What you can expect from Windows 8 on ARM

Microsoft exec Steven Sinofsky explains what devs and end-users can expect from Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) devices as Redmond preps the first RISC-friendly versions of its flagship OS.

First off, Metro style apps in the Windows Store will support both WOA and Windows 8 on x86/64 (AMD/Intel). 

Meaning, devs planning to target WOA can do so by writing apps for the WinRT (Windows APIs for building Metro style apps) using the new Visual Studio 11 tools in a variety of languages, including C#/VB/XAML and Jscript/ HTML5.

Native code targeting WinRT is also supported using C and C++, which can be targeted across architectures and distributed through the Windows Store. 

Unsurprisingly, WOA does not support running, emulating, or porting existing x86/64 desktop apps.

“Code that uses only system or OS services from WinRT can be used within an app and distributed through the Windows Store for both WOA and x86/64. Consumers obtain all software, including device drivers, through the Windows Store and Microsoft Update or Windows Update,” Sinofsky wrote in a recent blog post.

“WOA can support all new Metro style apps, including apps from Microsoft for mail, calendaring, contacts, photos, and storage. WOA also includes  support for hardware-accelerated HTML5 with Internet Explorer 10. WOA will provide support for other industry-standard media formats, including those with hardware acceleration and offloading computation, and industry-standard document formats.”

As expected, WOA is slated to include desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. These new Office applications, codenamed “Office 15,” have been “significantly architected” for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption, while also being fully-featured for consumers and providing complete document compatibility.

And yes, WOA supports the Windows desktop experience – including File Explorer, Internet Explorer 10 for the desktop, along with most other intrinsic Windows desktop features – which have been coded for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption.

“Using WOA ‘out of the box’ will feel just like using Windows 8 on x86/64. You will sign in the same way. You will start and launch apps the same way. You will use the new Windows Store the same way,” Sinofsky confirmed.

“You will have access to the intrinsic capabilities of Windows, from the new Start screen and Metro style apps and Internet Explorer, to peripherals, and if you wish, the Windows desktop with tools like Windows File Explorer and desktop Internet Explorer. It will have the same fast and fluid experience.” 

However, unlike traditional Windows PCs of yore, users won’t need to turn off WOA PCs – as they  operate in a newly designed “Connected Standby” power mode. Essentially, when the screen is on, users will have access to the full power and capabilities of the WOA PC. When the screen goes dark (by pressing the power button or timer), the PC enters a new, very low-power mode that enables the battery to last for weeks. 

“All along, however, the system dynamically adjusts power consumption and is always on the lookout for opportunities to reduce power to unused parts of the system. For end-users, a unique capability of WOA is that you are in control of what programs have access to background execution so that those apps are always connected, and information like new mail is always up to date. 

“Connected Standby permeates the engineering for WOA PCs from the hardware through the firmware, OS, WinRT platform, and apps. Connected Standby won’t be limited to the ARM architecture and we are actively working on these capabilities for x86/64 SoC products as well,” Sinofsky added.