Will Windows 8 Desktop App be dropped from ARM port?

Is Microsoft going to force people who use the ARM version of Windows 8 to only use the Metro app interface? That's a new rumor coming from ZNet. A new story, citing unnamed sources, claims that Microsoft will drop the Desktop App from Windows 8 for ARM-designed processors. That means Windows 8 on ARM would not allow users to run legacy desktop applications to be run on that version of the operating system

If true this is a change from what Microsoft said back in September during the BUILD conference when the Desktop App was shown running on an ARM-based version of Windows 8.

This would be a surprising move on Microsoft's part since it automatically limits the kinds of programs that can be run on Windows 8 for ARM processors. While it was always understood that the ARM version would have to have programs made especially for that processor, people who want to stick with the normal way of running and accessing applications on Windows 8 would not have that option if this new story is correct.

On the other hand, this would be huge for Intel and AMD, who make the x86-based processors. They would be able to support both the touch screen Metro version and the legacy desktop version of Windows 8.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Chrome overtakes Firefox as number two web browser

Next Story

YouTube launches a more social redesign

54 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

as long as your apps are .net, rewriting shouldn't be an issue. I expect that new software will be mostly .net but legacy might not be. if you're going to write new apps, you're probably going to use the metro UI anyway....

sweatshopking said,
as long as your apps are .net, rewriting shouldn't be an issue. I expect that new software will be mostly .net but legacy might not be. if you're going to write new apps, you're probably going to use the metro UI anyway....

As long as you set your output target to be "Any CPU" at compile time you'll be fine. I do know of some .NET apps however which target x64 exclusively due to the nature of the data structures they need to work with.

I think it makes sense to keep the basic tablets easy to use, and have it only use apps from the store. (atleast by default)
However Windows being Windows, I believe it will be fairly simple to disable this restriction if one wanted to do so, giving you ability to run "custom" apps.

when i saw windows 8 running on a tablet, i thought about this. and was wondering when this would be announced. when the desktop version would be chopped off.

While it was always understood that the ARM version would have to have programs made especially for that processor

Only x86 dependent applications. A lot of .NET based applications, including older WPS and Silverlight Apps would run without developer interaction or modification as long as they don't use cross native code in the application.

Since Vista's release there are number of .NET applications that do not have any ties to the x86-64 architecture.

I doubt this would happen. Aren't there suppose to be ARM laptops too? And not having a desktop interface on those laptops is more than unlikely.

However, what may actually happen is that they would probably lock desktop interface on the tablets. ARM and Intel's, both.

FMH said,
I doubt this would happen. Aren't there suppose to be ARM laptops too? And not having a desktop interface on those laptops is more than unlikely.

However, what may actually happen is that they would probably lock desktop interface on the tablets. ARM and Intel's, both.

This makes more sense, ARM tablets might just have the desktop part hidden and then if you want you could unlock it. But again, we're talking about a different architecture here, those x86 apps aren't going to run on ARM unless MS managed to pull some magic super-emulation or virtualization out of it's hat to be able to run them, even at a lower performance point.

Jose_49 said,
If this is to happen. Then, the Windows 8 will be literally a bigger edition of Windows Phone 7.

Well, only in looks, but lots of people wanted WP7 on a tablet anyways. IN the end even if you take the "desktop" out of the ARM version and limit it to WinRT apps that's still a very powerful platform for devs to work with.

This sounds perfectly palusable to me, and the right thing to do. The ARM version of windows which will run only on tablets (until 2013 when ARM support for netbooks is rumoured to come good) will be pre installed on low cost low powered devices, all they have to do is make it distinctive at point of sale, make the consumer understand that its different.

Also this will remove any power issues from ARM devices, along with dropping support for legacy viruses and malware, and make the app experience very very easy for the 'consumer' - go to the market place, that is all! This will mean ARM tablets with guarenteed long battery life, malware free (to start with anyway), and consistent, while allowing power users to simply make a choice of getting this or an intel version so that they can run legacy stuff. ARM will still have office (for metro) and others will port, but the folks that absolutely want a tabllet form factor and absolutely must run legacy apps can just choose an x86 model - easy.

You'll still be able to buy a higher priced tablet running with an i3/i5 processor, that you can attach your keyboard, mouse, monitor to when you want to get serious with win32 apps, but the majority buying a tablet will want to buy a tablet - they'll still get the killer app's (office for metro mainly) with more joining the ranks as time goes by.

They just need to make sure the x86 and ARM tabets are distinctly different from a marketing perspective, which wont really be too hard to achieve as theres a big difference whihc has logic behind it, and not just "well this low powered netbook only runs 'starter' so you cant do x y z (arbitrary limits, make no logical sense) - but a ARM and x86 tablet would have different architecture and will make sense that they are different, you only really have to ake sure your clear about this via naming and marketing.

To be honest Ive never really agreed with the whole 'windows sdk is confusing to consumers' debate, for the following reasons:

1: when your average joe walks into a PC world etc to buy a computer for home, they get an easy choice of selecting their prefered hardware, all the computers available in front of them will be running the home edition of windows.

2: when business customers want PC's, thhey buy business PC's from a business pc range whihc will be running the pro or business version of windows (and can then join the company domain if they have one)

3: for people buying OEM windows to do it themselves, well they are building a god dam PC and should bloody well know the difference, its not rocket science for someone that is confortable building a PC

4: the lower priced sdks like 'N' or 'starter' are always pre installed, and are marketted that way to developing countries or very low cost underpowred devices.

5: ultimate is only really installed on expensive home computers or available off the shelf boxed up, the only decision on ultimate is do I want to spend more to have both business and home stuff

Edited by duddit2, Dec 2 2011, 6:13am :

duddit2 said,
This sounds perfectly palusable to me, and the right thing to do. The ARM version of windows which will run only on tablets (until 2013 when ARM support for netbooks is rumoured to come good) will be pre installed on low cost low powered devices, all they have to do is make it distinctive at point of sale, make the consumer understand that its different.

Also this will remove any power issues from ARM devices, along with dropping support for legacy viruses and malware, and make the app experience very very easy for the 'consumer' - go to the market place, that is all! This will mean ARM tablets with guarenteed long battery life, malware free (to start with anyway), and consistent, while allowing power users to simply make a choice of getting this or an intel version so that they can run legacy stuff. ARM will still have office (for metro) and others will port, but the folks that absolutely want a tabllet form factor and absolutely must run legacy apps can just choose an x86 model - easy.

You'll still be able to buy a higher priced tablet running with an i3/i5 processor, that you can attach your keyboard, mouse, monitor to when you want to get serious with win32 apps, but the majority buying a tablet will want to buy a tablet - they'll still get the killer app's (office for metro mainly) with more joining the ranks as time goes by.

They just need to make sure the x86 and ARM tabets are distinctly different from a marketing perspective, which wont really be too hard to achieve as theres a big difference whihc has logic behind it, and not just "well this low powered netbook only runs 'starter' so you cant do x y z (arbitrary limits, make no logical sense) - but a ARM and x86 tablet would have different architecture and will make sense that they are different, you only really have to ake sure your clear about this via naming and marketing.

To be honest Ive never really agreed with the whole 'windows sdk is confusing to consumers' debate, for the following reasons:

1: when your average joe walks into a PC world etc to buy a computer for home, they get an easy choice of selecting their prefered hardware, all the computers available in front of them will be running the home edition of windows.

2: when business customers want PC's, thhey buy business PC's from a business pc range whihc will be running the pro or business version of windows (and can then join the company domain if they have one)

3: for people buying OEM windows to do it themselves, well they are building a god dam PC and should bloody well know the difference, its not rocket science for someone that is confortable building a PC

4: the lower priced sdks like 'N' or 'starter' are always pre installed, and are marketted that way to developing countries or very low cost underpowred devices.

5: ultimate is only really installed on expensive home computers or available off the shelf boxed up, the only decision on ultimate is do I want to spend more to have both business and home stuff

However, a .NET version of the normal desktop and .NET and other non-native code applications would run fine in a non-Metro environment without power consideration issues as long as the system scheduler exerts control over their 'state' as it does with WinRT Apps.

Microsoft may be considering this as an option, but I don't think they will will completely abandon the non-Metro App market. I can see some Tablet vendors that would not want to deal with Desktop class applications would rather focus on Metro Apps and behave in a more closed context like WP7.

We will have to see what happens, but power and the concerns you raise are easily dealt with already with .NET even running in a desktop UI context.

I will have to check with some sources to find out if there is any light to this, as a lot has changed since last year, with the dropping of the translation chips for x86, etc.

Overall, I think this is a good idea. It reduces confusion about what apps can run where and simplifies the fact that ARM = Metro, and nothing else. Besides, I would argue that any benefits of using ARM on a tablet are lost when doing simple recompiles of apps not designed for a mobile environment with a touch-friendly UI. Otherwise you basically get Windows XP Tablet Edition all over again and we all know how well that worked out.

A forced app rewrite means the app will be designed for touch by default. Plus, they'll be forced to use the WinRT framework which is designed to work in a mobile environment (I.e save battery life by conserving precious resources).

The last thing Microsoft needs is ARM tablets that run all the old software but only last 4 hours in normal use because there are background tasks chewing up CPU and causing horrible battery life. No one wins there.

what i think is.. They should keep the old desktop. Recompile all the default apps.. like calculater notepad and stuff.. OFFICE!!!...

but the reason i see in this move.. (if this rumor turns out to be true) they would need to brand this OS differently. call it.. Windows 8 touch edition or something but this move will force most legacy software makers to make metro equivalent apps to capture the ARM windows tablet Market. (also netbooks and transformer like tablets).

Even if this wasn't true, some consumers may be confused as to why their ARM tablet won't run their favorite casual game (which was last updated in the Windows 7 era), while their friend's Intel tablet can.

I haven't heard of any plans to extend WoW to support translating x86 instructions, and plus a move like that is unwise given the extra processing power required.

You know what? Let the lame people who insist on sticking with the tired legacy desktop use a non-ARM tablet, then. I'm sure there will be plenty out there. I'm sick of people refusing to embrace a new meme.

Would lose all competitive advantage over ios/android. The real game changer of win8 on a tablet is that it's a real computer, rather than another touch toy. Would be extremely disappointed if this is the case...

kcbworth said,
Would lose all competitive advantage over ios/android. The real game changer of win8 on a tablet is that it's a real computer, rather than another touch toy. Would be extremely disappointed if this is the case...

if they all have the same cpus and stuff, they're all real computers.

cleverclogs said,
I understand your explanation, but why would I want an x86 tablet with its anticipated laptop-like battery life, when I could get an ARM-based tablet that will likely last at least a day

Sandy Bridge tablets, if any wind up existing, are to be avoided due to the reason you list.

Ivy Bridge tablets however should not be. Those should exceed 12-14 hours of active use judging from all other reports, but since its 4 months until these are released, who knows for sure.

This doesn't work simply because it would mean that enterprises couldn't adopt it for tablets until all of their vendor legacy software was updated. That would mean that all of those people who want the tablet form factor would have a better chance of adopting iOS or Android due to their large software catalog. Most large enterprises want to just have tablets as another PC just for the ease of administration and logistics. If a user wants to run a certain piece of software, it should run on a tablet or a desktop. Then there is the idea of a true tablet which could become a laptop(Windows 8 version of the Asus transformer prime) or be able to connect with a dock with one or two external monitors,keyboard, and mouse and be a desktop replacement. This would not be possible if you had to wait for Win/RT app versions and have wide spread adoption. Then there is the issue of enterprise retraining and whether or not they want to turn metro off by group policy. Dont forget intel and AMD based x86 laptops and tablets will come as well as ARM. No... it just makes more sense to offer both options and have some mechanism in the OS tell the user whether or not this version of an app will run on that system like they do between x86 & x64 cpus.

Edited by Drewidian, Dec 2 2011, 2:16am :

Drewidian said,
This doesn't work simply because it would mean that enterprises couldn't adopt it for tablets until all of their vendor legacy software was updated. That would mean that all of those people who want the tablet form factor would have a better chance of adopting iOS or Android due to their large software catalog. Most large enterprises want to just have tablets as another PC just for the ease of administration and logistics. If a user wants to run a certain piece of software, it should run on a tablet or a desktop. Then there is the idea of a true tablet which could become a laptop(Windows 8 version of the Asus transformer prime) or be able to connect with a dock with one or two external monitors,keyboard, and mouse and be a desktop replacement. This would not be possible if you had to wait for Win/RT app versions and have wide spread adoption. Then there is the issue of enterprise retraining and whether or not they want to turn metro off by group policy. Dont forget intel and AMD based x86 laptops and tablets will come as well as ARM. No... it just makes more sense to offer both options and have some mechanism in the OS tell the user whether or not this version of an app will run on that system like they do between x86 & x64 cpus.

Your argument makes no sense. First off only newly developed arm apps work on arm windows. 8. Also businesses are doing just fine on ios ipads . They are not complaining about not having the osx desktop on the ipad

majortom1981 said,

Your argument makes no sense. First off only newly developed arm apps work on arm windows. 8. Also businesses are doing just fine on ios ipads . They are not complaining about not having the osx desktop on the ipad

That's not quite true. .NET applications will almost certainly run without issue on ARM processors. Native (x86 or x64) applications will of course have to be rewritten, or at least compiled with ARM support (many C/C++ applications can probably work as-is by simply targeting ARM as the processor rather than the x86/x64 processor families).

If Microsoft were to remove the desktop, then all of that support goes with it. And there is just no good reason for that. They have shown that they are working on an ARM compatible version of Office, and they have shown .NET support running Metro apps, which means that .NET can already run on ARM (one of the convenient reasons to have .NET compiled on the user's machine on first run).

There is simply no value there, and if Microsoft does this, then they clearly do not get it. I want a Windows 8 tablet specifically because it gives me the convenience of a tablet OS, and the power of the desktop when I want it. That is an awesome future; not a split ecosystem.

pickypg said,
I want a Windows 8 tablet specifically because it gives me the convenience of a tablet OS, and the power of the desktop when I want it. That is an awesome future; not a split ecosystem.

Then purchase a 'premium' (or however they brand it) x86-based tablet.

For most end users who would be considering a Windows 8 ARM tablet against an iPad, being able to run some but not all Windows desktop apps would be confusing.

Stetson said,
Then purchase a 'premium' (or however they brand it) x86-based tablet.

For most end users who would be considering a Windows 8 ARM tablet against an iPad, being able to run some but not all Windows desktop apps would be confusing.

I understand your explanation, but why would I want an x86 tablet with its anticipated laptop-like battery life, when I could get an ARM-based tablet that will likely last at least a day?

That's why I am excited about Windows 8, and the ARM-based tablets that will run it. Give me a Tegra 4-based tablet over a Core i3, so I can use it for day-to-day tasks and the in-between with .NET apps. I like the idea of running Metro apps, but sometimes you just need more than that. For instance, it would be great to give my parents a Windows 8 tablet that does everything that they need (web browsing, and the one-off apps), including managing the Zune software (e.g., hooking up my mother's Windows Phone, which she actually has). She wouldn't need it often, and certainly not all of the time, but the convenience of having a tablet/computer duo rather than one computer, one tablet, and one smartphone cannot be underestimated. I think this is where Microsoft will have an advantage of iPads, and certainly over Androids.

People have handled the x64 transition pretty well and it's more confusing since it simply extends x86, so an ARM transition should do similarly well.

Except that with x64 you could run x86 apps just fine.

Maybe this should be an advanced configuration option. I can understand enterprise or IT purchasers wanting to be able to run desktop .Net apps, but it would confuse many consumers to have it on by default. "Why can I run this Windows app but not that Windows app?"

I would imagine that there will be Metro versions of a lot of MS apps going forward, maybe even including Zune/WP management software.

Owen W said,
No, they won't do this.

Why not? So you could run a select few ARM compiled desktop apps? Since there's no x86 emulator you won't be able to run any Windows apps that haven't been recompiled. For most users buying <=$500 range ARM tablets that would be pretty confusing.

Stetson said,

Why not? So you could run a select few ARM compiled desktop apps? Since there's no x86 emulator you won't be able to run any Windows apps that haven't been recompiled. For most users buying <=$500 range ARM tablets that would be pretty confusing.


ever heard of a small technology called .NET?

MFH said,

ever heard of a small technology called .NET?

Of course I have. Is every consumer shopping for a sub-$500 tablet at wal-mart going to have to know the difference between .NET apps and native compiled apps in order to not be dissapointed with their tablet?

Makes a lot of sense. The user confusion of not being able to access Desktop mode on a lower-powered ARM tablet is much less than the potential confusion of being able to run Desktop apps but only those that have been recompiled for ARM.

Unlike the OSX PPC->Intel transition there isn't an x86 emulator planned for Windows 8. That means the only apps you could run in Desktop mode would be those compiled for ARM. For most users that would be extremely confusing and frustrating. "It looks like Windows, it acts like Windows, why can't I run Windows apps?"

Power users can buy an Intel based tablet for the best of both worlds.

I won't mind much for a tablet. As long as my desktop can continue to run all my legacy apps I can't see how we'd be affected. I didn't expect ARM to be able to run x86 apps anyway, and cutting out backwards compatibility will cut down the size of the install, which is important when a tablet might only have 4GB of internal storage.

"A new story, citing unnamed sources, claims that Microsoft will drop the Desktop App from Windows 8 for ARM-designed processors."

The source isn't unnamed, the story specifies Paul Thurrott.

Josh the Nerd said,
"A new story, citing unnamed sources, claims that Microsoft will drop the Desktop App from Windows 8 for ARM-designed processors."

The source isn't unnamed, the story specifies Paul Thurrott.

Ahhh. Big shock this coming from Paul "Zero credibility" Thurrott. That guy is a giant asshat.

Josh the Nerd said,
"A new story, citing unnamed sources, claims that Microsoft will drop the Desktop App from Windows 8 for ARM-designed processors."

The source isn't unnamed, the story specifies Paul Thurrott.

If I knew I would not wasted time commenting on the news; the guy is beyond comments.......

Highly doubt this rumor would be true. It would be way too confusing to consumers to have two versions of Windows 8 like that.

Enron said,
Highly doubt this rumor would be true. It would be way too confusing to consumers to have two versions of Windows 8 like that.

As time goes by most consumers will not miss legacy softwares when they can find (almost) everything in the Windows AppStore.

Enron said,
Highly doubt this rumor would be true. It would be way too confusing to consumers to have two versions of Windows 8 like that.

Either way the ARM customer would need to know they can't run legacy applications. I'd say it's less confusing if they know they can rule out all desktop apps.

Enron said,
Highly doubt this rumor would be true. It would be way too confusing to consumers to have two versions of Windows 8 like that.


This seems like the best way to do it to me. The distinction between Metro and Desktop is very clear, and it makes sense that a tablet would be an exclusively Metro experience.

I think that the user experience on a low end tablet would be much better, which is exactly why Apple chose the path they did with iOS.

If anything allowing Desktop mode on ARM processors would be MORE confusing to users. Then it would look like Windows, act like Windows, but wouldn't run most Windows apps.

If you're a power user who wants a tablet with both, buy one with an Intel chip and then you have the best of both worlds.

Enron said,
Highly doubt this rumor would be true. It would be way too confusing to consumers to have two versions of Windows 8 like that.
they would have to relabel the arm version to "windows slate" or something

jasonon said,
they would have to relabel the arm version to "windows slate" or something

bet it will be windows 8 starter vs windows 8 premium.. starter will be just metro and will probably be on netbooks as well

Stetson said,


This seems like the best way to do it to me. The distinction between Metro and Desktop is very clear, and it makes sense that a tablet would be an exclusively Metro experience.

Not really: I used a Tablet since 2002 and I have used "Desktop" apps every day.
A "REAL" tablet is a perfect replacement for a laptop and needs to be a "REAL" computer not a media device a la iPAD.

Stetson said,


This seems like the best way to do it to me. The distinction between Metro and Desktop is very clear, and it makes sense that a tablet would be an exclusively Metro experience.

Not really: I used a Tablet since 2002 and I have used "Desktop" apps every day.
A "REAL" tablet is a perfect replacement for a laptop and needs to be a "REAL" computer not a media device a la iPAD.

Fritzly said,

Not really: I used a Tablet since 2002 and I have used "Desktop" apps every day.
A "REAL" tablet is a perfect replacement for a laptop and needs to be a "REAL" computer not a media device a la iPAD.

Which desktop apps will you use on an ARM tablet?

Stetson said,

Which desktop apps will you use on an ARM tablet?

Office , QuickBooks just to mention few ones; besides I do not want to differentiate between my desktop and my laptop/tablet.

Bottom line: at least for me a Tablet is a PC not a phone and I would not use the W8 "start screen" only.