Microsoft: Windows 8 on ARM to launch simultaneously with Windows 8 on Intel

Microsoft: Windows 8 on ARM to launch simultaneously with Windows 8 on Intel

Summary: Windows 8 on ARM devices will ship simultaneously with Windows 8 on x86/x64 PCs, Microsoft officials said.

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Microsoft is slowly peeling back the secrecy covers on its Windows 8 on ARM plans.

In a new "Building Windows 8" blog post, officials confirmed that Windows 8 on ARM will, indeed, be available on PCs (and tablets) at the same time as it is on x86 PCs.

From a February 9 blog post from Windows President Steven Sinofsky:

"WOA (Windows on ARM) PCs are still under development and our collective goal is for PC makers to ship them the same time as PCs designed for Windows 8 on x86/64. These PCs will be built on unique and innovative hardware platforms provided by NVIDIA, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments, with a common Windows on ARM OS foundation—all running the same Windows OS binaries, a unique approach for the industry. PC manufacturers are hard at work on PCs designed from the ground up to be great and exclusively for WOA."

Exclusively for WOA seems to me to mean that Windows 8 on ARM will be an OEM-only product. In other words, WOA won't be made available in a way that will allow users to load it on other ARM-based tablets and PCs. Though many have assume this, Microsoft officials have never said this.

Update: Yes, indeed, WOA means OEM-only. From later in the same post:

"Partners will provide WOA PCs as integrated, end-to-end products that include hardware, firmware, and Windows on ARM software. Windows on ARM software will not be sold or distributed independent of a new WOA PC, just as you would expect from a consumer electronics device that relies on unique and integrated pairings of hardware and software."

There's also another confirmation in today's post that the Desktop -- i.e., the non-Metro-Style experience based on WinRT -- will, indeed be there on Windows 8 on ARM devices.

From today's post:

"Using WOA 'out of the box' will feel just like using Windows 8 on x86/64. You will sign in the same way. You will start and launch apps the same way. You will use the new Windows Store the same way. You will have access to the intrinsic capabilities of Windows, from the new Start screen and Metro style apps and Internet Explorer, to peripherals, and if you wish, the Windows desktop with tools like Windows File Explorer and desktop Internet Explorer."

Microsoft officials are still not sharing RTM or availability timeframes for Windows 8. Some of Microsoft's PC partners have said that they plan to have WOA devices on shelves in time for this coming holiday season.

Topics: Processors, 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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12 comments
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  • That answers a lot of questions, except for one:

    What about driver support for peripherals? Do specialty peripherals that don't use HID or Class drivers (like, probably most importantly, printers) require separately-compiled drivers?

    [i]Update: they say printing now uses a class driver, so that answers that question. Does the x86 version also use a class driver though? (this would mean you wouldn't have to load a 250+MB driver package for that HP Photosmart anymore)[/i]
    Joe_Raby
    • RE: Microsoft: Windows 8 on ARM to launch simultaneously with Windows 8 on Intel

      @Joe_Raby

      Microsoft is really pushing where possible that drivers move to user space using the User Mode Driver Framework (UMDF). This is definetly the case for things that use USB. The challenge here is that UMDF is a mess in many ways and many of the more senior driver developers in the community refuse to use it. So for Windows 8 you have on the plus side, that if a driver crashes it won't take down the system, but on the minus side drivers are a lot more likely to crash, because they were written by newbies.
      oldsysprog
      • True, true

        @oldsysprog

        I really hope that they can continue to build class drivers for more and more devices so that we don't have to worry about "Plug-and-Pray" issues regarding compatibility and driver instability.
        Joe_Raby
  • I think this is the final answer

    It's embedded.
    Joe_Raby
  • One important key point in Sinofsky's article (+ a couple bonuses)

    He never calls it "Windows 8 on ARM".

    It's just "Windows on ARM" or "WOA".

    This says to me that they are trying to deflect complaints that if legacy apps can run on Windows 8 on x86, they should run on the ARM versions too.

    This also backs up my "embedded" argument.

    Bonus: [b]WOA includes desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote[/b]

    Does this mean OEM's have to pay a big license fee for WOA, or is it a tiered option?

    Bonus #2 (this answers questions about game compatibility): [b]ARM SoCs for WOA have DirectX capable GPUs[/b]

    What level of DX are they talking about though? Doubtful we're talking about DX11 here since AMD is the leader of CPU+DX11GPU integration and they're only really on their first product cycle as of now. I'm guessing it's MAYBE DX9 to meet the "UMPC" logo certifications, but we'll have to wait and see. NVIDIA will probably lead in the ARM graphics front though, but just don't expect it to be the same as a modern GeForce GPU since they have to deal with power and heat restrictions for the ARM platform.
    Joe_Raby
  • RE: Microsoft: Windows 8 on ARM to launch simultaneously with Windows 8 on Intel

    Awesome, looking forward to Microsoft Windows 8 release on both platforms.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • RE: Microsoft: Windows 8 on ARM to launch simultaneously with Windows 8 on Intel

    Yawn.... So when is the first Medfield based tablet coming out?
    Gary554
  • ARM why bother?

    my belief is that MS went with ARM mainly because of the power consumption.however as the previous poster notes how far behind is medfield?
    if as suspected that chip will be close to ARM then why would most bother in ARM?
    AS147
  • ARM why bother?

    my belief is that MS went with ARM mainly because of the power consumption.however as the previous poster notes how far behind is medfield?
    if as suspected that chip will be close to ARM then why would most bother in ARM?
    AS147
    • Because of exactly what you said...

      @AS147

      The power consumption on an WOA tablet will hopefully be similar to an iPad. That way those that are consumption monkeys can watch movies, surf the web, play some Apps, etc. and have a long battery life. Adding fully featured Office Apps on an ARM Tablet is a major bonus.

      If you want a computer on a tablet go with an x86 tablet. Corporations will love this and many consumers will too. Albeit....the battery life won't be as good as the ARM tablets.

      MS is nailing both segments of the market.

      This is killer!
      SmoothDouglas
  • No mention of multicore ARM

    Interestingly the only mention of multicore was on Intel arch. That long screed, and nothing about that.
    symbolset
    • RE: Microsoft: Windows 8 on ARM to launch simultaneously with Windows 8 on Intel

      @symbolset But they have shown it running on the Tegra3, quad core processor tablet, so I'm pretty sure that multicore is a given.
      gomigomijunk