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Look out Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) . A fresh report over at CNET's News.com says that Windows 8 is running stable on processor designs from ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH ) , suggesting for the first time that when the new operating system goes live this year, users could save hundreds of dollars buying lower-power systems that run a full complement of Windows software.
Think of it as Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) MacBook Air moment. According to News.com, multiple well-known PC manufacturers are building ARM-based systems. Developers, meanwhile, are apparently due initial Windows 8 code next month. If both reports are correct, the hodgepodge should include tools for compiling code to both ARM and Intel processors.
So far, ARM investors have benefited most from this sort of chatter. The stock is up more than 27% since January of 2011, when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced plans to put Windows on ARM from the stage of that year's Consumer Electronics Show.
This year brought screenshots and tightly controlled demos and nothing more, making CNET's report somewhat of a surprise. Investors don't yet seem to care. Microsoft shares have rallied more than 5% over the past 10 days, mostly on the strength of a good but still scary second-quarter earnings report. The implications of the ARM deal haven't been a factor in the share price. Yet.
Expect that to change when Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and a number of Asian manufacturers release ARM-powered ultrabooks around the same time as many of their Intel-powered designs reach market. Then, instead of pricing at a premium to the MacBook Air as they are now, ARM ultrabooks will mimic the Air's functionality for hundreds less.
As bad as that might be for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , it'd be much worse for Intel, which enjoyed surging PC revenues last quarter in part of because of how its relationship with the Mac has added to an already-profitable partnership with the vast majority of the world's Windows PC makers. ARM ultrabooks running Windows 8 could break that stranglehold once and for all.
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