol­ogy ven­dors are ex­plor­ing what kind of com­put­ing should be done, by what and where,” he said.

“I think that, within the PC space, In­tel will lead for the fore­see­able fu­ture. But the longterm ques­tion is where will com­put­ing be done if it is not done on the PC, and what will do the pro­cess­ing?”


The E2 project has been con­ducted largely in se­cret and takes a fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent ap­proach to the way pro­ces­sors deal with data.

In tra­di­tional pro­ces­sors, in­struc­tions are fed into the sys­tem, split into cores and ev­ery­thing moves through as if on a con­veyor belt, but in­struc­tions that rely on el­e­ments on other cores can be left wait­ing for other to be com­pleted.

Un­der E2 – which re­lies on a tech­nique called ex­plicit data graph ex­e­cu­tion, or EDGE – the data in­struc­tions are split into mi­cro projects that can each be han­dled in its own right with­out re­ly­ing on in­for­ma­tion that could be gummed up in an­other part of the process.

“Achiev­ing the right bal­ance of power and per­for­mance for an ap­pli­ca­tion is chal­leng­ing with to­day’s mul­ti­core pro­ces­sors,” read a now-archived ver­sion of the E2 project notes.

“E2 solves this prob­lem by pro­vid­ing the ca­pa­bil­ity for cores to dy­nam­i­cally adapt their re­sources dur­ing ex­e­cu­tion to pro­vide highly ef cient power and per­for­mance hard­ware con gu­ra­tions for a wide range of work­loads.”

The un­der-wraps “E2” project takes a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ap­proach to how pro­ces­sors han­dle data

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