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Windows 8 on ARM may drop traditional desktop to rival iPad

updated 09:35 am EST, Fri December 2, 2011

Windows 8 on ARM could be Metro only

Microsoft may be shedding the traditional Windows desktop on Windows 8 ARM tablets to deliberately create a more iPad-like design, according to an inside source. Well-known Microsoft-focused technology writer Paul Thurrott stated shortly into TWiT's Windows Weekly podcast (embedded below) that the current plan was to not only pull the traditional Windows desktop from ARM systems but prevent them from running conventional apps compiled for ARM. Only the touch-native Metro interface would be available, Thurrott heard.

He was careful to warn that "things can change" and that the decision was still "hotly debated" within Microsoft. As early as CES, Microsoft had shown a conventional desktop running on ARM, showing that the decision would be arbitrary and not a technical issue.

The most likely explanation would be to intentionally limit ARM to tablets and more directly shape them into rivals for the iPad. Curbing interface support would set expectations for what apps should be written to reach all Windows 8 tablets, ARM or Intel. It would likewise prevent developers from being overambitious in ports by writing apps that run properly on modern Intel PCs but struggle on a contemporary ARM processor.

The strategy would make any ARM-based Windows tablet a more direct parallel to the iPad, where touch is the only interface. It may risk fragmenting Windows 8 as a tablet platform, however, by creating two different tiers. Although Microsoft has argued that a tablet is a PC, it would be putting ARM in the same category as Apple's device while making those who want the PC-level apps that are Windows 8's advantage pay a premium and possibly lose battery life and portability.

Microsoft hasn't confirmed or denied the rumor.

By Electronista Staff


  1. prl99

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Mar 2009


    great news!

    Microsoft is killing their own platform by doing this. This will limit and restrict the applications that would run. Apple can do this because they understand how to do it but Microsoft doesn't and will continue to attempt to put all their overloaded applications on devices that just can't handle it.

  1. qazwart

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2001


    How Different is this from iOS?

    Remember when Apple first showed off the iPhone, they made it very clear it was running a special version of Mac OS X. This later became iPhone OS X, and then iOS. The truth is that iOS had many of the underpinnings of Mac OS X and has many of the same services running. Microsoft pulling "The Desktop" and all the desktop style services and concentrating on touch would simply be doing what Apple did -- use a desktop based OS to create a powerful tablet OS.

    In fact, maybe it might even be better. Tablet software could run directly on Windows desktop systems which might make it easier to demo and debug. Maybe you could even have a tablet/desktop system. Imagine a 10" tablet with a keyboard and a pointing interface. You put away the keyboard, and wham! It's a tablet. You pull out the keyboard, and wham! it's a notebook.

    The big problem isn't the idea, but the execution. People have been suggesting this since they demoed Windows 8. The problem is that there's a lot of internal fighting in Microsoft to "Save Windows" because "Windows is Too Important".

    Windows 7 Phone wasn't allowed to be a tablet OS, and it had to be called Windows 7 and not Zune OS because Windows is Too Important. Everything Should be Windows. Windows Everywhere. Let's not forget it!

    That's the real problem. Steve Jobs wasn't afraid to introduce a rival to the Mac, and he wasn't afraid to turn Apple Computer into Apple Inc. Unfortunately, those who run Microsoft can't do the same, and that's going to harm Microsoft in the end.

  1. mytdave

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2000


    two possibilities

    1. "It works for Apple so let's copy them," or
    2. "We realized Apple was right, and that desktop apps suck on a tablet."

    Either way, they're following Apple. At least their products so far, surprisingly, are not a direct rip-off of Apple's products like Samsung's are. M$'s phone/tablet UI is significantly different from iOS, and the designs of the hardware are quite different as well. There's no confusing a Windows phone for an iPhone.

  1. rtbarry

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2001


    paul thurrott is well-known...

    ...for being an idiot, who stores ballmer's feet in his mouth.

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010


    Square peg / Round hole

    Re: "Although Microsoft has argued that a tablet is a PC, it would be putting ARM in the same category as Apple's device while making those who want the PC-level apps that are Windows 8's advantage pay a premium and possibly lose battery life and portability."

    There. MS finally understands that a pad computer isn't a legacy PC. The amazing thing is that it took more than 10 years for them to figure it out. And 2 years after Apple showed them the right way to separate the two platforms.

    One word: "Flummoxed."

  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Nov 2008


    I thought the Wintards were

    boasting about how these Windows 8 tablets would be able to run everything that a desktop Wintel box could run and that's what would make it superior to the supposedly crippled iPad. The Wintards could show everyone how great it would be to run a full version of Microsoft Office on a iPad-tablet. " Oh, look at me running the full Adobe Creative Suite on my Windows 8 tablet and the iPad fanbois can't." How stupid would that be in practice.

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