Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

Summary: Windows 8 Metro-style apps and Desktop apps are going to offer two different experiences. But both kinds of apps are going to be available on both x86/x64 and ARM PCs and tablets.

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I've heard numerous folks who attended Build in person and/or via Webcasts say that there will be no Desktop app experience when Windows 8 ships on PCs and tablets running on ARM processors. Until today, I thought the same. But this is not correct.

Microsoft officials have been saying for months that existing x86 applications won't just run on Windows on ARM; they will need to be recompiled. Microsoft is hoping and expecting that the majority of devs will go to the trouble of "Metro-izing" their apps while they are recompiling them to run on Windows 8 on ARM. However, that is guidance, and not a requirement.

I saw a screen shot of the Win 8 ARM tablets being shown at Build that was sporting a Desktop tile over at ThisIsMyNext. It looks just like the Start screen on Windows 8 on the Intel i5-based Samsung tablets given to Build attendees (a screen shot of which is below, courtesy of my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott). Tapping the Desktop tile/accessing the Desktop "app" takes a user to the classic Windows mode.

(click on image to enlarge)

This is NOT a temporary thing. The user interface (with the desktop mode as well as Metro) is going to be consistent across both X86 and ARM infrastructures. To repeat, the Desktop tile and experience will exist on both Windows 8 on x86/x64 and ARM hardware when Windows 8 is out (presumably next year).

Part of the reason for all this confusion is Windows 8's terminology, in my opinion. The "Desktop App" in Windows 8 is the classic Windows 7 mode. Not all Metro-style apps are going to be consumer apps, nor are all business/enterprise apps going to run in the Desktop App mode. Business apps -- whether they're written in HTML5/JavaScript or in C++, C#, Visual Basic and/or using XAML -- can adopt the Metro look and feel. And consumer apps can technically be Windows 8 Desktop apps.

Microsoft officials are still not saying definitively whether only Metro-style apps will be featured in the coming Windows 8 store, or if Desktop apps will be downloadable from that store, too. My understanding, post-Build, was that Desktop applications would not be physically downloadable (or Microsoft security-certified, like Metro-style apps will be) from the Windows Store. Instead, Desktop Apps would be available via links in the store, but purchasable directly from the developers' own sites, according to show scuttlebutt.

Microsoft isn't commenting on this or clarifying this issue (I asked).

Update: My understanding was correct. Even though Microsoft wouldn't comment, a reader pointed me to the session on the Microsoft Store from Build with clarification on this topic. (Starts at around the 35 minute mark in the video). According to that information, Metro apps are protected by an account-based (not a machine based) licensing model that is limited to a set number of machines (5) .  Users will be able to access app trials, buy/download Metro-style apps, license them, have them serviced through the Store.

But according to session presenter Ted Dworkin, a Partner Director of Program Management on the Windows Web Services team, Desktop apps will be able to be promoted -- if they "meet our Desktop App certification requirements" -- and will be discoverable via the Windows 8 store. Windows 8 Desktop Apps will be neither licensable nor downloadable (i.e., able to take advantage of the Windows 8 "fulfillment service") from the Store. Instead, Microsoft will only provide a link to the Windows Store for Desktop Apps on Windows 8 on x86/x64 and ARM.

Topics: Software, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Processors, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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89 comments
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  • Any news on a desktop IE

    for ARM?
    Michael Alan Goff
    • METRO should be a separate tablet OS

      METRO and desktop OS should be decoupled rather than mixed together. It feels like buying a car and the dealer insist you take on extra bundled up packages in order to get certain features. I don't like what they are planning with Win8.
      LBiege
      • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

        @LBiege

        So if I want a tablet, I should give up on doing some of the things I have to do? Why would I want to do that? Why should they make another iPad?
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

        "So if I want a tablet, I should give up on doing some of the things I have to do?"

        The typical tablet apps are those casual and touch-friendly ones which are quite different from the typical Windows Apps that are for keyboard and mouse. If the difference is expected to stay then it does not benefit much to take on the extra hassle and mix them together. Should they make a tablet-only Win8T they would not have to worry about compatibility at all. Anything needed to be on both form factors could be rebuilt on a needed basis.
        LBiege
      • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

        @LBiege [i]The typical tablet apps are those casual and touch-friendly ones which are quite different from the typical Windows Apps that are for keyboard and mouse.[/i]

        For you and many others that may be true. But consider that not everyone will use the tablet, especially a Windows tablet, that way.
        Badgered
      • No reason to decouple them.

        @ LBiege

        There's absolutely no reason to decouple Metro and the Aero desktop. According to Sinofsky, the desktop code doesn't load (i.e. doesn't use memory or CPU resources) unless you run a desktop app, so the only cost is a small amount of disk/SSD space.

        I was actually concerned that Windows 8 on Arm would only run Metro apps, which would reduce its usefulness, so I'm very pleased to hear that that isn't the case. From my perspective, Microsoft are doing exactly the right thing.

        I do think, however, that they should offer a power management setting to suspend and unload the desktop (essentially hibernating the desktop session) when running on the battery. I'd like to be able to use an Arm-based Windows 8 tablet like a desktop when docked, but when I'm using it as a tablet, I don't want background desktop apps consuming resources. At the same time, I'd like them to be restored when I re-dock. If Microsoft can do this, I think they'll have the potential to beat even the iPad.
        WilErz
      • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

        @LBiege I completely disagree. I'm hoping the opposite, that the distinction between desktop and metro blurs and then goes away. Which is what it seems Microsoft is planning.

        Just because todays tablets have limitations, it doesn't mean that's the way they have to be. If Microsoft succeeds, at I bet they do, then we can have our tablet and dedsktop too.
        Skippy99
      • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

        @LBiege: I tend to agree that keeping the new and old is the best approach but switching between Metro and Desktop in the Developer Preview at least is incredibly jarring.

        Microsoft are going to struggle to fix this. Windows 8 currently feels very much like two operating systems stuck together with tape.
        bradavon
      • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

        @LBiege I have to say, that at this stage I personally feel most comfortable being able to access the desktop. Whether this is just an illusion or just a pathetic clinging to the past on my part remains to be seen <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/happy.gif" alt="happy"><br><br>Fact is though, that one of the reasons why I have never bought in to the whole iOS ecosystem is its cumbersome handling of files and that is the one thing that the Windows desktop gives me.<br><br>Of course I could then go with an x86 based tablet, but we'll have to see about that pesky battery drain...<br><br>At this point I like the thought of possibilities being open. An Asus Transformer-like option with Windows 8 sounds very enticing to me. I could then do any combination of tablet-only, mouse/keyboard, immersive or desktop experience I'd want. That's a lot of flexibility right there.<br><br>I might not even be adverse to the possibility of running a full Windows 8 on a phone, provided that the processing power and battery life be satisfactory. Plug in an HDMI cable (or dock it) and there you go, a full PC with keyboard and everything. People have been dreaming about this for ages it seems...
        allanwith
    • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

      @Michael Alan Goff

      Can it get anymore explicit than this?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yw7M4OYgpck

      ^Qualcomm video from last week at BUILD showing off IE10 desktop version and Adobe Flash support.
      cool8man
      • I hadn't seen that

        Thank you.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

        @cool8man

        I like it, thanks.
        sjaak327
    • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

      @Michael Alan Goff: IE is as integral to Windows as the Desktop is. I'm sure it'll be included.
      bradavon
    • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

      @Michael Alan Goff I am more of a neutral person as I do lot of Win32 - low level stuff - for a living. However, I have seen many 2 or 3 year old kids use an iPhone, iPod or iPad WITHOUT EVER SEEING A USER GUIDE OR MANUAL. I have seen some kids pick up the same app in an iPhone and an iPad without any hesitation. If MS can do that, then they will succeed. Stevie Wonder just recently praised Steve Jobs for Voice Over, he said that the iPad/iPhone leveled the playing field for the blind. Is Windows8 similar to iPhone/iPad? Can people use it without ever looking at any guide or manual? Remember, all Windows users currently have been either taught the initial steps by somebody or read a user guide/manual.
      GoForTheBest
  • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

    It HAS to do this the Metro UI isn't feature complete (it can't do everything - there are plenty of operations where Window 8 shoved you back into Desktop). More interestingly Desktop isn't feature complete either (it can't do everything and again there are plenty of times you get shoved into Metro).

    The whole UI is weird with neither side feeling quite like "home". I think Microsoft WANT users to upgrade to touch displays on ALL their PCs - essentially to stimulate demand for Metro apps (and hence Windows 8 itself). So I feel this is part of a deliberate move. Metro feels really wrong with a keyboard and mouse though.
    Jeremy-UK
    • Or perhaps

      @Jeremy-UK

      It's because it's a developer preview for developers to get familiar with building Metro apps, rather than a beta for general users to install. That would probably make the most sense. What is necessary for developer testing is there and little more. It's not meant to be run as a full time OS yet.
      LiquidLearner
      • RE: Microsoft: Desktop apps will run on Windows 8 on ARM

        @LiquidLearner Yeah, I know it's a developer preview... Still I don't see how Metro will EVER feel right with a mouse. Now on a Desktop with a touchscreen... that might be different. (Get used to cleaning off finger marks)
        Jeremy-UK
    • I partly disagree.

      @ Jeremy-UK

      I already prefer the Metro Start Screen to the old Aero Start Menu when using the keyboard. The mouse doesn't work so well, however, so I agree it needs some work there. At the same time, I think they can improve Metro so that it's better with the mouse than the old UI too.
      WilErz
  • Oops :P

    Not to be a grammar Nazi, but there is a typo:

    The ???Desktop App??? in Windows 8 is the the classic Windows 7 mode.

    2 "the"s
    KSLGW95
    • Thanks for the find

      Fixing... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley