Hey, those of you interested on running Windows 8 on ARM, guess what! The
cake ARM is a lie.
But as if that we’re bad enough, we now have some more official word on just exactly how ARM will be supported. No, there will be no lightened kernel to run Windows with. Microsoft is not taking a page from Linux in any way. If you install Windows 8 on an ARM processor, you don’t get Windows. You get Phone. That’s it. That’s all that you get.
What does that mean?
That means that you can only install “apps” on Windows 8 ARM, and so far sounding like only through a Microsoft app store no less. Called, imaginatively, the “Windows Store”. There will be no running of full Windows applications, at all, ever, on Windows 8 ARM. (Though I don’t expect it will take long for people to “unlock” their Windows 8 ARM to install their own apps manually at the very least.)
At least as far as I can tell by reading between the lines. Because, frankly, Microsoft is not being very frank and clear with us on this matter. In theory it may be possible that Windows 8 ARM will actually be a full version of Windows, and not just Phone. In theory. In practice however this is of very little value if you cannot install an application onto it because of being locked in to the Windows Store. Further, even if any old application could be recompiled for ARM, there are bound to be bugs and kinks to work out. And that’s even if someone bothers to try, which most software companies will not!
How do we know these things?
Because Windows has been here once before.
Only back then it wasn’t ARM, it was the DEC Alpha. Microsoft made an NT4 compilation of it. And it almost even worked. Except when it didn’t. Because almost no third parties bothered to support it in any way. And in fact even Microsoft kind of didn’t, as their compatibility system, basically an emulator-on-demand as far as I could tell, failed often. Very often. And worse, on things as common as most major installation packaging systems. So just trying to install non-Alpha software often crashed. You couldn’t even get to actually trying to run the software. That was Microsoft’s idea of support. And third parties. It was an absolute failure!
And now Microsoft is doing it all over again with ARM.
So even if Microsoft at some point tries to claim that your x86-compiled applications can be installed and run on Windows 8 ARM, the cake is a lie. It will never happen if third party software producers don’t likewise port all of their software over as well, which they won’t!
What you are effectively getting if you install Windows 8 ARM on your tablet is … Windows Phone 7+.
If a software vendor completely ports their application for WinRT then that’ll run on Windows 8 ARM. But most won’t, because that’d be a lot more work than just recompiling for ARM, and most won’t even bother recompiling, let alone porting.
That’s the only truth.
Except that it’s actually worse than that! Because while you should be able to run Windows Phone 7 apps on Windows 8 ARM / Phone (Is there anyone who will be running Windows 8 on a PC that will actually want to run Windows Phone 7 apps?) you will not (if I’m reading things correctly) be able to run Phone (yes, Metro, we went over this in the first Windows 8 rant) apps on your Windows Phone 7 smartphones. They may be similar platforms, but not identical. Windows 8 apps are built on Windows Runtime (WinRT), where as Windows Phone 7 apps are Silverlight and XNA. Windows Phone 8 is backward compatible with Windows Phone 7, but not vice-versa. It is not a forward-compatible design. Sorry all of you Windows Phone app developers. (All two of you.)
It even sounds like Microsoft is taking this a segmentation further, and that Windows 8 will only be for tablets. Phones will be stuck on Windows Phone 7. So it’s not just a matter of backward compatibility, but also about … modem form factor? I mean seriously, what’s the difference between a 3g-capapble 4 inch tablet and a smartphone? Not bloody much! And far less yet between a 4g tablet!
But so anyone who ever envisioned of running Windows on ARM, sorry, you’re SOL. The tabletard has commanded that “Thou shalt not be productive on ARM.” The most you can do on ARM is still run apps. No
soup applications for you!
You can think of Windows 8 ARM then being just another tablet OS like iOS and Android. It might say Windows 8, but it’s not Windows.
And actually, I’m kind of okay with that part. Honestly, what I want is a full-blown Windows smartphone/netbook combo device. You know, a PCphone. A Smarter phone. ARM may be The Next Big Thing, but I’m actually okay with x86 being the processor to make Smarterphones happen. It’s not like Intel and AMD both aren’t trying to make low-power mobile chips for just this purpose. (Why nVidia or even -gack!- Via doesn’t do so though is beyond me.)
Still, it’s very disappointing that Microsoft didn’t take this opportunity to do ARM right by any sense of the imagination. To have actually run a full-blown Windows OS on ARM would have been nice to see. Of course with what that could do to the server world, maybe it was done this way for a reason.