Microsoft planning to market Windows 8 ARM in a unique way, different naming?

By Tom Warren, on 17th Sep 11 11:11 am with 52 Comments

Steven Sinofsky at BUILD 2011

Microsoft will not support legacy x86 applications on Windows 8 ARM but how does the company plan to make end users aware?

One of the big questions from Microsoft’s BUILD conference is around the company’s ARM chipset support for Windows 8. Windows 8 ARM tablets were briefly flashed on stage but the company isn’t talking about when they’ll be available. Microsoft had a variety of vendors on show at its expo hall at BUILD but any Windows 8 ARM tablets were largely locked away. The lack of marketing for Windows 8 ARM had a number of analysts and media attendees asking questions.

Steven Sinofsky, chief of Windows and Windows Live, was forced to admit to financial analysts on Wednesday that typical x86 legacy desktop applications will not run on Windows 8 ARM. Sinofsky said the choice was to ensure the experience of battery life and other ARM benefits are fully supported in Windows 8. Microsoft also wants to shift ARM forwards to be Metro only and avoid some of the pitfalls of the x86 experience of Windows, viruses and malware.

Speaking during a press briefing on Monday, Sinofsky explained the decision to go Metro only on ARM to media and analysts. “We haven’t made any product announcements,” said Sinofsky, referring to Microsoft’s desktop app demo of Office 2010 on Windows 8 ARM in January. “The previous demonstrations were always technology demonstrations of the underlying architecture,” he said. “All of the apps for ARM are going to come through the store which means they’re all going to be metro style.” Answering another question on whether Windows 8 on ARM will only run Metro style applications, Sinofsky insisted “that is definitely the message to ISVs.” It’s clear that Microsoft wants to make a clean cut with ARM to ensure that developers focus on new Metro style apps that will run across a variety of systems and devices. “The size of their market is not ARM,” said Sinofsky about software developers. “The size of the market are all Windows 8 machines, that’s an important part of the understanding the message. Our Metro style applications are not only for 10″ slate devices, not only for machines with touch but it’s every machine that runs Windows 8.”

Sinofsky then went on to answer a question from an audience member on whether Windows 8 customers will be informed that their Windows 8 ARM machine will not run legacy Windows applications. Sinofsky, sensing the confusion of media and analysts, made his and Microsoft’s position clear. “I wanna make sure we don’t get in a situation where in a sense no matter what we say about ARM we’re doing the wrong thing. I feel like there’s a little bit of that going on in a sense,” he said. “OK if you do run everything then all of a sudden ARM is going to get saddled with all of this stuff that your competitive phone platforms don’t get saddled with. If you don’t run it then you’re closing off all of this old software that should be able to run. I hope you see that…it’s not clear what the right answer would have been.”

Sinofsky revealed that Microsoft will be very clear in its product marketing to ensure end users are aware that Windows 8 ARM will not run their old legacy x86 applications. “We are going to be very clear with how we name the product, what we talk about as the features and value proposition,” said Sinofsky. “It’s only to our advantage to not have confused customers.” He then went on to explain that Microsoft will not allow a world where a customer goes into a store and has to buy software in a red box for ARM and a green box for x86. “We won’t ever let that happen to a customer,” said Sinofsky. “We will be clear what the value proposition and what the software is capable and we’ll do that with all the communication tools at our disposal.”

The admission that Microsoft will be clear in how it names Windows 8 ARM could see the company create a unique name for its tablet offering. Microsoft has long been a fan of marketing its different Windows offerings under separate SKUs, think Tablet PC Edition or Media Center Edition. Could the separate Windows 8 ARM naming and separate from x86 apps also mean that the product arrives early though?

  • David Johnson

    Windows 8 Tablet Edition

    • Avatar Roku

      Can’t call it that because ultrabooks, netbooks and nettops will be using ARM, but won’t all be tablets.

    • Anonymous

      I love the sound of that.

    • Guest

      Windows anything is not going to work, because by definition people hear Windows and assume it will run Windows apps. They should call the tablet version Metro or something else. Make a clean break. They admit there’s baggage there. So dump the name.

  • Anonymous

    They should remove the old desktop completely in the ARM version.

    • Tom W

      Maybe but then I’d have to see Office 15 in Metro to see how it works first.

    • ZipZapRap

      Absolutely no reason why a full-fledged Office can’t be Metro only… or at least have a Metro extension.
      The desktop is going away. Windows 9 will probably be the OS that kills it. We are at an inflection point right now.

    • Anonymous

      The desktop can’t go away completely, now if the replacement is the start screen we see today. People still need to do serious computing.

    • Anonymous

      The desktop can go away in the ARM version. I’m not really a big fan of the “1 version of windows on PC’s laptops and tablets” idea .. I don’t believe your tablet should be a replica of your PC stuffed in a smaller contraption. A desktop PC is for when you sit on the desk and do some real work, a tablet is for when you’re on the go and want to get simple tasks done.

      They should kill the desktop in windows 8 completely for the ARM version, and give us an option to turn off the metro start screen on the PC version ..

    • Jeff Kibuule

      When an ARM tablet is hooked up to a mouse and keyboard, I’m not sure a user would prefer the Metro version of the app.

    • Anonymous

      If you’re going to buy a tablet to hook it up to a a screen with a mouse and keyboard to use it as a desktop, then you totally missed the point of tablets ..

    • Anonymous

      Not really, I only agree with that statement if you limit it to ARM-tablets

      Personally I imagine a future where we can have one tablet with us, and dock it into whatever system we need.

      If we want a laptop, we can dock it into a laptop keyboard with extra battery

      If we want a gaming computer, we can dock it into a desktop dock with a powerfull graphics solution. (The 32Gbit/s external PCI-E system that was announced some months ago should make this possible.)

      If we want a tablet we don’t dock it into anything.

    • Anonymous

      Your vision is pretty interesting to be honest. +1 for you.

      And yes, I was referring to ARM tablets, should’ve made that clear.

    • Guest

      That’s what I’d like to see too. Activity-based UI and functionality that’s user selectable and ideally intelligent (e.g. plug tablet into desktop base and UI optimizes for that context). Dumbed down only, like iPad, isn’t ideal. But forcing users to switch back and forth to accomplish a task, like the current DP, is schizophrenic and in some ways worse. MS has a lot of work in front of them to get this working better before beta.

    • Anonymous

      “The beauty of it is to have different devices for different tasks but still all integrate together very nicely and smoothly.”

      I disagree. I don’t want 3 different devices to handle 2 tasks. I have my phone…ok good that works for calling and organizing my life on the go. My computer doesn’t have to be locked down to the desk. Why can’t i bring a thin light tablet to a meeting to use to capture notes (pen input). Zip around on it with touch then head back to my desk to pop it into a cradle with a keyboard, mouse and hell even a bigger monitor (win 8 supports dual monitor) to do some hardcore excel work. I don’t know why we have to settle for less. Its a UI change. The same functunality can be achieved using a mouse and keyboard. All they’ve done is taken the icon blown it up in size and added some smarts to it with scrolling updates. Its the same crap just different location on the screen. People are freaking out cause its something different than what they are used to. The win7 status bar was a change to get used to with its pin function. Now its all i use (i don’t have any icons on my desktop). The only thing I can see they are missing is on the metro UI adding a right click function to the legacy office app of choice to open to pinned document/worksheet or whatever. I get the benefit of being able to see if I have email in outlook or what’s next on my calender..without having to open any application. I see this a big win.

    • Anonymous

      Why not just have the phone able to be docked and make it the only device we need ? Because a PC has more room for better hardwere. That’s what I had in mind when I was writing my comment, let tablets be tablets, and leave the ‘hardcore’ work for PC’s. Why ? Because they can offer better hardware. Having my tablet become my PC is nice, but it would be like I downgraded my PC ..

      That’s the issue I have with this whole idea, however if the future is like Zicoz imagined in the comment below, then that would fix everything.

    • Jeff Kibuule

      The benefit is that you have all of your data on the same device, so yes 99% of the time, a tablet is used with touch and the other 10% with a mouse and keyboard for “serious” work. Multiple devices requires an active internet connection to sync with the cloud, and outside your home, it’s hard to find a good, reliable, fast internet connection to do that.

    • Guest

      I’m trying to figure out what kind of job you have where serious + non serious work equals more than 100%, or where “serious” work is just 10% of your time?

    • Jeff Kibuule

      I’m talking about a personal computer you would buy from a store, not a business computer given to you. think of the iPad scenario where it’s mostly for fun and enjoyment, but you might check your corporate e-mail on it (if allowed) or look at some business documents on a plane (where it’s rather cramped laptop space) or view some stocks.

    • Scientific Bob

      “If you’re going to buy a tablet to hook it up to a a screen with a mouse and keyboard to use it as a desktop, then you totally missed the point of tablets ..”

      If you can’t see the benefit of walking around with a tablet that you can put on a stand/dock/whatever and hook up a mouse/keyboard and then transform it into a full blown pc, then you missed the point of hybrid devices.

      “And let me add, what bothers me is that people want to use tablets as pc’s, and phones as pc’s. I believe that ruins the beauty of the whole ecosystem. ”

      Why would I want to carry a smartphone, a tablet and a laptop while also having a desktop at home while I could have all 4 in one device?

      “Not have all the devices do the same tasks, that kind of beats the purpose ..      ”

      I hope you realise that by “purpose” you actually really mean “what steve jobs thinks should be the purpose”.  I couldn’t give a SHIT what that guy has to say about devices.
      I want a tablet with 3G that can be converted into a laptop or desktop.  And I don’t give a shit what Jobs thinks about that.

    • ZipZapRap

      Yes it can. Because the desktop as it is now doesn’t load until YOU as the user tells it to. Metro isn’t a shell.

    • Anonymous

      I’m not saying it’s not technically possible to remove the desktop, I’m saying that they can’t remove it completely in Windows 9 because that will ruin the OS for those that wants to do serious work on it.

      For people who are working with multiple programs at once the desktop is ALOT more effective then the Metro part of Windows 8.

    • ZipZapRap

      Unless in Windows 9, Metro will enable you to shift windows around ala a desktop experience, but without the desktop.

    • Scientific Bob

      “Absolutely no reason why a full-fledged Office can’t be Metro only”

      Eum…  Are you kidding?  Take a loot at the word ribbon.  Take one ribbon group.  It holds about 5-6 commands.  Now put your thumb on that group.  As you can see, if it were a touch screen, you’ld be pressing all 5 commands. 

      “The desktop is going away”

      No, it’s not. And I really don’t see how it ever could. Unless I’m missing something, NOTHING comes close to the precision of a mouse and the speed of typing on a keyboard.

      The desktop only goes away for the people who are happy with a machine that allows for webbrowsing and playing angry birds. For everbody else – mostly those that actually use their pc to get some work done – not really. Not at all.

      Metro applications are TOUCH FIRST.
      BIG buttons, BIG fonts and controls far apart (to allow for fat finger control).

      As a result, ANY application with a large number of commands to expose is unsuitable for metro style. 

      I’m positive we’ll see a metro word and powerpoint.  I’m even more positive that these versions will be seriously dumbed down.  it can’t be any other way.

      “Windows 9 will probably be the OS that kills it”

      100.000 bucks says that it won’t.

    • Techy8789

      Or ArmWin.  iWin would make Microsoft fall prey to Apple

    • Anonymous

      It was meant to be a joke, I guess I should’ve added a smiley to it. :)

      It was sort of a mix up between the I-Apple, and Paul Thurrotts tweet “Hello Windows 8, this is the iPad. You win”

    • Scientific Bob

      Impossible.  The “desktop” that you see on your screen is just a gui layer on top of the windows core – just like metro.  They both use the same core.  In win8, you can’t remove one without crippling the other.

  • Manish

    I have been using Windows8 Preview on my desktop.  I feel that MS should have one version optimized for Desktop with mouse and keyboard and other for touch screen devices

    • Bas Koene

      Yeah agreed. The new Start menu is not really what I want on my desktop.

    • rsgx

      I can see it getting in the way in a productive environment to start off with, but there will be ways around it, so that it doesn’t.

  • Anonymous

     well it has some logic. yeah it would have been nice if ARM could run x86 apps, but i think there are alot of apps that really aren’t necessary in these ARM tablets. it would have been just a waste of resources and time to see how you could implement something like that.

    in my case i thought about videogames, but obviously not even something like guildwars 1 would have ran any good in a ARM tablet. so i wonder who would get an ARM tablet over a x86 one? well that would depend on anyone needs
    anyway, im liking this windows 8 in my desktop, and then i can honestly careless about arm version of windows, because will get more with x86. and i like how new start menu feels like and how it works with my mouse and keyboard. yeah it needs to improve alot thing but right now, it feels amazing! so i cant wait for next build, to see what new stuff, Metro UI is going to bring.

    • Jeff Kibuule

      I’m not sure there are any x86 apps that are a) touch friendly or b) tablet friendly. They’d kill battery life and the whole point of running on ARM. You’d then have to consider that ARM tablets would be doing ISA translation, which is rather CPU-intensive. Plus, running legacy apps means you really need to start worrying about old viruses and spyware on your machine (and in some cases, the new anti-virus protection may not handle it).

      However, making all apps go through the store cuts down on the malware and provides a single point of sale for consumers to purchase apps. Those who want to run legacy apps will have the ability to purchase x86 tablets, but I suspect that because of the benefits of ARM, most will prefer those tablets instead.

    • Robin Ashe

      I find the biggest advantage to ARM not supporting legacy apps is it is extra incentive for developers to update their apps to use Metro, so that users quickly get to benefit from having everything in Metro, rather than a disjointed Metro/Desktop experience depending on the apps they use.

      I think Apple had a similar reason for cutting Rosetta from Lion – Lion introduced some new features which apps had to be recoded for, if the old PPC or Universal apps didn’t work, devs would finally have to update them, and might as well do it with the new APIs.

  • Eingoluq

    courier….yuk yuk.

  • Guest

    After a little test with Windows 8, this new Metro interface seems to be useless in a desktop PC. They should make 2 OS, one for the tablet, and one for the desktop PC but for the moment, I idn’t like to use this new interface with my mouse.

  • Anonymous

    My dream of future computing would be to have a cell phone sized device capable  of being able to dock into in form factor, automatically presenting the user interface that is appropriate for the dock. i.e. a Desktop interface when a mouse and keyboard are present, an interface designed for 7″-12″ touch environments, when dock in a tablet with no mouse present, and a interface designed for small screens when it is not docked at all.  

  • oolong2

     I guess it’s an Intel based multi-touch tablet for me….

    Sorry but I want my cake and eat it too :-/

  • George Sabourin

    Windows 8 Home, Professional, ARM and Enterprise.
    Home = Home Premium like in 7
    Professional = Mixing the features of Ultimate and Professional
    ARM = Self-explanatory
    Enterprise = Buisness/Start-Menu default.

    • Guest

      But ARM isn’t self-explanatory. Basically you have:

      Windows ARM – no x86 apps, no Metro apps unless developers embrace it
      Windows Intel (tablet) - x86 apps that even MS admits aren’t well suited to tablets, and no Metro apps unless developers embrace it
      Windows Intel (desktop, notebook) – x86 apps that are critical. Metro of little value.

  • Anonymous

    Welcome: WINDOWS METRO – The future of Windows

  • Avatar X

    Not final yet. Regardless of what Sinofsky is intentionally hinting. Previously all pointed that there would be a away to run App in ARM even if unchanged. What is probable is that they are doubting about they being anywhere near ready for Windows for ARM release in 2012 Q2.

    • Guest

      Then MS can kiss goodbye to the tablet market for good. Because the only hope of undercutting Apple on price and meeting their battery life near term is via ARM, not INTC.

      I’m starting to wonder what they’ve accomplished with this ARM move. Because it’s got to have chewed up a lot of their resources in porting, etc. and now it looks like those machine will be paper weights unless developers buy into Metro big time.

    • Avatar X

      Nah, everything will be fine.

  • Guest

    May be chARM?

  • TimetoreallystartbuyingAAPL

    So let’s see. Windows ARM will be Windows, except that it won’t run Windows software because Sinofsky now admits that on balance that’s negative baggage that would make it uncompetitive versus iOS and Android. Which appears to question the logic of not adopting something like WP7 in the first place and thereby not giving Apple and Google two years with the market to themselves while MS waited for W8. Anyway, this Windows for tablets, which doesn’t run the apps that for most people define Windows will therefore have no built-in draw beyond the UI unless MS is successful in getting developers to embrace Metro. And the carrot they’re waving to developers is the fact that Metro will also run on Windows Intel. Except that most of those running Windows Intel aren’t tablet users and therefore will mostly want to turn off Metro. And all this potential for a platform that’s DOA and causes customer confusion will be sorted out by MS’s vaunted marketing department, which brought you Kin and who couldn’t even explain what “Vista ready” meant?

    Did I miss anything?

    • Scientific Bob

      “Did I miss anything?”

      Yes.  In fact, you missed everything.

      This has nothing to do with “baggage” or “legacy” and everything with compatability.
      You can’t run x86 software on ARM platforms.  Durrrrr.

  • Robin Ashe

    Windows 8 Go. nVidia already set the naming up with the GeForce Go series, which were lower powered mobile GPUs. There’s also some decent marketing they could work in with that, saying that it’s for “Grab and Go” computing.

    To make the naming clear (and just because it would be convenient anyway) they should reduce the number of SKUs, perhaps only having Home and Professional for x86 (and Enterprise for volume license purchases).

  • Guest

    “OK if you do run everything then all of a sudden ARM is going to get saddled with all of this stuff that your competitive phone platforms don’t get saddled with. If you don’t run it then you’re closing off all of this old software that should be able to run. I hope you see that…it’s not clear what the right answer would have been.”

    The right answer would have been to:

    a) anticipate this obvious dilemma and determined why it still made sense to do *before* deciding to port to ARM.

    b) having decided to port to ARM, at a minimum allow x86 on ARM through virtualization. Otherwise, Windows ARM is a platform without Windows apps or backward compatibility.

  • Techy8789


  • Scientific Bob

    All the people not getting the software compatability issue between win8 arm and x86…

    The point here is that you can’t just grab an installer for an x86 platform and use it on an ARM platform. 
    The code of those projects need to be recompiled (and probably changed a little here and there – especially in case of native languages like C++, probably not for .NET software) to target an ARM architecture.

    This is LOGICAL and anyone expecting any other way needs to learn about computers.

  • Loqierie

    W8-ARM doesn’t really stand a chance against the likes of iOS & Android in tablets, it will probably suffer the same fate as WP7.

    The only chance MS has in mobile is W8-x86 because they can usher all their existing users into Metro with the backwards compatibility of the old desktop experience. So at this point MS must be relying heavily on Intel finally getting their CPU’s in order to compete with ARM. Luckily both companies are in a very do or die situation so both have alot of incentive.

    • Rotatingalias

      WP7′s fate has yet to be determined. Ditto Arm W8′s.