Windows 8 on ARM: The desktop remains (or does it?)

Will Microsoft offer the Desktop App Win32 environment on Windows 8 on ARM? There's still no conclusive answer.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

What's the latest word? Is the Win32 environment -- known as the Desktop App -- still part of Windows 8 on ARM? Or isn't it?

During the last Consumer Electronics Show (CES) keynote for Microsoft on January 9, company officials demonstrated Windows 8 on both Intel and ARM PCs.

The Desktop App, unsurprisingly, was still on whichever post-Developer Preview build of Windows 8 on the Intel-based Samsung tablet that Tami Reller, Microsoft's Chief Marketing Officer for Windows, demonstrated. But It also appeared -- at least from this screen shot taken last night by Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Andras Velvart -- that it also was part of the ARM version of Windows 8, too:

(Click on the image to enlarge.)

The Desktop App/environment is that icon that looks like a patch of blue sky toward the bottom right-hand side in the screenshot.

Here's the problem: We don't know whether the version on ARM that Reller showed off is new or old. Remember: At the Microsoft Build conference in September 2011, there were ARM tablets sporting the Desktop App, but they weren't available for testers to put through their paces. (Some were under glass, even.)

Texas Instruments also showed off yesterday at CES a Windows 8 ARM tablet prototype. As The Verge noted, it's still not clear even from that demo machine whether this is a newer or older Windows 8 build, so, again, it's inconclusive as to whether the Desktop App that is visible is going to be part of the final Windows 8 on ARM release.

The fact that Reller kept stressing during the Microsoft keynote last night that Windows 8 would be a "no compromise" experience -- Microsoft's preferred way of referring to its ability to support non-Metro-style apps -- makes me think there's a chance that the Desktop App will make it into the Windows 8 ARM build after all. But she never stated this outright.

There was talk late last year that the Windows team had decided to drop the Desktop App from Windows 8 on ARM. A number of users from whom I heard were in favor of such a move. But others weren't. Nor were a number of developers who are still hoping for a relatively easy way to get their existing apps onto Windows 8.

Would a simple "yes" or "no" be so hard? Maybe the Softies think the answer is obvious (?). Microsoft officials, when asked whether the Desktop App will or won't be supported on Windows 8 on ARM, aren't commenting.

The Windows 8 beta is still on for "late February," Reller reiterated during the CES keynote last night. And there's still no word from Microsoft officials as to the ship target for Windows 8 (though many company watchers still think it will be summer/fall this year for both the Intel and ARM versions).

Update: A couple of related posts worth highlighting:

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