Back in September, there was controversy as to whether Microsoft planned to allow "Desktop" (non-Metro) apps to run on Windows 8 ARM-based tablets. But I was told they would, and, indeed, the Softies and partners showed off the Desktop app on ARM tablets at the Build conference.
However, if my Windows Weekly co-host Paul Thurrott is right, Microsoft has rethought that plan and is leaning toward cutting the Desktop from Windows 8 ARM tablets. That would mean only Metro-style apps would be supported on that platform. (Thurrott just dropped that bomb while we were taping Windows Weekly on December 1.)
If Microsoft does do away with the Desktop App on ARM, it also would mean -- unless Microsoft also changes its strategy for x86/x64-based Windows 8 tablets -- that Windows 8 will be different on different hardware. The Developer Preview Samsung tablets Microsoft gave to attendees of its Build conference include the Desktop app, which allows non-Metro, legacy apps to work on these machines.
I don't hate the idea that Microsoft might pull the plug on the Desktop App on Windows 8 ARM tablets. In fact, I think it's the right thing to do if Microsoft and its partners want to position ARM-based Windows tablets as more of a true iPad competitor.
Microsoft doesn't need to be all things to all people. Windows 8 is the first time Microsoft will have Windows running on ARM, so why not use that as a place to cut the cord and support only new "modern" apps on that platform? Even if Microsoft did go ahead with its plan to offer Desktop App on Windows 8 ARM tablets, it wouldn't run existing Windows x86/x64 apps. Developers still were going to have to rewrite them.
Thurrott didn’t know whether Microsoft still plans to support the Desktop App on ARM-based Windows 8 notebooks; his information was generically about ARM-based Windows 8 versions, which he took to mean "tablets." It's unclear if this refers to both tablets and notebooks.
I've asked Microsoft if the Windows team will confirm (or deny) Thurrott's report. No word back so far (and I'll be surprised if there is any update here).