Ever since Microsoft announced Windows 8 compatible with chipsets based on ARM architecture there has been a lot of confusion around what will and won’t work on it as compared to Windows 8 on x86. Microsoft has finally spilled some of the details before it does a consumer preview of Windows 8 later this month. First and foremost, Microsoft has made it clear that consumers won’t be able to buy Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) independent of the hardware – it will come pre-installed on hardware from OEMs, which will use chipsets from Qualcomm, nVidia or Texas Instruments. However, the software will get periodic updates over its lifetime. Also Read - Windows 9's Start menu demoed in a new video
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. Over the useful lifetime of the PC, the provided software will be serviced and improved.
Read on for more details…
In terms of applications, currently available ones for x86 platform won’t run on ARM-based machines. Developers will have to write them from the ground up and use the Metro UI for Windows 8. However, WOA will support the desktop mode where users won’t just get access to the normal Windows File Explorer but also access to the complete Microsoft Office suite, currently codenamed Office 15, and Internet Explorer 10. On one hand, it ensures that developers develop more apps using Metro UI and populate the app store for WOA while on the other hand, the desktop mode functionality will give Microsoft more time to develop an Office Suite with Metro UI without delaying the hardware launch. The fact that existing apps for x86 won’t run on WOA gives Intel some breathing space as WOA tablets and Ultrabooks will not technically substitute traditional desktops, yet.
Microsoft is confident Windows 8 devices running on ARM architecture will be available at the same time as those on the x86 platform. We have already seen a Windows 8 prototype tablet from Qualcomm and things look on track for Microsoft at the moment. However, more than anything else, the success of these tablets will hinge on their pricing, especially how competitively they are priced with respect to the iPad. Yes, WOA tablets will offer more functionality in terms of what users can do with it along with the notion that this is the full Windows OS on a tablet form-factor, but in all probability people will know them as Microsoft’s iPad (just like people refer to any portable music player as an iPod). And that makes it all the more critical for Microsoft and its partners to bring the price as close to the iPad as possible.
But then we all know Microsoft has and can pump in a few hundred million dollars to make things work. In all probability, it will.