Microsoft details Windows on ARM in new blog post


— 4:10 PM on February 9, 2012

Windows head honcho Steven Sinofsky has posted a whopper of a blog post about Windows on ARM. The 8,600-word piece starts off with a few key tidbits—including the fact that, despite certain rumors, Windows on ARM will feature the old-school Desktop—before descending into lower-level talk about the challenges of porting Windows to a new CPU architecture, from the kernel to the Start screen.

Honestly, my eyes glazed over during the second part. The first part was interesting, though, and not just because of the neat demo video:

For starters, Sinofsky describes Windows on ARM not as a flavor of Windows 8, but as a "new member of the Windows family" entirely distinct from Windows 8. While the two operating systems will have the same look and feel and much of the same code, Sinofsky compares Windows on ARM to Windows Phone or Windows Embedded. He also reveals that Windows on ARM won't be distributed separately from pre-built systems:

Partners will provide WOA PCs as integrated, end-to-end products that include hardware, firmware, and Windows on ARM software. Windows on ARM software will not be sold or distributed independent of a new WOA PC, just as you would expect from a consumer electronics device that relies on unique and integrated pairings of hardware and software. Over the useful lifetime of the PC, the provided software will be serviced and improved.

It's no surprise, then, that the upcoming Windows 8 Consumer Preview will be x86/x64-only.

In spite of those differences, Sinofsky stresses that Windows on ARM "will feel just like using Windows 8 on x86/64." As a bonus, he says the operating system "includes desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote." The wording of the post suggests those are standard, pre-installed apps. If that's the case, it might give Windows 8 tablets a big leg up over the competition—at least for folks who plan to use Win8 tablets for real work.

In any case, we'll see the fruits of Microsoft's labor first-hand before too long. The company is working with hardware vendors to release the first Windows on ARM devices at the same time as the first Windows 8 PCs.

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