Microsoft showed that the next version of its Windows software will run on ARM-based computers, in addition to the traditional Intel-based machines.

Rumors of the ARM compatibility surfaced last month, signaling a fracture in the Wintel alliance between Microsoft and Intel that has held sway over PC technology for decades. Microsoft has tried to downplay that angle.

Steve Sinofsky (pictured), president of Microsoft’s Windows division, showed a working version of the future Windows running on Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Nvidia microprocessors at a press conference today at the Consumer Electronics Show. It’s not clear when the new version of Windows will ship. But when that happens, it will prove disruptive to the chip market, where Intel has been the dominant provider of chips that run Windows.

The Nvidia processor, known as Tegra 2, ran Windows fine. A future version of Nvidia’s processor, code-named Project Denver, will likely also run Windows with much higher performance. Texas Instruments is also doing a chip that could run the future Windows chip, while Qualcomm’s Snapdragon family of processors will be able to run the future version of Windows, which Sinofsky did not name but which is widely believe to be Windows 8.

“This shows we are broadening our set of partners,” Sinofsky said.

But he also noted that x86 partners Intel and Advanced Micro Devices will continue to work with Microsoft. Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer will show the same demos at his keynote speech tonight at CES.

Sinofsky started the press event with a discussion about the work Microsoft and its partners have been doing to build systems-on-a-chip, which glue together a bunch of chips into a single massive chip that can run a whole system (or most of one). The company has been trying to integrate lots of hardware and software together to create much smaller devices.

Microsoft has a bunch of other demos that show Windows can flow across phones, PCs, and tablet computers.

The company also showed off a new version of its gesture-based computing project. Version 2 of Microsoft’s Surface (pictured) computing tables — where you can wave your hand over the screen of a table-top computer to make things happen — was also demonstrated at the press conference. Microsoft’s Surface will be built into lower-cost technologies.

[Top image credit: “Microsoft Sweden“]

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