Qualcomm, Microsoft start seeding ARM developers for Windows 8

Under the invite-only program, developers will get a pre-release version of Windows on ARM with Snapdragon S4 PCs.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Qualcomm and Microsoft have started seeding the ARM developer community with test PCs for Windows 8. The goal: Test and optimize Windows 8 Metro apps on Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors.

Under the invite-only program, developers will get a pre-release version of Windows on ARM with Snapdragon S4 PCs.

Microsoft increasingly is turning Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) into something very separate and different from Windows 8 on x86/x64. The Softies recently acknowledged that WOA tablets will be more like iPads than like traditional Windows tablets, in that they'll be sold only as devices with the operating system preinstalled.

Qualcomm and Microsoft emphasized that the test PCs "are not representative of commercial form factors or the final Windows on ARM experience." That line basically means that devs should refrain from yapping about the test PCs as if they'll be real products.

Among the key points:

  • The test program is designed to ensure Metro apps can plug in with hardware peripherals.
  • The Snapdragon processors will have 4G LTE activated where it's available.
  • Hardware acceleration for graphics and GPS will be enabled.

Microsoft is making test versions of WOA running on test hardware available to pre-selected developers and partners in the coming weeks. But the company isn't making WOA available to the public for testing.

Microsoft also is taking a different tack with WOA, in terms of disallowing Flash, Silverlight and other plug-ins to run at all (in the name of battery life and power saving). Again, that's more like the iPad than it's like Windows tablets. On Windows 8 x86/x64 tablets, Microsoft is allowing plug-ins via a version of Internet Explorer 10 that is running on the Desktop.

There are more differences. The coming generation of Windows 8 x86/x64 tablets, Microsoft is enabling legacy third-party apps to run via the Desktop app/environment. But on ARM-based Windows tablets, Microsoft is not going to allow third-party software vendors to make their applications available as Desktop apps. It's Metro-style apps or nothing. That means no legacy Windows apps will be able to run on WOA tablets. Period.

And finally, the most puzzling WOA revelation yet: Microsoft isn't going to allow WOA tablets to be "managed," meaning they won't be able to join Active Directory domains. "

Given that WOA tablets are seen as Microsoft's real/best competitor to the iPad on the price, battery life and size/weight front, these differentiators may end up hurting Redmond more than helping it.

Mary Jo Foley contributed to this post.

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