Windows 8 tablet experience will run on ARM and x86 with Windows 7 Mode

By Tom Warren, on 18th May 11 9:42 am with 24 Comments

Windows 8 at CES 2011

Intel revealed on Tuesday that Microsoft’s next-generation Windows tablet experience will run on Intel and ARM chips.

Speaking at an Intel investor meeting on Tuesday, Renee James explained that Windows 8 will be available in versions for both x86 and ARM. James revealed there will be a Windows 8 Traditional flavour that will run on Intel’s chips and handle legacy applications. Microsoft is also planning a Windows 7 mode as part of the traditional SKU. “[Windows 8 traditional] means that our customers, or anyone who has an Intel-based or an x86-based product, will be able to run either Windows 7 mode or Windows 8 mode,” she said to The Register. “They’ll run all of their old applications, all of their old files – there’ll be no issue.”

James also revealed that on ARM chips there will be a “new experience” geared around mobile computing and tablet devices. The ARM space will have no support for legacy applications, “Our competitors will not be running legacy applications. Not now. Not ever.” Intel claims that it’s also able to run the new Windows 8 experience. “We’ll kind of have the best of both worlds. So we think we’re extraordinarily well-positioned in Windows 8,” said James.

“We’ve been working for the last couple of years – very, very focused – on Windows 8,” she said. “I’m very excited about it. We’ve been working on it for a long time. There’s a lot of exciting new features and things about it that I think are going to be great for users, great for the PC and tablet industry.”

James’ comments were also mirrored in a Bloomberg report on Tuesday. Microsoft will create multiple versions of its next Windows operating system that work on ARM chips. WinRumors revealed a number of different Windows 8 ARM versions last month. Microsoft held a special press event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January to introduce a technology preview of Microsoft’s Windows ARM support and show off an early build of Windows 8. The company is partnering with ARM-based manufactures NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments to produce new Tablet devices.

Microsoft is currently working on a Windows 8 “immersive” tablet user experience. However, the company may introduce Windows 8 ARM based tablets ahead of a full desktop release. Microsoft’s competitive tablet strategy is believed to be further along than expected. Dell’s recently leaked Tablet Roadmap revealed that the OEM has marked Q1 2012 as its date for a Windows 8 based slate.

  • http://madebyplast.com Chun Yin

     I’m not sure whether I like the idea that the same ‘Windows 8 experience’ can support legacy applications on devices running Intel chips, but not on ARM chips. It’ll just make it confusing for consumers potentially fragment the platform. 

    • http://twitter.com/ondraster Ondra Moravek

      Well it is quite simple – you can’t run without huge perfomance loss x86 apps on ARM, and since there were no Windows desktop on ARM before, there is no reason to have support for legacy applications – as there are none ;D. 

    • Flarw

      I like the idea of legacy software on a tablet for Windows 8 because that´s the only way to run software like Photoshop, or Autocad on a tablet.
      And believe. That´s the future for this work also, not ony casual stuff like in the ipad.

      Also, if you don´t want legacy software on your Windows tablet, that means that you don´t need any special aplicaction, so you have a ARM version for you.

      I think it´s the better way to aproach the tablet market.

      The ipad is a toy. 

    • Mark

      Yeah, it’s nice to have the option. That’s why I don’t get their ARM story for W8. What apps will it run? WP7 ones only? Other? It seems they could have done something creative, like maybe putting up a legacy apps Windows service on Azure and allowed W8 ARM users to access that through some sort of remote desktop or browser plugin. 

    • Hars

      first, Windows 8 on ARM will be (for me) the beast aproach for a tablet.

      The ipad/android tablets are a toy. It´s the SAME operating system that I have on my pocket. That could be ok for my mother, but if I want to do something only a bit serious it´s a joke.

      I think a tablet must have a OS that is something more that the one I have in my pocket, and less that the one I have on my desktop.

       Having a system file to organice my documents, have INK support - handwritting recognition, wacom styulus -so you can rest your hand on the screen-, Office at full experience, etc,…

      That´s stuff you can do on a Windows 8 ARM tablet better than on an iPad or Android tablet.

      Also you will have access to applicactions for consume media and content, touch aplications, etc…

      For me the difference is.

      If you want the same operating system that you have in your pocket, with the same limitations BUT in a size that it´s the same as a laptop , buy an iPad/Android tab…. I think this is NOT the way to go.

      But if you want a TRUE computer experience prepare for TOUCH, then buy a Windows 8 ARM tablet.

      You know. People say Windows 7 is not the OS for a tablet because it´s not prepare for touch. It´s true. It´s not the best option unless you want to run software like Photohop or Autocad on it.

      But, THAT DOESN´T MEAN that the best aproach for a tablet is running THE SAME operating system that i have on my mobile.

      Yes. That OS is ready for touch. But it lacks a  lot of fuctions that I want on a devide that has the same size of my netbook/laptom (10″, 12″)

      Right now. I think theres a lot of people with mac book air and ipads…. Both of them….¿Don´t you think it can be a OS that merge this two concepts so I don´t need to choose if I will need my laptop or I want the easy experience of my ipad?

      I believe, Windows 8 on ARM is the answer for that.

      The best OS for a device like a tablet.

    • Bburke33609

      Everything I’ve heard is that Legacy apps only means Win32. .Net and XNA are what windows 8 development is going to be based on. So .Net and XNA apps would pretty much just need to have the interface reworked which could be a minor or a major issue and you would have an arm compatible app. .NET is pretty widely used so I think this legacy statement might sound like a much bigger deal than it really is especially if OEMs start using arm for the desktop laptop space also.

  • http://twitter.com/srkain Stef Kastamonitis

    I fear another Vista. It might just be an information overload, but it seems that microsoft is rushing things way too much and trying to please a wide, and sometimes contrasting, spectrum of users. I think it should learn from Apple on this, leaving Windows 8 for computers and on some sort of Windows Phone 8 for smartphones and tablets maybe upping Apple by making those portable devices totally independent from a pc client like Zune for Microsoft or iTunes for Apple. 

  • Cluvius

    Interesting news. For a good compilation of Windows 8 news you might also have a look at http://www.martin-nothnagel.net/blog/2011/04/windows-8-my-compilation-of-interesting-news/?lang=en It is a really condensed overview of all news around Windows 8 and worth a read. 

  • Danny

    This is much needed. Hopefully, Windows 8 mode will have a new app model that will keep apps and the OS completely separate. This should greatly increase security and long term stability and performance. Going forward, apps will be written to Windows 8 mode and then this will eventually become the new norm. There will be a transition period, but long term, this should result in a much better platform and experience for all. I can’t wait!

    • BucksterMcgee

      Yeah, I think all the leaks point to the same conclusion, where the new app store will be host to single file install manage code apps, just like smartphones, based off of silverlight, xna, etc, that will be able to run on any version of Windows 8.

      Also, if codename Apollo really means that Windows Phone will merge with Windows 8 in 2012, then these same mange code apps would also run on Windows Phone with little or no change to the code. And, if the rumors about Xbox running silverlight apps are true as well, then those same apps could be tweaked to run on the Xbox as well.

      While the x86/x64 platforms will still stay around for heavy applications such as video and graphic editors, the average consumer doesn’t want to think about such things, they just want be able to click their download button, and run their apps. Manage code app’s allows for this, as well as allows the same apps to run accross a myriad of device, big and small. 

      Write once, Run anywhere.

  • http://www.rwalrond.com RWalrond

    And then Microsoft introduces, x86 in the cloud and Intel is speechless. :)

    When you think about this, Windows can remotely run an application from a server today and make it look like it’s running seamlessly on the desktop. So who’s to say that won’t be the solution for these mobile ARM devices? I’d be worried if my plan to stay relevent in the mobile space is based on legacy non mobile applications.

    • Ardi

       You dumb, you think cloud technology is just behind the wall of your room!! you are wrong we are still too far from full cloud solution.
      It just seems that ARM using less power that Intel x86, that’s all. x86 is much much superior!!

      Most of applications(I can say all) we use today are x86 based, can you live without them or keep all your data on risky cloud computers in some place around world, nope, x86 is winner and cloud needs more standards…

    • http://www.rwalrond.com RWalrond

      Prehaps you should spend some time with some Microsoft Technology before you call somone dumb. My comment made no mention of keeping data on the cloud, I made reference to running your applications from a cloud server most likely using existing WTS technology that is “just behind my wall(firewall)”.

      Today I write and use applications that take advantage of the cloud, you would have to be “dumb” if you choose to sit in a corner and ignore trends all around you.

      Can I live without the x86 (non .NET) applications that I use today? Nope, I can’t but perhaps these low powered ARM devices are not for me. But if you open your eyes and your mind, you will see that there are other people around you, that may get along just well without non native code applications.

  • http://profiles.google.com/carlosrfonseca Carlos Ribeiro da Fonseca

     So the “Office running on an ARM box” demo was fake?

    I thought that Windows 8 would support both ARM and x86 and that one could run the same apps on both platforms (that isn’t, in fact, news, that was one of the original features of Windows NT).

    Change of plans?

    • Luis3007

      I imagine Office 2012 will be further partitioned in 32/64 bit and appx format (with Win7 compatibility) for the PC and ARM appx format (without Win7 compatibility) for the tablet. 

    • zzz

      No. ARM version of W8 (or W7) apps will just need to be compiled for ARM architecture.  I can imagine we could also see “dual” mode binaries that are actually x86 and ARM versions packaged into one file.  Apple did something similar when they switched over from ppc to Intel.

      What the Intel said is nothing new. In trying to tell people that x86 will have legacy Windows support without any need to recompile (which is obvious), they are just confusing people.

    • Paul

      The x86 and ARM platforms aren’t binary compatible. The same way MS had to port the OS, developers would beed to port their apps.  

  • Anonymous

    I must admitt some of the things said here makes me a bit confused. I thought that the tablet experiense was simply a shell replacement, and that one would be able to switch back and forth as one pleases, but this makes me think that if you won’t be able to do this.

    What what’s Windows 8 mode? Will there be 3 modes? Tablet, Windows 7 and Windows 8?

    • Luis3007

      MS seems to be taking a new diverging path, just like it did wen it introduced full 32-bit apps. Windows 8 in PCs will have a new app package based on the appx format (Silverlight, HTML 5, XNA, etc) while keeping a Windows 7 compatibility mode for all apps (and games) written before the new format.

      Meanwhile Windows 8 in tablet will have the same appx format with the Metro UI and no Windows 7 compatibility mode.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I’m just a bit confused about what Microsoft is going to do, today there are two versions of Windows.

      Windows Desktop and Windows Phone, and they keep on saying that Microsofts solution for the tablet is Windows, so I guess they’ll now add a third separate edition in Windows Tablet, which is great for the mass market, I guess I was just hoping I’d be able to pick up my Windows Tablet at home, bring it with me to work and plug it in a dock there and have it act as a full desktop there. 

      Microsoft is in a very special situation where they could mix this in with their server solutions to really offer some unique posibilities.

    • Luis3007

      MS seems to be taking a new diverging path, just like it did wen it introduced full 32-bit apps. Windows 8 in PCs will have a new app package based on the appx format (Silverlight, HTML 5, XNA, etc) while keeping a Windows 7 compatibility mode for all apps (and games) written before the new format.

      Meanwhile Windows 8 in tablet will have the same appx format with the Metro UI and no Windows 7 compatibility mode.

  • Rmcrys

    I imagine there will be a new “Windows 8″ model that makes the present UI and programming old, and stabilishes a model that could be as easy to encode do x86 as to ARM.

    I believe Windows 8 will have a much more “touch”-oriented UI, very DPI scalable to fit both mobile and huge screens, including much more hardware acceleration thru common APIs on both ARM and x86 architectures.

    The Windows 7 compatibility only makes sense on x86 as apps were designed to it + old mouse-oriented UI and emulation on ARM is absolutely impossible. So…in the end if you have no need to use present apps you can buy an ARM Windows 8. If you need present apps you ought to buy a x86 Windows 8. Apps should be the same. Either way, ARM (on phones/tablets/netbooks) is much more energy efficient and much more powerful graphics.

    • Hars

       windows 8 will have independent resolution.

      So I suposse all windows 8 tablets will run also all the WIndows Phone aplications without need to re-scale the app (remember what happen with the iPad when it runs iPhone 3GS App, so the developers need to create a HD version of the app. That´s why the put a screen with the same resolution of the iPad in the iPhone 4, because that way you don´t have to create 2 versions of the App, one in HD and the other in normal resolution. But that´s patch. The real way to solve this problem is having “independent resolution”)

  • Rmcrys

    I imagine there will be a new “Windows 8″ model that makes the present UI and programming old, and stabilishes a model that could be as easy to encode do x86 as to ARM.

    I believe Windows 8 will have a much more “touch”-oriented UI, very DPI scalable to fit both mobile and huge screens, including much more hardware acceleration thru common APIs on both ARM and x86 architectures.

    The Windows 7 compatibility only makes sense on x86 as apps were designed to it + old mouse-oriented UI and emulation on ARM is absolutely impossible. So…in the end if you have no need to use present apps you can buy an ARM Windows 8. If you need present apps you ought to buy a x86 Windows 8. Apps should be the same. Either way, ARM (on phones/tablets/netbooks) is much more energy efficient and much more powerful graphics.