Feeds

Microsoft: No Windows 8 ARM support for x86 apps

Linguistic jujitsu over ARM’s second class status

Boost IT visibility and business value

Despite prior hints – and a Redmond developer conference that was all about app compatibility – Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky has said that software for x86 Windows 8 systems will not run on ARM architecture.

For months, Redmond has promised that any code that ran on Windows 7 would run on Windows 8, with the expectation for many this included compatibility with ARM systems. But in a meeting Wednesday with financial analysts – transcribed on Microsoft's website – Sinofsky dashed these expectations. He insisted this wasn't a retreat from previous stances since Windows 7 doesn’t run on ARM systems, something that came as a surprise to the analyst asking the question.

It’s going to be a surprise for a lot of other people too. Just yesterday, Steve Ballmer was promising that on Windows 8’s launch there would be 500 million systems capable of running the OS, making it the world’s largest software market. What he chose not to mention was that the lack of compatibility for Windows 8 on ARM will mean significant developer time has to be spent porting applications for system on a chip (SOC) devices, relegating it to very much second class status among developers and consumers.

No doubt, Intel is also feeling a certain sense of vindication. In May, Intel software chief Renée James told investors that legacy Windows apps would not run on ARM platforms. Microsoft took the unusual step of publicly criticizing James, calling her statements “inaccurate and unfortunately misleading,” but declining to be specific.

In his briefing, Sinofsky said that battery life was a particular issue for applications running on ARM SOC hardware, and there were significant downsides to ensuring compatibility between these and x86 systems. Instead, he spun this as an opportunity for developers to make money on both markets, rather than a form of coding apartheid.

“If we allow the world of x86 application support like that, or based on what we call desktop apps in our start yesterday, then there are real challenges in some of the value proposition for system on a chip," he said. "You know, will battery life be as good, for example? Well, those applications aren't written to be really great in the face of limited battery constraints, which is a value proposition of the Metro style apps.”

“So, we have to be careful that we don't remove the value proposition for those applications. On the other hand, people would say, 'Oh, but you have to let them run because then there's that whole ecosystem.' And then if we do let them run, we just brought the perceived negatives of some of the ecosystem. So, people say, great, now it's easy to port viruses and malware and we'll port those.”

Later in the same meeting, Ballmer estimated that around 5 to 10 per cent of Windows 8 users would be using keyboardless systems, expected to be the prime vehicle for ARM hardware. That said, the Samsung fondleslab Microsoft gave out to attendees of its BUILD conference lacks a keyboard but carries the same x86 hardware specification as a top-flight laptop. Faced with running most Microsoft code or settling for what gets ported to ARM, it’s clear which most buyers, and developers, will choose. ®

Update: This story has been updated to make it clear that Microsoft says x86 Windows apps will not run on the ARM version of Windows 8.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
PEAK LANDFILL: Why tablet gloom is good news for Windows users
Sinofsky's hybrid strategy looks dafter than ever
Fiendishly complex password app extension ships for iOS 8
Just slip it in, won't hurt a bit, 1Password makers urge devs
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.