Feeds

Microsoft: No Windows 8 ARM support for x86 apps

Linguistic jujitsu over ARM’s second class status

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Google opens Inbox – email for people too thick to handle email
Print this article out and give it to someone tech-y if you get stuck
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Entity Framework goes 'code first' as Microsoft pulls visual design tool
Visual Studio database diagramming's out the window
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.