Many Questions Answered By Microsoft About Windows on ARM, And More Asked

At 6pm Irish time last night, the official Build Windows blog sent tech journalists into a tizzy.  Microsoft finally started getting into some specifics about Windows on ARM (WOA), the Windows 8 on system-in-a-chip solution that will be the Microsoft tablet – BTW please stop calling slate PCs tablets because they are clearly not!

Look And Feel

This is the same OS as for the PC/laptop/slate.  The compilation will be different because there are different processor instruction sets.  People who know ARM better than I do (almost nothing) say that each manufacturer will require their own build.  That’s because there really is no single ARM CPU like Intel or AMD.  It’s an intellectual property that is licensed out to companys like Nvidia and Snapdragon to build their own CPUs.  If you own a smartphone or tablet, then you have a strong chance of owning one of these processors already.

You will sign in the same way. You will start and launch apps the same way. You will use the new Windows Store the same way. You will have access to the intrinsic capabilities of Windows, from the new Start screen and Metro style apps and Internet Explorer, to peripherals, and if you wish, the Windows desktop with tools like Windows File Explorer and desktop Internet Explorer. It will have the same fast and fluid experience. In other words, we’ve designed WOA to look and feel just like you would expect. WOA enables creativity in PC design that, in combination with newly architected features of the OS, will bring to customers new no-compromise experiences.

Metro App Mobility

Metro apps aren’t compiled for CPU instruction sets like traditional executable programs.  That means that they are mobile.  They can run if they find WinRT in the OS,  WinRT is a key piece of Metro UI and its present in all Windows 8 builds.  That means an app developed on a Windows 8 will run on a Windows 8 tablet with no probem.  We might guess that this holds true for Apollo, the next version of Windows Phone which is actually Windows 8, and not an evolution of Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango).

Metro style apps in the Windows Store can support both WOA and Windows 8 on x86/64.

They go on to say:

WOA can support all new Metro style apps, including apps from Microsoft for mail, calendaring, contacts, photos, and storage. WOA also includes industry-leading support for hardware-accelerated HTML5 with Internet Explorer 10. WOA will provide support for other industry-standard media formats, including those with hardware acceleration and offloading computation, and industry-standard document formats. In all cases, Microsoft seeks to lead in end-user choice and control of what apps to use and what formats to support.

Office “15” Support

There as been a lot of pointless debate about this since Steve Ballmer uttered a couple of sentences at a stockholder meeting during //Build.  We in the public knew nothing.  I suspect the TAP members either found out last week or last night like us.  Remember that Office is old Sinofsky country and operates just like Windows does now.

WOA includes desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. These new Office applications, codenamed “Office 15”, have been significantly architected for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption, while also being fully-featured for consumers and providing complete document compatibility.

What does “includes” mean?  I really really doubt that Microsoft are including their cash cow for free.  Not even Sinofsky has that sot of swing inside Microsoft.  Every now and then the licensing folks “include” something for “free”.  For example, the VDI Standard/Premium suites include Hyper-V … go look at what that really is and it’s actually the already free Hyper-V Server.  Gee thanks mistah!

Office is already on the Net as SaaS in a lighter form factor.  I bet it runs nice in IE10 as a pinned app Winking smile

What we know is that Office will support touch.  The recent TAP announcement told us about a new Radial control that is more touch friendly than they teeny tiny ribbon controls.

The Desktop

I am one to say I told you so, so there!.  It’s ludicrous to even imagine that Microsoft could ditch the access route to managing and configuring 80% of the machine’s features by not giving us a desktop.  The Metro Control Panel is a great start, but that’s all it is right now; a start.

WOA supports the Windows desktop experience including File Explorer, Internet Explorer 10 for the desktop, and most other intrinsic Windows desktop features—which have been significantly architected for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption.

Where Can You Get Hardware?

A “limited” number of people will be made available to developers and hardware partners.  So no, you will not be able to download the Consumer Preview on Feb 29th and install it on a tablet.


They mention that there will be a single SKU, so no starter, professional, or enterprise versions of WOA.  The features will be tweaked accordingly.  This is where marketing can make or break the product for consumer and business use  The seriously need to include “better together” technologies such as BitLocker and DirectAccess t make WOA a business friendly tablet to get an edge over iPad which is starting to sell in huge amounts to the enterprise.

Social Apps

It’s the little things that make or break a tablet for the consumer, and choice is important.

We have also previously demonstrated Microsoft’s new Metro style apps for connecting to cloud-based services like Hotmail, SkyDrive, Messenger, and— through those services—a wide variety of third parties. For example, our mail app connects to industry-standard EAS, which covers an array of enterprise and consumer-based mail, calendaring, contacts. With existing Live Connect capabilities, you can chat with your Facebook friends, or keep up-to-date on your LinkedIn or Twitter feeds all in a Metro style app—these are just a couple of examples of over 100 different services globally that you can connect to your Microsoft account. These apps are provided with WOA, but of course, people can remove these, set different defaults, or use the Windows Store to get similar apps from third parties.

Battery Life is Everything In A Tablet

ARM is built for this sort of thing, that’s why I get fussy about the lazy misuse of the word tablet instead of slate PC.  WOA understands the importance of battery life:

One of the new aspects of WOA you will notice is that you don’t turn off a WOA PC. WOA PCs will not have the traditional hibernate and sleep options with which we are familiar. Instead, WOA PCs always operate in the newly designed Connected Standby power mode, similar to the way you use a mobile phone today. When the screen is on, you have access to the full power and capabilities of the WOA PC. When the screen goes dark (by pressing the power button or timer), the PC enters a new, very low-power mode that enables the battery to last for weeks. All along, however, the system dynamically adjusts power consumption and is always on the lookout for opportunities to reduce power to unused parts of the system

Can You Run Old Programs on WOA?

In a word: no.

Previously we have detailed that WOA will not support any type of virtualization or emulation approach, and will not enable existing x86/64 applications to be ported or run.

That means your old programs must run on Intel/AMD Windows machines.  Or maybe you can publish them via RDP to WOA?

They also say:

In fact, WOA only supports running code that has been distributed through Windows Update along with the full spectrum of Windows Store applications … If you need to run existing x86/64 software, then you will be best served with Windows 8 on x86/64.

That will make management via Configuration Manager rather … interesting.  I wonder if there will be ties into the new store for software distribution?

The Build Windows blog article is a very long post.  I’ve written this while waiting for a meeting and I’m heading into it now.  There’s more detail and more on app development and hardware that you can read.

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2 thoughts on “Many Questions Answered By Microsoft About Windows on ARM, And More Asked”

  1. I like the single SKU approach and I totally agree that they must include all features needed for an excellent product in both personal & business use or they might have a DOA in the enterprise market. And frankly, the consumer also benefits greatly from features like BitLocker. Fear of losing some SKU/fetaure licensing revenue should not make ‘m drop the ball on their efforts to get a huge user base or they’ll end up with none.

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