Microsoft’s Windows 8 Team Offers Windows-on-ARM Deep Dive
The Building Windows 8 blog has given us another insightful look into the building of an operating system. This time, the focus is on how Microsoft has built out Windows 8 for use on ARM-based tablets and technology. It may sound boring on the surface, but the Windows experience on ARM could very well be Microsoft’s best move yet. Here’s why …
I’m happy to label myself a pretty geeky guy. I’m all about gigabits, gigahertz and IOPS. That’s why I’m impressed with the level of detail the Building Windows 8 blog offers on Microsoft’s process to put Windows on ARM. But I won’t bore you with numbers and figures. The most interesting nuggets of information boil down to this:
- “Windows on ARM” is now WOA: Do you pronounce that W-O-A, or a nice Keanu Reeves-style “woah”? It’s not clear, but I’m leaning to the latter, because that’s the sound I made when I found out Windows was going to be on ARM. More seriously, Microsoft promises WOA will “enable a new class of PC,” imbued with the productivity of Windows inside a new form-factor. According to the blog, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments all are on board to build ARM hardware that will support WOA, and all promise to offer a complete bottom-up firmware integration. That means WOA will be the closest Microsoft ever gets to building a completely vertically integrated device, à la Apple.
- Metro Apps: This isn’t exactly, new, but the Building Windows 8 blog details that — yes — Windows Store Metro apps can be cross-platform compatible for WOA and x86, thanks to Visual Studio 11. If developers get on board to build applications and games with Visual Studio 11, the Windows ecosystem could blossom into something quite substantial, especially since VS11 supports a variety of programming languages, including HTML5, according to Microsoft. The real special news is that WOA also will support specialized desktop versions of Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint. Microsoft has built versions of these applications that not only focus on intuitive touch-based controls, but also are less resource-intensive. As predicted, this version of Office will indeed be the much-hyped Office 15, a.k.a., Office 2012.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on WOA. The Building Windows 8 blog also has a deep dive on all the partners helping make this silicon transition possible, including details on how Windows was re-engineered to take advantage of system-on-a-chip technology. For example, WOA will never shut down like traditional Windows devices do; instead, it will run in a perpetual standby mode, like many modern mobile OSes.
I hear your skepticism, and I share it. How can Microsoft take Windows and streamline it for use on an ARM CPU? What kind of work did the company really do? Turns out, a lot. Microsoft has taken a bold approach, building out “over 100 fully populated” rack-mounted silos filled with ARM development boards. Each rack holds 32 of said development boards, so it’s fair to say Microsoft has spent a considerable amount of time optimizing Windows.
Microsoft’s latest efforts to demystify the transition to ARM helps considerably, considering the confusion over ARM at Microsoft’s BUILD conference in 2011. I’m personally excited to use an ARM-based Windows device, especially if it proves itself as responsive and beautiful as iPad counterparts. Price right, I may even pick one up for my own personal technology arsenal.
Want more on the future of Windows 8 for ARM? Point your compass to Mobile World Congress, where Microsoft is set to unveil its Windows 8 Consumer preview.