Windows on ARM: desktop mode confirmed, sans legacy apps

By Lee Kaelin on February 10, 2012, 8:30 AM

Microsoft has described in detail their Windows on ARM architecture in a bid to clear up confusion regarding the upcoming Windows 8 release. The exhaustive post by Steven Sinofsky on the MSDN Building Windows 8 blog gives a clear perspective of what to expect, and it also contains a couple of bombshells.

The first of which is quite a big deal: Windows on ARM (WOA) will not support current or legacy Windows applications. "WOA will not support any type of virtualization or emulation approach, and will not enable existing x86/64 applications to be ported or run,” Sinofsky said. “If you need to run existing x86/64 software, then you will be best served with Windows 8 on x86/64."

It is worth pointing out that this decision is in large part because emulation eats into hardware resources, and will affect battery life, overall system performance and usability. However, Intel demonstrated its Medfield x86 processor emulating ARM at this year’s CES, so clearly the iconic chip maker does not see it as a major concern. For now though, Microsoft has no plans to support it.

On a more positive note, Sinofsky has confirmed that WOA will still feature a traditional desktop, putting an end to speculation regarding the matter. Most of the instantly recognizable OS applications that feature on the classic desktop will be available to use, including the File Explorer, as well as Internet Explorer 10 complete with hardware-accelerated HTML5 support.

It will also feature desktop versions of the Office applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote,  which have been optimized with touch screen usage and power efficiency in mind. Metro-style apps available from the Windows Store will support both WOA and Windows on x86/64 as well.

Sinofsky has also confirmed that Microsoft intends to ship both x86 and ARM versions of Windows 8 at the same time: "Our collective goal is for PC makers to ship WOA PCs the same time as new PCs designed for Windows 8 on x86/64, using the latest generation of those platforms from low-power to high-performance."

That said, WOA will not be purchasable separately, it will only be available on devices specifically sold using the ARM architecture due to the variations between ARM platforms. A beta of Windows 8 will be made available for consumer review in several different languages at the end of the month.




User Comments: 8

Got something to say? Post a comment
Guest said:

Windows 8 with ARM was exciting, but at least it is a great begining.

Guest said:

I can see WOA being useful in businesses.

Custom applications on lower price, longer battery life tablets with a real OS (Windows).

fraggleki said:

Windows 8 on a iPhone , is it possible? They have ARM Processors Correct?

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

fraggleki said:

Windows 8 on a iPhone , is it possible? They have ARM Processors Correct?

You mean ARM architecture? Having an ARM-based SoC is not the only requirement to make all ARM-compatible (but <i>not</i> cross-platform) operating systems work on other unintended devices. That's not to say it's impossible (as you can see on the picture above) but it requires a large amount of engineering. Even then, it wouldn't be usable (poor battery life, waste of screen real state, imprecise point input, etc.).

Even if it was possible, however, the only one that would be portable would be Windows Phone 8, which is going to be based on the same Windows 8 kernel and WinRT. I am pretty sure Windows 8 doesn't support low resolutions; that's the area they are trying to tackle with WP8.

Guest said:

OH great!

I can now see .. people asking me .. how come I can't install X program or run Y program.?

but the computer was cheap!

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Guest said:

OH great!

I can now see .. people asking me .. how come I can't install X program or run Y program.?

but the computer was cheap!

I think it's very unrealisitc to think that a program that can run on a regular x86/64 machine, will also run on a ARM-based mobile device.

People don't expect to port their programs from their Macs to their iDevices. I think Microsoft shouldn't be punished just because they also happen to do the same. (The mentality I'm seeing recently is that because they <i>are</i> late, they should have engineered a powerful, power efficient, mobile OS that can do the same as its desktop counterpart. The thing is, those characteristics go against the very reasoning Microsoft used to decide to make the user experience a priority. Emulated x86/64 software on ARM devices are "weak" [due to emulation], and most certainly power inefficient.)

Alternatively, Microsoft said they were going to be very clear when selling/advertising Windows 8 about the fundamental distinctions between the desktop Windows 8, and the ARM.

supyo said:

my god that ribbon interface is ugly. Takes up a quarter of your screen for what? copying & pasting? Windows 8 looks like a mess, trying to appease everyone will not work out well.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Will give "Windows Phone" a whole new meaning. This is exciting.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.