Microsoft’s chief of Windows division, Steven Sinofsky, recently wrote a blog post on Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) which clarified that Windows on ARM will not support desktop apps apart from Office 15 and Windows components. Inspite of this, the blog post stated that Windows on ARM will look and feel exactly like Windows 8 on Intel chipsets. End users want to know how these devices will be different from the iPads/Android Tablets of this world, and the idea behind this article is exactly that. Here are few key differences between Windows 8 on ARM and other tablets including Apple’s iPad and the Android offerings from various OEMs.
Windows on ARM will be part of the world’s most dominant app ecosystem
Initially WOA will perhaps not boast of substantial library of apps that would rival that of an iPad but having said this there is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that over time the Metro apps ecosystem will be home to the most exhaustive set of applications on the planet. Why? The answer is simple – Microsoft is pushing the WinRT app development platform on both ARM and Intel Windows machines. Windows is home to almost 1.2 billion users, an unmatched number. iPad is a rage amongst the classes, but Windows is a platform for the masses and it is highly doubtful that any platform would challenge Windows in terms of market share in the near future.
The Office 15 advantage
The iPad has the iWork suite alongside many others and Android has a few of its own, however these are paid suites and have grossly underwhelming feature sets for high quality productivity. One can argue that iWork on the iPad offers solid functionality but each and every app costs $9.99 to boot, a total of approximately $30.00. Steven Sinofsky’s blog post states in a cryptic way that Office 15 will be included with WOA. From the looks of it, Office 15 has been given a Metro like look even though it is pretty clear that it is not a Metro app. The bottom line being Office 15 will be touch friendly. If Office 15 applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote are offered in their entirety WOA tablets will automatically become superior productivity devices. Windows already has a substantial goodwill in the enterprise market and with good Office support could propel WOA in the tablet space.
Plug and Play peripheral support
Microsoft claims that it has managed to pull of identical driver support for WOA devices as their X86 cousins. If this is true any peripheral one connects to a WOA device will work seamlessly, something, which cannot be said of an iPad or even Android tablets. Though Google offers better peripheral support than Apple’s on its Android platform, it will be foolhardy to think that it could match Microsoft’s Windows driver support considering Windows has been the most dominant operating system ever to grace this planet. Just imagine having the ability to attach your PC keyboard to your tablet or for the matter fact one could even attach any hard drive, printer or game controller with no driver issues.
Xbox, Kinect and DirectX support for gamers
For years Windows has been the definitive gaming platform. With Xbox Microsoft has tasted considerable success in the console arena and now they are bringing their gaming know-how to the ARM platform. The iPad might be a fantastic platform for mobile gaming and the same could be said about the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime with its Quad-Core Tegra 3 processor, but make no mistake Microsoft has managed to pull of Direct X on ARM which is the most advanced graphics platform in the world. With WOA devices we can expect a new breed of graphically rich games that would push the latest generation ARM processors to their limits. Having said that, one should not expect graphics matching that of Intel tablets, but surely the gaming potential on WOA will be decidedly superior to the other platforms. Adding to DirectX Microsoft is bringing Xbox and Kinect support which will further enrich the platform.
Windows Store offers developers better financial opportunity
Not only does the Windows Store ensure a safer and secure apps ecosystem it offers developers an opportunity make more money from their apps. Initially all apps sold will have the 70/30 split in favor of the developer similar to Apple’s App Store, but Microsoft is touting once an app crosses 25,000 downloads the split will be more favorable for the app developer at 80/20. Apart from this Microsoft will allow pricing in $0.49 increments rather than Apple $0.99 and apps could be priced right up to $999. Another feature unique to the Windows Store is to search for apps in a search engine rather than directly from the Windows apps store.
Synergy with Windows Phone 8
If you are a Windows Phone user then there could be no better time to be in the market for a WOA device. Windows Phone 8 and WOA devices will share a substantial amount of code enabling seamless synergy, possibly better than that between an iPhone and an iPad. In the case of WOA devices Windows Phone 8 will be essentially the same software expect for it being optimized for a larger display.
Familiar Multitasking abilities and access to the file system
Due to the presence of the desktop on WOA devices, people will have access to a familiar way of multitasking – through the task bar. While the Metro UI will boast of it very own bells and whistles, people who are uncomfortable with the multi-tasking system could just switch to the Windows Desktop to drag and drop files or switch between apps. All the functionality will be very familiar; of course the same can neither be said about the iPad or an Android tablet. In fact one the bigger gripes people have with the iPad is that there is no access to the file system, while Android tablet provide and unintuitive way of accessing files. People will not face such problems with WOA.
Looks like WOA will provide a solid differentiation from its other ARM contemporaries in-spite of the lost legacy support, however it will be more interesting to see how they fare up against their X86/X64 siblings. Come Q4 2012, the world of tech will be in the middle of the most heated platform war ever seen and surely only the fittest will survive. Microsoft will be clinging to the old adage – Better late than never. And we too hope so for their sake and for the sake of the consumers.