Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

Summary: Microsoft has changed direction and is now disallowing browser plug-ins on Windows 8 on ARM devices, according to a blog post from the president of the Windows division.

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As we Microsoft watchers continue to parse the 8,600-word post on Windows on ARM (WOA) that posted on February 10 on the "Building Windows 8" blog, more new questions are arising.

The latest: What are developers and customers who rely on browser plug-ins to do if they want ARM-based Windows 8 tablets and PCs?

Until yesterday, Microsoft's stance had been that it would offer two different versions of Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8: A Metro-style version that wouldn't allow plug-ins; and a Desktop version that would allow plug-ins. Microsoft officials demonstrated at Build a Windows 8 ARM-based tablet that allowed a Flash plug-in. (Thanks to MVP Alan Burchill for finding that video, with the Flash demo starting at 2:20.)

Yesterday, Windows President Steven Sinofsky blogged that while there will be a Desktop experience on Windows on ARM, it will be very restricted. The Desktop on these devices will run only specially tailored "Office 15" versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote; the Windows File Explorer; Internet Explorer 10 and some unspecified other operating system tools/components. Sinofsky didn't note in his post that plug-ins were no longer supported in the Desktop version of IE10. ("The closest he came was saying "WOA does not support running, emulating, or porting existing x86/64 desktop apps.")

But in an interview with AllThingsD, Sinofsky is reported as having said "the version of Internet Explorer for Windows on ARM won’t support plugins such as Adobe Flash, noting the trend in the industry away from supporting Flash on mobile devices."

I'm thinking the Desktop IE version on the x86/x64-based Windows 8 tablets and PCs will continue to allow plug-ins. (I've asked Microsoft for verification, but no word back so far.)

It's no secret that the Windows and IE teams have been trying to steer developers away from Silverlight, Flash and plug-ins and toward HTML5/JavaScript. The Redmondians cite battery life, security and reliability as driving factors behind its decision to do so.

But it's not just ads that use these plug-ins. Many line-of-business apps and some consumer sites require legacy ActiveX controls. The way Microsoft planned to support these apps and sites was through the Desktop version of IE, which supported plug-ins.

Bottom line: Microsoft is touting Metro-style/WinRT as the way developers should go in creating apps for Windows 8. As of yesterday, it's officially no longer an option for third-party developers to recompile their existing Windows apps to run as Desktop apps on Windows on ARM. The only apps that will be allowed to run in the Desktop on Windows on ARM are a very few from Microsoft.

While the Metro-style apps will look, feel and be distributed/updated in the same way on Windows 8 on x86/x64 and ARM devices, the Desktops on those two classes of devices seemingly are going to be very different.

Topics: Processors, Browser, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, 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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  • Curious Wording

    Mary Jo, I was going to tweet this but it was far too long. Anyway, reading the blog post, I keep seeing that "existing" apps wont be ported, not that new apps cannot be built. Maybe existing Win32/.Net apps cannot run on WOA, but it will be possible to build WinRT based apps for the desktop(They haven't explained whether WinRT can be used for desktop apps right?). Call me crazy, but despite what AllThingsD reported, there's a tiny part of me that thinks that Microsoft is being coy about this.
    runner7775
    • RE: Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

      @runner7775

      maybe you should take the time to go to a site like Paul Thurrott, he has a nice article about WinRT. but basically, no winrt apps can be developed and run on desktop.

      and if you read B8 yesterday then you should read sinosfky saying "In fact, WOA only supports running code that has been distributed through Windows Update along with the full spectrum of Windows Store applications"
      Emi Cyberschreiber
      • RE: Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

        @Emi Cyberschreiber I completely forgot about Sinofsky noting that the only access to apps was the Windows Store. I read most of the WinSupersite article and must have missed it. Thanks for the reply and the clarification, greatly appreciated!
        runner7775
      • This whole thing is a confusing mess

        @Emi Cyberschreiber This whole thing is a confusing mess that makes Vista seem like an orderly maintenance release.
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • WOA sounds uninspiring

        I for one would not be interested in a tablet where I'm constantly hand-cuffed by this or that restriction b/c of a sub-standard ARM chip.
        LBiege
      • Is WOA basically 3 different operating systems?

        Could it be that Office 15 and IE 10 had to be coded for 3 separate ARM SoCs (TI, Nvidia, Qualcomm) and opening up that dev platform to 3rd parties would create a complicated,potentially inconsistent and fragmented mess. If only WinRT has the ability to sit on top of 4 different operating systems and run consistently and reliably without any specific tailoring of the code then you can see why they decided to kill developer access to the ARM desktop. I still think it's a miserable solution to an enormous problem, but at least the decision would make some sense if this is true.<br><br>WOA will never be thought of as anything other than a second class citizen to computer users, but the people who were encouraging MS to make the Phone OS the tablet OS look to have gotten their wish to come true. Just not in the way they were expecting. TabletOS->Phone not PhoneOS->Tablet.<br><br>Pretty much the same approach that Google took recently bringing the Honeycomb UI from tablets to phones.
        cool8man
      • @LBiege

        I for one would not be interested in a tablet where I'm constantly hand-cuffed by this or that restriction b/c of a sub-standard ARM chip.

        LBiege

        You mean the sub-standard ARM chip in all the leading tablets...

        Ok..

        Buy a netbook then.
        Bozzer
      • RE: Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

        @Emi Cyberschreiber
        At build, they also said that they would allow desktop apps to be distributed through the app store along with Metro.
        But, like others, I believe that its all too confusing until we get our hands on the RC.
        iceman357
      • RE: Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

        @iceman357

        you have to understand thats only for x86-64 and its not a direct distribution on Win Store, since they also said it will be only like a link to the real exe for example. so Microsoft wont sell it through store but people can trust it since people will get the link from it.

        what people dont understand its WinRT its the future, yeah all software available now its x86-x64 but also 100% of Windows pcs are Intel or AMD. having a locked down ARM desktop, means none will worry about malicious software.
        like i said WinRT its the future, maybe people dont see it with good eyes and think they are "ugly useless apps" but developers can do alot of stuff with it.
        I may no agree with Paul Thurrott most of the time, but this article is amazing and he explains why WinRT. why Microsoft has to start doing this "droping legacy software" somewhere, and the best part its ARM, since there is no a real ARM Windows software available today.
        of course its just what i think, why i think its not bad Microsoft doing this with desktop WOA. people may think different and well we are all different and we all want different stuff. but it would be nice if people understood more about WinRT and i found this article by Paul interesting.

        http://www.winsupersite.com/content2/tabid/4466/catpath/windows8/topic/windows-8-secrets-winrt-windows-runtime-142196
        Emi Cyberschreiber
    • RE: Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

      @runner7775 - WinRT exposes about 2 API's to desktop apps. These API's essentially allow Metro apps to be launched from the desktop. That's it.

      WinRT apps ARE Metro apps. Period.
      bitcrazed
      • No, not necessarily.

        @bitcrazed

        You don't have to use the Metro UI for WinRT apps. Metro is analogous to UIkit in Cocoa Touch for iOS. It's there, but if you want to code your own UI, you're welcome to do so. Games obviously won't use Metro.
        Joe_Raby
      • No, not necessarily.

        @bitcrazed

        You don't have to use the Metro UI for WinRT apps. Metro is analogous to UIkit in Cocoa Touch for iOS. It's there, but if you want to code your own UI, you're welcome to do so. Games obviously won't use Metro.
        Joe_Raby
      • RE: Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

        @bitcrazed

        you you are right, following microsoft documentation :
        "The Windows Runtime packs core functionality for building Metro style apps into a small API surface".
        SylvainT
      • No, not necessarily.

        @bitcrazed

        Just because Microsoft likes to show off Metro design, doesn't mean you have to use Metro for WinRT apps. Metro is analogous to UIkit for Cocoa Touch in iOS. It is a prebuilt high-level UI API feature set that allows you build nice-looking apps from the start without requiring a lot of low-level UI coding techniques. Basically, it's buttons, toolbars, and form options that you don't have to code from scratch. If you want to code your own UI, you still can. Games can be built to run in C++ for WinRT, but they certainly won't use text and graphics ala Metro.
        Joe_Raby
      • RE: Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

        @Joe_Raby: The question was "will be possible to build WinRT based apps for the desktop".

        The answer is no. You cannot build apps that target WinRT and run them on the desktop. Well ... not without hacking, but that'd end up getting your app refused from the Store.

        Whether or not you choose to adopt the Metro look and feel is entirely up to you.
        bitcrazed
      • @bitcrazed

        Yes, but I talking about your comment that "WinRT apps ARE Metro apps". This isn't entirely true. WinRT apps *can be* Metro apps, but they don't have to be.
        Joe_Raby
    • Wow about 24 hours late on this one

      No legacy support, no side loading apps for desktop, no browser plug-ins<br><br>Those are the 3 main reasons why WOA will forever be grossly inferior to Windows 8.<br><br>But last night I had a moment of clarity and realized that WOA is a mobile phone OS. This is the OS that will one day run on the device in your pocket. This is not meant to be the OS that ever replaces your desktop OS. Unfortunately for MS, though they may have plans of eventually making WOA their phone OS, they can't do it just yet. The timing is wrong because they still need to support low-end phones with 480x800 screens. If everyone had a high end phone with a 720p screen they could kill Windows Phone OS tomorrow, replace it with WOA and unite the Phone, tablet and Desktop OS around a single WinRT app store. Developers would literally have to write an app once and it would be available for download on phone, tablet, laptop, and probably the next-Gen Xbox. Unfortunately, for now at least, the low-end phones keep this dream just out of reach.

      By the Fall 2013 launch of the next Xbox we could see WinRT running on PC, tablet, phone, and Xbox.
      cool8man
    • RE: Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

      @runner7775
      that's why we need regulators to start antitrust actions against M$!
      The Linux Geek
    • THAT's IT!

      I will not be buying are Win/Arm devices!
      Android, I love you!
      ;-)
      kd5auq
    • RE: Microsoft: No plug-ins allowed on Windows on ARM

      @runner7775<br><br>From a technical standpoint, there's nothing to be said against using the WinRT APIs in a "traditional" Win32 application. The important question is: Does Microsoft want you to do this? And the answer to this question is, of course, no.<br><br>Win32-based applications are not distributed via the Windows Store, they are deployed and installed just the way they always were. There are no rules to break hacking into the WinRT from there, they only don't want you to do it.
      sevenacids