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Microsoft Windows Technology

Microsoft Details Windows 8 for ARM 372

MrSeb writes "In an 8,000-word treatise, Steven Sinofksy himself has taken up pen and paper to describe Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) in great detail. There's a lot of good stuff in there, but one point is particularly troubling. Quoting Sinofsky: 'WOA does not support running, emulating, or porting existing x86/64 desktop apps. Code that uses only system or OS services from WinRT can be used within an app and distributed through the Windows Store for both WOA and x86/64. Consumers obtain all [WOA] software, including device drivers, through the Windows Store and Microsoft Update or Windows Update.' It's hard to under-emphasize just how huge a change that is. It's one thing to say that ARM CPUs won't support x86 emulation; something else entirely to split software delivery and installation. Up until now, one of the biggest differences between desktop and mobile operating systems has been the ability to install software. It's true that Microsoft's decision to wall off unapproved software installation is similar to the approach of Android and iOS — but iOS isn't the same thing as OS X. Combining both of these decisions under the 'Windows' brand could be disastrous, not because Microsoft is evil, but because it creates two entirely different user experiences on the basis of which ISA your CPU supports."
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Microsoft Details Windows 8 for ARM

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  • More! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:03AM (#38994441) Homepage

    Combining both of these decisions under the 'Windows' brand could be disastrous...

    I, for one, welcome more disasterous actions from our anti-trust overlords.

    not because Microsoft is evil,

    Obviously, someone is very inexperienced in this field.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:08AM (#38994493)
    Depends how good their marketing department is. Remember, they can afford to lose a few hundred million dollars a year in that department for however long it takes to turn it into something profitable, and they have a history of using their successful products as tools to drive users to their unsuccessful products.
  • by laffer1 ( 701823 ) <> on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:09AM (#38994505) Homepage Journal

    It's scary that you have to get drivers through the windows store. That means you could never get some new arm hardware running with windows as a hobbyist or try some third party driver when the default crashes. It also means that it might be harder to upgrade windows on some devices as microsoft could block you from getting drivers for the current windows release.

    The ARM port is truly a hardware lock-in. I hope it fails.

  • Fracturing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:11AM (#38994523) Homepage

    Y'know, for all I hear about Linux being so fractured, I'd expect to see more coherence from Microsoft and Apple.

    The vast majority of distros differ in small ways, but they all work with mostly the same paradigms. To install software, you usually install a package from a repository. To add something not in the repositories, it's usually "./configure; make; make install".

    Looking at the Windows world, there's worse fracturing, but because it's all under one brand, it's somehow okay. Inter-process communication is done with DDE - no, wait - OLE. I mean sockets. Really .NET has its own IPC and you should use that now. On one system, you install with an executable file obtained from the vendor. On another system, you install through a storefront.

    At least Linux accepts that it's fractured, and each distro often learns from the others.

  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:11AM (#38994525) Homepage
    The value of Windows is the huge legacy software collection that it runs.

    A "windows" platform that cannot run that software base is basically a new platform. Starting from scratch. Sort of like a new version of Linux, or Hurd, or something new.

    Microsoft may port their own apps. Great. But what about third parties?

    There is .NET, of course. But apps written in .NET would be fairly new apps. What about apps written in older languages? Some apps may be trivially recompiled. Or recompiled after significant effort. But some apps may be slightly or even deeply wedded to the x86 and maybe x64 architectures.

    Other apps may be wedded to legacy languages that may not get ported. Will Microsoft be porting Visual Basic 6? Visual FoxPro? What about Delphi? Etc.

    Even if a developer can fairly trivially build their app for WOA, why would they if there is not a large user base on that platform ready to fork over money? The developer has to expend effort (eg cost) today on a platform where customer demand may not materialize. If WOA doesn't run an end user's favorite legacy applications, then why would the user want to migrate to WOA? It's cheap and easy to buy a desktop or laptop running legacy Windows that is familiar and runs your legacy apps.

    WOA has a chicken and egg problem. Which came first? The large number of third party apps / developers supporting WOA? Or the large end user base running WOA?

    Furthermore, a developer who expends effort to port their product to WOA, even if "porting" is little more than a trivial recompile and repackaging, and tracking new SKU's, that developer will want to be compensated for that additional effort. You can bet that developer will want top dollar (eg price gouging) for that new WOA edition of their product. Do you really think you'll see a $99 Photoshop on WOA? Also don't expect a free upgrade to the WOA edition of your current application.

    WOA may be Microsoft's counterpart of the PS/2 moment. The market may "just say no" (as they say in the '80's). The problem with PS/2 was that it was nothing more than an attempt to recapture IBM's monopoly using a new platform. That is what WOA is. Microsoft wants their legacy monopoly on these new mobile ARM platforms, just as IBM wanted their legacy mainframe monopoly in the PC market.

    Another problem is that these new platforms are fundamentally different. They bring things that legacy PC's don't have deeply baked into the system and applications. Android for example can support both the legacy keyboard / mouse setup as well as touchscreen and voice commands. Those pesky new PC's offered a lot more than a mainframe terminal had, such as mouse and GUI. Oh, and cheap software, just as the new platform app stores offer pretty cheap apps.

    Want to see WOA go exactly nowhere? There's an app for that!
  • by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:11AM (#38994527) Homepage

    You don't like these new terms? Well then don't fucking buy it then. I fail to see the outrage here... Sounds exactly like the Apple walled garden approach.

  • Re:More! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:23AM (#38994631) Homepage

    He wasn't saying that Microsoft isn't evil, only that their evilness or lack thereof is irrelevant to the point he is currently trying to make.

  • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:41AM (#38994763) Homepage
    You are probably right.

    That is why I believe WOA will fail.

    Leaving the legacy applications behind means WOA is a new platform. Starting basically from scratch. Competing with already entrenched players (iOS and Android). It starts off with little third party software where iOS and Android already have a huge base of developers.
  • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @10:43AM (#38994795)

    It's possible that this is the first step toward leaving 'Windows legacy applications' behind. They are going to have to do it sometime, and ARM isn't similar to x86 like Atom is, so this may be a logical starting point.

    Exactly. It's legacy software that's tied mainstream computing to the x86 architecture for two decades. Tthe x86 is a power-hungry architecture best suited for desktop and rack computing, but recent trends are towards mobile computing. Laptops started to outsell desktops. Netbooks hit the market. Smartphones reached a level where they could be used as complete computers. And the Tablet PC concept, which had been bubbling under for over a decade, finally found it's niche as a "maxi-smartphone". x86 is dead, and MS need to encourage people to produce standardised, architecture-neutral code if they're going to migrate to another architecture.

    If they don't migrate to another architecture, what happens? Smartphones with HDMI out (and a built-in focus-free laset picoprojector) and Bluetooth or USB for keyboards and mice displace the traditional computer. If Windows is still split between phone and desktop, Windows dies.

    So why the separation between desktop and phone OS? Why WOA an not just maintain their ARM version as Windows Phone? Because right now, phone apps are phone apps, and desktop apps are desktop apps. An OS lives and dies on its third party software, and this move is calculated to ensure that there is a back catalogue of desktop software available when the two paradigms merge.

    It's a smart move, and shows a lot of foresight. Google should take note, and start working on standardised compatibility layers that encourage Linux app developers to produce software that can be easily migrated to Android.

  • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @11:03AM (#38995027)

    Exactly. It's legacy software that's tied mainstream computing to the x86 architecture for two decades.

    It's legacy software that's tied people to Windows for two decades. Break the compatibility and no-one needs Windows any more.

  • by HerculesMO ( 693085 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @11:08AM (#38995071)

    But if you develop your apps in WinRT, the same code will be able to compile into ARM or x86. I don't see a big deal, honestly. It's not like it will take developers extra work, since .NET and the JIT compiler should handle that workload. In fact, it makes Windows a more appealing development environment because you're hitting multiple platforms, form factors, etc... all with a single set of code.

    But correct me if I misread.

  • Re:Fracturing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Friday February 10, 2012 @11:12AM (#38995129) Homepage Journal

    Inter-process communication is done with DDE - no, wait - OLE. I mean sockets. Really .NET has its own IPC and you should use that now.

    So should a UNIX program use pipes, X11 Inter-Client Exchange (basis for DCOP), Bonobo, or DBUS?

  • Re:Please, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @11:54AM (#38995579) Journal

    Why? So far t his is just the ARM version. It sounds more like they just are going the cheap route, and not fulling integrating the ARM version with their Intel version.

    Basically to my thinking: A) Other Win8 versions have these features, then this is laziness. No borg icon warrented. B) All Win8 versions lack these features (then why the big deal about the ARM version?), then this is a closing of the walls intentionally for a purpose. Borg icon deserved.

    There is another possibility: Microsoft has massive legacy commitments. Practically all the world's boring corporate stuff that isn't old, specialized, or hip, enough to be running on some sort of intimidating big iron or linux/web/cloud/thingamawhatsit. Most of that software is absolute dreck, and rather boring, but much of it is also quite critical to a variety of high value operations and impossible or uneconomic to port or even modify very much. For this reason, Microsoft's walled-garden options on x86/64 are pretty minimal. Architecturally they could roll it out tomorrow(Software Restriction Policies are basically that, but under the control of your domain admin); but the customers that matter would scream like nobody's business.

    However, since there isn't any legacy Windows software or legacy Windows device drivers, on ARM, since it has never run on ARM before, there is no legacy market to worry about. Microsoft has a free hand, more or less. As with the xbox, the other recent situation where MS started clean, without legacy impediments, they apparently see a walled garden as their best option.

    It remains to be seen how long the momentum of more-or-less-open x86 IBM compatibles will carry them into the future; but so long as the legacy/in-house/custom demand is there, they'll be hard to kill entirely. However, I'd say that it is "outlook not so good" for open platforms any time somebody starts a new one from scratch...

  • Anyone who's been paying attention realizes that MSFT was engaging it's traditional Apple-envy by trying to create a MSFT iOS tablet experience (we create, you consume and buy) with WOA. Despite (at least on boot) laying Metro on both, REAL Windows (x86) is very different and can be used to do creative tasks.

    MSFT wants what Apple has:
    APPLE: OS/X on x86 (general purpose computers) to create apps for ARM iOS (device OS) phones and tabs
    MSFT: Win on x86 to (general purpose computers) create apps for ARM Win8 (device OS) tabs (phones later)
    The money is in the consumption devices, so you focus on making sure the general purpose devices (computers running a real OS) have the tools to rapidly build app product for the devices.

    Imagining the ARM ver of Windows be a thriving creative equal of x86 is typical Slashdot wishful thinking. A new, CHEAP fast, open platform that doesn't drive additional revenue isn't in any major player's interest and isn't going to happen.

    You've got amazingly cheap and powerful x86 architecture that acquired a gigantic open ecosystem in spite of what the big players have wanted. Appreciate and protect this anomaly while you can.

  • Re:Please wait... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anthony Mouse ( 1927662 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @12:18PM (#38995871)

    Windows on Arm = Slooooooow...

    Does that really surprise anyone? Half the failure of Vista was because it was too slow. Windows 7 isn't really any faster, it's just that we now have Core processors with 4GB+ of RAM instead of Pentium 4s with ~1GB.

    But current ARM processors are slower than late model Pentium 4s and have less memory. What did people expect was going to happen?

  • by 21mhz ( 443080 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @12:25PM (#38995983) Journal

    I'll predict that Windows 8 on ARM will simply kill Windows, since there will be no way for Joe Q Public (i.e. NOT your average /. reader) to tell which box will run their accumulated Windows apps, and which ones won't.

    Why, it's easy: here's a desktop box, it can run all your crufty Win32 stuff written in 1998 like it ever did (but we gently encourage you to switch to the new apps which are oh so much more shiny). Here's a sleek tablet, now this runs Windows 8 "Tablet Edition" or whatever they'll call it, and you only install apps from the walled garden.

    As to getting enough apps in the garden, it's hard to tell. There is already a growing marketplace of applications for Windows Phone, and that's reportedly going to converge with WinRT by Win8/WP8, becoming effectively a subset of the APIs available for the "big" Windows. I got a Nokia Lumia 800, and I was astonished to find high-quality apps provided by my bank, the local newspaper I read, and my IPTV provider. This being in Finland, perhaps they consider Nokia's large presence on the home market inevitable. But it shows that given enough confidence in the new platform, getting useful applications written for it is no big deal really.

  • Re:Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @12:28PM (#38996019)

    It's API compatible minus features not physically available on a tablet. A quick recompile and voila, instant port.

    You're not a software developer, are you? Because I wouldn't want to work with someone who thinks that they can just do a 'quick recompile' and ship a product out the door.

    And, in any case, that wouldn't help the bazillions of old, unsupported Windows programs that keep people tied to Windows.

  • Re:Please, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @12:28PM (#38996027) Homepage
    The problem with Microsoft's new walled garden is that they have an already entrenched walled garden competitor: iOS.

    They also have an entrenched open competitor: Android.

    Windows on ARM is just Microsoft's PS/2 like attempt to recreate its monopoly on the new platform where all the excitement and momentum already is. It's not that Microsoft's existing Windows platform doesn't also have momentum, but that is already in a very long slow decline and Microsoft knows it. (I hope they know it, since the decline of PC sales and thus Windows sales was in their quarterly report.)
  • Re:Please, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm ... minus herbivore> on Friday February 10, 2012 @01:06PM (#38996549) Journal

    Actually I have a better choice, one that fits their boneheaded moves of late. Picture this, Steve Ballmer with his tongue out wearing an "I Heart Apple!" beanie, since every damned thing that monkey has done has been a "me too! oh oh me too!" for at least the past five years. lets look at this shall we? Hmmm...locked down OS, App store, making everything go through corporate....where have I see this before? Could it be...I don't know....iPad?

    For all those zealots that think I'm some sort of "M$ Ninja" being paid to sell MSFT crap let me blow their perception bubbles apart...Windows 8 is gonna be the biggest flop since Bob, not even Vista failed as badly as Win 8 is gonna fail, its a touchscreen desktop when less than 0.2% of the world's desktop and laptops are actually being sold with touchscreens, and when a 17 inch touchscreen is $300 and a 25 inch widescreen monitor is $150 that isn't gonna change between now and release in Oct, and NOBODY is gonna want a Windows 8 ARM device that looks like Windows but doesn't actually run Windows programs! All this is is the exact opposite of what they have tried and failed with for a decade. remember how they made WinMo look like XP, right down to the start button? remember how it flopped? Well now they are just gonna take the WinPhone UI and slap it on the desktop! How fricking stupid can you get, did Apple slap iOS onto the Mac? NO of course not. Why? Because the devices have completely different inputs therefor requiring completely different UIs! this is OS 101 stuff people!

    So fear not FOSS lovers, this isn't the 90s and a year after Win 8 launch you'll be able to find this crap in the bargain bin right next to the Zune and kin and Vista boxes in the "shit nobody wants even when its cheap" section. I sell to normal people, the 99% of the population that aren't geeks or power users, just average folks. So far i've shown Win 8 to nearly 200 people and do you know how many positives I've gotten? ZERO. The closest i got to a positive was this exchange: Why that looks like a nice cell phone, is that Android? i heard its really nice...what do you mean its Windows? Windows what? Why that is just stupid! Why would I want a cell phone on my computer?" and out of the mouth of Ms Pipkin comes wisdom. Everyone who sees it thinks its a cell phone and everyone who tries it quickly becomes frustrated because without a touchscreen its about as fun as trying to control your phone using nothing but a keyboard.

    so no SuricouRaven we don't need the Borg back, the Borg were actually scary. what we need is an icon showing Ballmer for what he is, a biog fricking clown of a CO with an Apple fetish. Ironic that every time i put Ballmer spellcheck wants to correct it to ballgirl, as that pretty much is what he is, someone chasing after the balls Apple hits.

  • Re:Please, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s73v3r ( 963317 ) <s73v3r@gmail.RABBITcom minus herbivore> on Friday February 10, 2012 @01:58PM (#38997123)

    While that may be true, he still got that money in incredibly shady ways.

    His new efforts should be praised, but they don't necessarily erase what he's done in the past.

  • ohferchrissake (Score:2, Insightful)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @02:41PM (#38997569) Journal

    Dear Mister Balmer.

    It's not the CPU. IOS and Android aren't popular because they run on ARM. They're popular because they have well thought-out touch interfaces, good reliability, good integration with the hardware, an SDK that people actually want to develop to, and a well populated marketplace. You don't have any of those things. Switching CPUs isn't going to help.

    Yours Truly,

    The User Community

  • Re:Please wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nightfell ( 2480334 ) on Friday February 10, 2012 @03:51PM (#38998347)

    Here we see MSFT vainly believe if they Ape the Apple philosophy they can get Apple iMoney, but its so full of fail its unreal.

    If MS were to really ape Apple, they'd drop the Windows UI from the tablet version of Windows, and not put the whole tablet UI into the desktop version of Windows. MS is too insecure about leaving behind their highly successful Windows product when it comes to devices for which Windows itself makes no damned sense.

    They are afraid that if they leave behind traditional Windows, they won't be able to compete against Apple and Google. They're probably right, but we'll never know. They are heading down the path to irrelevancy.

    A parallel in the Open Source world is Ubuntu. They receive a lot of flak from traditionalists for trying new things, but how else are they supposed to gain market share and promote innovation? By doing what all the other distros have been doing, which is just making their desktop a little shinier and rearranging the buttons? That hasn't worked for the past 20 years, why expect it to work now?

    If the iPad was just a tablet Mac, like many Slashdotters wished it had been, it would not be as successful as it is. *That's* the lesson MS should take from this, but they are trying to have their cake and eat it too. They want to start with something new, designed for the form factor and usage patterns (which is the correct thing to do), but also trying to leverage Windows, where absolutely none of the strengths of Windows brings anything of value!

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson