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Microsoft Corp. admitted that systems based on ARM system-on-chip devices and running Windows 8 will not be able to run applications written for x86 microprocessors. Without emulation of x86 technology and compatibility with existing software, Windows 8/ARM PCs will not be able to compete against systems featuring traditional processors and compatible with popular programs.

“We've been very clear since the very first CES demos and forward that the ARM product won't run any x86 applications. We've done a bunch of work to enable that – enable a great experience there, particularly around devices and device drivers. We built a great deal of what we call class drivers, with the ability to run all sorts of printers and peripherals out of the box with the ARM version. […] When you write a Metro style application, all the tools are there to enable you in any of the languages that we support to automatically support ARM or x86,” said Steven Sinofsky, the president of Windows and Windows Live division at Microsoft, during the company’s Financial Analyst Meeting.

Earlier it was believed that at least some traditional applications for Windows will work on Windows 8/ARM-based personal computers and tablets. Nonetheless, it looks like only certain apps will be compatible with devices powered by SoCs like Nvidia Tegra or Qualcomm Snapdragon. Naturally, without ability to run serious programs for Windows, ARM SoCs will be unable to compete on the market of desktops and high-end notebooks.

Microsoft claims that it is natural for ARM-based gadgets to work with Metro-style applications since neither the hardware nor the software were designed for intensive work. Moreover, demanding applications or ARM-powered systems may lead to substantially shorter battery life, which will decrease their value for end-users.

[Windows] is constantly working to let innovations in hardware shine through in the operating system so that they all can show their uniqueness. […] If we allow the world of X86 application support like that, or based on what we call desktop apps in our start yesterday, then there are real challenges in some of the value proposition for system-on-a-chip, you know, will battery life be as good, for example?  Well, those applications aren't written to be really great in the face of limited battery constraints, which is a value proposition of the Metro style apps.  We have to be careful that we don't remove the value proposition for those applications. On the other hand, people would say, oh, but you have to let them run because then there's that whole ecosystem.  And then if we do let them run, we just brought the perceived negatives of some of the ecosystem. So, people say, great, now it's easy to port viruses and malware and we'll port those,” explained Mr. Sinofsky.

All-in-all, Microsoft’s goal was to create a universal operating system compatible with various hardware architectures and software eco-systems. Metro-style applications should be compatible with different hardware and software platforms.

“We've taken the approach that we're going to build a bunch of rich capabilities in the operating system that allow devices and peripherals and a broad range of form factors all to run and working with multiple ARM partners on the ARM side, and then Intel and AMD on the system on a chip side, but then focus on the Metro style applications as the opportunity,” concluded Mr. Sinofsky.

Tags: Microsoft, Windows, Windows 8


Comments currently: 14
Discussion started: 09/19/11 01:29:06 PM
Latest comment: 09/23/11 07:53:05 PM
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It is better to nvidia, that win 8 does not have x86 support on ARM CPU. Emulator removes lot of performance, so tegra/denver emutating x86, wil not be attractive for users. Also, developers do not write desktop app for ARM and stay with x86, because of 'ARM can emulate x86'. With lack support x86 on ARM, developers can just recompile for ARM, and application will run fast.
3 1 [Posted by: Tristan  | Date: 09/19/11 01:29:06 PM]
- collapse thread

Agreed. Emulation of x86 on ARM will be the death knell for ARM.
Requiring a recompile is better. Some programs wouldn't get to it, but those that do will run better
0 0 [Posted by: taltamir  | Date: 09/19/11 02:59:02 PM]
I disagree. For people that can not wait and still want to use a ARM based computer, they have to use an x86 emulator until the program that they are using are ported to ARM. Apple have done this and they provide an option to run old Mac programs for Power processors to run on x86 based Macs. Of course there is a performance penalty, but people still used it. Mac OS X 10.7 is making some Mac users scream because the Power emulator has been cut out.

Apple can do this because they picked x86 processors for their Mac and leaving their Power based Macs behind. Microsoft does not have this luxury, so I do not think it will last long. It depends on how much effort Microsoft is willing to put into.
1 0 [Posted by: tecknurd  | Date: 09/19/11 05:06:41 PM]
Software emulation of x86 on ARM processors would be far too slow to actually be usable anyway.
1 1 [Posted by: lol123  | Date: 09/20/11 04:18:31 AM]
Exactamento! Despite all the PR bull from Microsoft, this is the crux of the matter.

They could emulate ARM on X86, though, but what would be the point?
0 0 [Posted by: BernardP  | Date: 09/20/11 05:38:19 AM]

...Intel is smiling.
1 0 [Posted by: Pouria  | Date: 09/19/11 05:00:06 PM]

Remember Rene James? this was what see said

James also revealed that there will be four Windows 8 system-on-a-chip architectures (SoCs) for ARM; and that each one will be a “unique stack,” which will “run for that specific ARM environment,” and for new applications or cloud-based applications.
James added that the Windows 8 SoCs for ARM “are neither forward- nor backward-compatible between their own architecture – different generations of a single vendor – nor are they compatible across different vendors.”

0 0 [Posted by: SixPacker  | Date: 09/19/11 06:29:55 PM]

The big mistake about traditional os as Windows, OSX and the same Linux is that every thing has to be compiled for the native machine. So for most of company support more than one architecture is not so trivial and cheaper as it can seam: you must provide all supported platforms to your developers.
In the contrary some big portable projects as Mozilla, Android, etc. tried to move all native code to a smaller controlled part while tird party software providers only concentrate to develop software in no generating native code. Infact Java, Javascript, and other similar modern languages provide this big advantage in this field of distributing the same application for many platform.
What Microsoft should do (and I suppose is doing) is to concentrate third-party software development on C#, to make applications completely working in every platform.
In fact with a good application framework and a good virtual machine the 99% could be developed for all supported platforms for the same OS without major problems (video games too). What should be ported in native code should be just critical part of the application framework and great part of the OS. It exactly the strategy adopted by Google and I think is the key of their future invasion in the x86 world with future releases of Android.
Apple apparently make a big mistake orientating third party application development on Objective-C (that is compiled). This make art for them to rejoin his two platforms (x86 + ARM) with current existing applications.
0 1 [Posted by: Serenico  | Date: 09/20/11 12:37:15 AM]
- collapse thread

the problem whit this is and yes java has the same problem the programs compiles it just before execution so you will lose preformance. maybe a compiling at installing would be a better way and the most optimized way but install programs would increase in size.
0 0 [Posted by: massau  | Date: 09/20/11 05:55:10 AM]
What should be ported in native code should be just critical part of the application framework and great part of the OS. It exactly the strategy adopted by Google ...

C# runs on .Net framework, which is an abstraction like JVM. MS has been doing this since 2001. Project Mono support .Net on Linux platform. Though I see your point and agree. I do also think certain "native" support are necessary for innovation. For example, a printer manufacturer comes up with a new 3D-scanning (base on true recent event) can create them own driver, rather than being tied to a common, restricted abstraction layer such as CUPS or LPNG in Linux.

As a software designer, I love abstraction, but there are always two sides to a story.
0 0 [Posted by: gamoniac  | Date: 09/20/11 09:24:34 AM]

This is exactly what Intel said (and anyone who knows anything about computers could infer), and which Microsoft called "FUD" at the top of their lungs. Ridiculous.
0 0 [Posted by: lol123  | Date: 09/20/11 04:17:00 AM]

The thing that this article doesnt mention is that metro aplications will run perfectly fine with desktop win8.
Either way a mouse controled x86 aplication with tiny icons would be useless on touchscreens.
0 1 [Posted by: Zool  | Date: 09/20/11 07:59:44 AM]


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