Microsoft talks about their new project of re-engineering Windows 8 for the ARM processor architecture in terms of design creativity. When the average person thinks design, they imagine reorganizing a room, changing the colors of the walls or furniture, or altering the font in an advertisement. No one really knows what it means when applied to the level of technology Microsoft talks about, but it sounds impressive. Windows 8 is supposed to be this kind of redesigning and Windows on ARM is a further step, joining the newest Windows members: Windows Server, Windows Phone, and Windows Embedded.
The look and feel of Windows on ARM is fashioned to provide an identical experience to that of Windows 8 x86/64. Logging in, starting and stopping applications, using Windows Store, the new Start Screen, MSIE, Metro Styling, peripherals, and the desktop are all still part of the user’s experience. What is not clear, is whether there is anything different than a build of Windows 8 on ARM.
The ultimate goal was to make Windows available to a new set of partners and expand the sphere of influence of Microsoft into a new set of devices. Windows on ARM is not finished yet. Coders will be terrified to learn that existing Windows apps cannot be ported to Windows on ARM. They must rewrite their code to target the WinRT that underlies both Windows on ARM and Windows 8 x86/64.
This is a team effort. Not only has the Microsoft engineers been working on Windows on ARM, but ARM licensees, PC manufacturers, and component and peripheral developers have been involved as well. The whole system has been designed and built from the start in all aspects, including firmware, hardware, and Windows on ARM software.
Office 15 is a special version of Microsoft’s famous suite, fashioned specially for Windows on ARM. It include a touch-engineered and power/resource conservative version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. All Windows on ARM software will only be available on that device, not sold separately. More importantly, service packs and improvements will on last as long as Microsoft determines that your PC is still useful. Even if you think it is still useful, Microsoft may say it is the end of the road and stop providing updates. This is how it works already with the company too big for its shoes.
They are making special PC’s available to developers and hardware engineers who partner with Microsoft, but soon there will be a public beta available freely to all, called the Windows Consumer Preview. You can find it in many languages. The entire process is involving Microsoft more intimately. While this spells bad news for Linux, it bodes a better experience for the end-user. Windows will be more tightly bound to the hardware. From chipset to firmware, to hardware, to operating system, to applications, and finally to the end-user touching the device, Microsoft will be engineering the entire stream. Of course, Microsoft claims this is a benefit to the user and opens up choice, but the Linux community certainly would disagree. The most likely result is that it will more effectively lock out Linux from being one of those choices, or from being hundreds of those choices – there are hundreds of Linux operating systems to choose from. In the end, Microsoft is trying to lie to us that we will have more choice, while they take tighter control of our freedom and our physical gadget. Buyer beware!