Microsoft's Windows 8 on ARM features productivity tools and a focus on apps capable of challenging Apple's popular iPad franchise.
flurry of details from Microsoft about its upcoming Windows on ARM (for which
it uses the acronym WOA), at least two of them should give rival tablet makers
a little pause.
on ARM is being designed to offer users a lightweight and quick experience,
more reminiscent of an iPad than a desktop. A WOA PC will feel like a consumer
electronics device in terms of how it is used and managed, Steven Sinofsky,
president of Microsofts Windows and Windows Live division, wrote in a Feb. 9
posting on the corporate Building Windows 8 blog.
Microsoft fully intends the Windows ARM tabletsno matter how lightweight and
slimas full-fledged productivity devices. Within the Windows desktop, WOA
includes desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and
OneNote, code-named Office 15, Sinofsky added. WOA will be a no-compromise
product for people who want to have the full benefits of familiar Office
productivity software and compatibility.
issues the release version of Windows 8 sometime in late 2012, it will arrive
on a combination of x86 and ARM hardware. The operating system has been
designed for streamlined functionality on both tablets and traditional PCs: The
start-screen of colorful tiles linked to applications is eminently touchable
(all the better for tablets), and connects (via a single tap or click) to a
traditional Windows desktop with all the requisite tools for power users.
strokes, those plans have been visible to the rest of the tech community for
some time. However, the details of Windows on ARM proved more elusiveat least
until now. If the operating system proves viable as both an ultra-productivity
and a super-mobile platform, and if the retail price is right, it could make
Windows 8 a particularly strong rival in the tablet field.
dominance also hinges on a healthy app ecosystem. Microsoft is apparently
working on that, as well: Mobile broadband-class drivers, printer-class
drivers, GPS, sensors (accelerometer, rotation, gyro, compass and
magnetometer), and Bluetooth are all capabilities available to developers
creating Metro-style apps for Windows on ARM.
Sinofsky also cautioned in the blog posting: WOA will not support any type of
virtualization or emulation approach, and will not enable existing x86/64
applications to be ported or run. Virtualized or emulated software,
apparently, will result in excessive consumption of system resources like
battery life and CPU. If you need to run existing x86/64 software, then you
will be best serviced with Windows 8 on x86/64.
developers who wish to port existing apps onto WOA have a couple of options.
Many apps will be best served by building new Metro-style front ends for
existing data sources or applications, Sinofsky wrote, and communicating through
a Web services API. Those best served by this approach include
line-of-business applications and consumer Web properties.
potential solution centers on reusing large amounts of engine or runtime code,
and surround that with a Metro-style experience, something that, he cautioned,
would take some time.
rush to the WOA platform in large numbers, it could result in an app ecosystem
capable of challenging Apples App Store and Googles Android Marketplace. In
turn, combined with Office 15 and powerful hardware, that could make Windows
8 a true challenger. But a lot still depends on the ability of Microsoft (and
its hardware partners) to actually execute its plans in the real world.
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.