Sinofsky shows off Windows 8 on ARM and Office15
Microsoft aims for separate but equal
Windows boss Stephen Sinofsky has ended months of speculation with the first (fairly) detailed drilldown into Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) platform, and says it should be ready for a simultaneous launch with its x86/64 counterpart.
Devices running WOA will come with both a Metro touch-based interface and the more traditional desktop, and will run Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote applications with full document compatibility with x86/64 systems. Photo sharing, calendar, mail, storage and contact applications will also be the same as on ARM and x86/64. But that’s it for compatibility – all other apps on WOA have to be Metro-style WinRT and come via the Windows Store.
Office 15 Excel will be compatible with your desktop
Virtualized code on the platform is out too. The process of running emulators for x86/64 applications was far too battery and processor-heavy, and too unstable Sinofsky said, so they would have to be built in an entirely new style. That said, Microsoft said it is making life as easy as possible for developers to compile WinRT applications in Visual Studio.
“If we enabled the broad porting of existing code we would fail to deliver on our commitment to longer battery life, predictable performance, and especially a reliable experience over time,” he said. “The conventions used by today’s Windows apps do not necessarily provide this, whether it is background processes, polling loops, timers, system hooks, startup programs, registry changes, kernel mode code, admin rights, unsigned drivers, add-ins, or a host of other common techniques.”
Metro-only on most WOA apps
WOA will come with Internet Explorer 10, support for HTML5 , hardware accelerated graphics and also makes greater use of integrated hardware subsystems for more power efficiency. Sinofsky claimed this would make multitasking, such as playing a movie and reading a document, much more power efficient.
Power is the key the whole deal. WOA devices aren’t designed to be switched on and off, but left in standby, for weeks it is claimed. Sinofsky stressed how closely Redmond was working with Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments to develop these devices – almost exclusively fondleslabs one would imagine - that can match what’s on the market today, with the iPad the obvious target.
The first devices should be in the hands of a few, pre-picked developers next month and Office 15 is already out to a similar group of Microsoft testers. The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is also due out next month, and Sinofsky pointed out the name change from “beta” was because, to some companies (no names mentioned,) the meaning of the term beta as "testing release available for free to try out," seemed to have changed.
Microsoft is stressing that the two different styles will be distinctly branded to avoid consumer confusion and would have standardized connections via USB 3.0 and Bluetooth. The clunky units in the blog video will be replaced with fondleslabs designed around “industrial design, long battery life, and integrated quality,” Sinofsky promised. ®
If this works well
Intel should be afraid.
A re-written windows without bloat but with all the office compatibility on ARM could be very interesting. Office clients tend to be under the 4gb level so 64bit isn't a huge deal and bigger ARM chips are on their way.
While office on pure tablet probably isn't a massive draw, getting a transformer-type device which happens to be able to double as a light laptop with full MSOffice could be compelling enough to get significant market share via corporate purchasing. Windows on tablet also takes away momentum towards android and linux on the tablet (and desktop).
It might also have big implications for the VDI crowd. I wonder what the relative costs of headless ARM vs VMware are? It will be interesting to see if this will play out as a defensive move by MS to stave off interest in other OS's or if they will try for Apple's fat profit margin.
Of course, this assume MS can execute well. It is possible that the complexity of Windows and Office is just too great to work well on ARM and may lead to a disappointing experience.
"I don't see how this is going to end well for MS"
Well, I think that's because you haven't considered the wider picture. In case you hadn't noticed there is a trend towards ARM (or at least, seeking lower power) across the whole IT industry now. It's no longer just mobile platforms where ARM matters now.
Microsoft *have* to respond to that. They probably need to get Windows Server and Desktop on ARM too just to survive. What we're seeing here with WOA and tablets is clear evidence that MS are positioning the whole product line to be ready for the x86->ARM transition. Sure, what we've seen here is limited, won't run everything, but the constraints are now "artificial" (purely for the sake of battery life), not technical.
It is not so hard to imagine that they could role out a desktop / server orientated version (where there is at least mains power to use) without too much difficulty. Remember that Linux is already there, and whilst MS haven't worried too much about the Penguin on desktops, Tux does do extremely well in server land. MS make money on servers too, and they want to carry on doing so I'm sure.
It seems clearer that there are going to be many sources of hardware - TI, Qualcomm and NVidia are involved - so there would seem not to be a grave prospect of hardware lock in. A bit like the PC market. And that can only be good for consumers. There maybe a good prospect of desktop ARM hardware sooner rather than later. There already is ARM server hardware at HP.
As for performance, I think that the days of ARM being too slow are already gone. And if you don't think they are, the quad core 2GHz 64bit DDR3 parts that are being talked up now should address your concerns. I mean, it's not that long ago that people were dreaming of such performance in their desktops! The smartphone revolution has shown that there is plenty of performance in ARM, and plenty more to come.
I won't be buying it.
It's Android tablets for me.
These look to be locked down tight, too. It will be interesting to see if they take off. And of course anything to avoid having to talk about the mess that is WP7 at MWC.