Intel : Windows 8 on ARM will not support legacy applications

METRO_Ballmer-TabletThe big mystery of how Windows 8 on ARM will maintain backwards compatibility with the massive legacy of Windows x86 applications has been answered – if we believe Intel it wont.

Microsoft is currently developing Windows 8 for both Intel and the cheaper and lower-power ARM-based chipsets, and demonstrated both Windows and Word running on ARM chips earlier this year.

Windows 8 on ARM will be targeted primarily at tablets, where power consumption is at a premium, but many have questioned the reason for porting Windows to ARM, when Microsoft already had Windows Embedded Compact 7 running on the chipset.  Application compatibility was assumed to be the main reason, but this left the mystery of how compatibility would be achieved.

At Intel’s investor day today, Renee James, General Manager of the Software and Services & Group said they were working with Microsoft on both traditional Windows 8 for PCs running legacy applications (including a Windows 7 mode) that runs just on Intel architecture; as well as a version aimed at System on Chips including both ARM and Intel processors that did not support legacy applications.

She said there would be one version of Windows for Intel processors and four  different versions of Windows for SoCs aimed at four different ARM processor makers.

Of course with Microsoft moving to higher level developer platforms like HTML5 and Silverlight, this kind of fragmentation may not be  such an issue, but concerns will remain about the saleability of a Windows based tablet which comes with its own complexity without the benefits of backwards compatibility.

Would our readers buy a Windows tablet that does not run Photoshop or other major third party applications? Let us know below.

  • Murani Lewis

    Tell your readers the simple answer to legacy application usage is RDP (Remote Desktop).  Using a Remote Desktop app on a tablet to connect to the home computer/laptop would be an easy way to keep the legacy apps viable while not slowing down progress. 

    • Anonymous

       The days of keeping a desktop running at home are long over. That is not a viable solution.

      • Anonymous

        I’ll have a desktop running at home far into the foreseeable future. No matter what platform becomes dominant, nothing can match the power of a well built desktop when it comes down to it.  You can’t even get a full blown laptop that can oust a powerful desktop yet, much less anything mobile. While the average consumer may not need it, there are some of us who use the desktop for things you simply can’t do elsewhere right now. It will change one day, but, it’s not here yet.

      • Anonymous

         long over? i dont do it anymore, but i still no countless people who do. just because you don’t do it doesn’t mean others dont. there are 7 billion people in the world, not everyone turns off their comp when they leave the house

      • RWalrond

        Well then, perhaps Microsoft will provide you a virtual machine in the cloud. If Onlive can give you decent gaming in the cloud, wouldn’t delivering a desktop be even easier? 

        • Anonymous

          OnLive did a CES demo that was great. They were running very high end stuff on a remote system through an OnLive client on Android and iOS devices seamlessly.

  • Bobby Cannon

     Basically start developing your apps in .NET (C#, VB) with AnyCPU build. You application should then be able to run anywhere a .NET framework exist. AKA Windows with any processor.

    • RWalrond

      Bingo! Windows Developers already know this.

      Also, Microsoft is starting to move to the cloud, it wouldn’t surprise me if Microsoft provided a virtual machine in the cloud for home users to run legacy applications. Enterprise customer will not abandom x86 so this will primarily effect home users.

      • Paul

        That would be a very good idea. I hope they are doing it. 

  • Anonymous

    I guess in terms of development, you will contend with 3 patforms instead of 2….

    build for 32bit, 64bit and ARM.

    I hope they implement either Virtual PC or Windows on Windows to run legacy applications. I assume that means the applications take a performance hit, but slow utilities are better than no utilities.

  • Anonymous

    @Bobby Cannon… (the reply button didnt work) I agree with this. Theoretically if MS port over the Windows Presentation Foundation and DirectX, the transition would be even easier.

    But I cant help but think, Microsoft at its core is a Platform company… to drop application compatibility is uncharacteristic.

    • WpfOnTabletGeek

      “Theoretically if MS ports over WPF”??? Can someone please confirm that this was just a bogus statement? If the upcoming plans by Microsoft for Windows 8 does not fully support .NET **and WPF** with it (really WinForms as well), then it is terrible terrible terrible news for us **full** .NET and WPF developers. We desperately need WPF on tablets, seeing that we were left out in the cold for the other windows moblie world, Windows Phone. If not, WPF is indeed dead, and really, so would Windows be, because WPF is the future of Rich applications in Windows. I’ve been concerned for a while that the next steps towards tablets by Windows would make sure to include full .NET, WPF, etc, and I think that is what everyone else here thinks will be the case. But it would be nice to be fully secure on that point. Thanks for your feedback, and long live the wonderful FULL .NET framework and WPF ON THE TABLET!

      • Anonymous

        Hey mate, I made the original comment and can confirm the statement was ‘bogus’; I did not realise until a quick google search a couple of minutes ago that WPF was built on .NET… I thought it was a superset of GDI.

        So basically, sorry to rattle your cage uneccessarily.

        It is guaranteed that microsoft will port the full .net framework to ARM – its their dev platform of choice. Secondly, they have come out swinging about what Intel said so its probably nothing to be worried about, and even win32 stuff will probably make it in there.

  • Anonymous

    any developer worth a shit will re-develop their app for ARM. not a problem.

    • Anonymous

       Probably won’t even have to go that far.  If your app is pure .Net framework, you probably won’t have to do anything.

  • RWalrond

    Not supporting legacy Applications is a huge risk for Microsoft but it’s something that they had to do because intel completely let them down when it comes to mobility. Today if you want all day battery life, you have to go ARM. Not even Android on x86 todays gets the battery life that it does on ARM. 

  • Eiviltas Evan Radavicius

    Lol this aint Apple. Every decent developer would re develop.

    Either way with most of the stuff being on the browser i dont see this as a massive issue. 

  • Anonymous

    Some of you seem to be forgetting that Microsoft will still have an X86 platform that will support legacy applications. It’s just the tablet OS and Windows Phone that won’t, and will be compatible with one another.

    I think desktops will continue to be in wide use well into the future. But instead of giant towers, everything will be very small, ala Mac Mini, or self-contained PCs like an iMac. I think it’s reasonable at the rate ARM processors are progressing, future desktops will also run on ARM. I can see Windows 9 being an all ARM platform. So Intel better get with the game and start getting involved with ARM, and no Intel, the Atom doesn’t count.

  • Anonymous

    Of course Intel wants you to believe that. ARM is a threat to them, and they will give as much FUD as they can they can to to scare you into staying x86/x64 .

  • Eingoluq


  • Sergey Durnov

    any .NET application will run for sure 

  • Avatar X

    Some facts about Windows.Next ARM:

    1.-Not supported apps can always be recompiled, there will be a recompiler process and x86 to ARM app migration documentation, tutorials, the works from Microsoft itself.
    2.-Runtime/Plugin based apps will run provided the runtime/plugin runs in Windows ARM. This means Java/JavaFx, .NET, AIR, XNA, Unity, Flash/Flex, Shockwave and Silverlight based apps and games will run without changes. This accounts for a huge amount of apps and games that will run without any changes.

    =There will be plenty of apps and if your app don’t runs, you will be able to make it run without any complex redeveloping.

  • Kane Gao

    Heck, what do you expect from a system that run on a different processor which crunches different binaries?

    My expectation for tablets is fairly realistic: be easy to use, smooth & consistent UX, and REAL Office suite. All of them have nothing to do with legacy applications. Everyone knows Microsoft is cooking up a new Office for Windows 8 right?

    Aside from these, sensible devs of “legacy apps” will be porting their works to ARM. Of this I’m quite sure. 

  • Anthony S.

    All managed code applications (.NET, XNA, Silverlight, etc.) will run just fine without being recompiled, so long as they’re already compiled using AnyCPU as the target. The problem lies with native code and drivers. These will require some redevelopment. (Managed code FTMFW!)

  • Anonymous

     Microsoft could have released a “Mango” 7.5 Tablet this fall. Will Windows 8 ARM be worth the wait till 2012? If Win 8 ARM is bloated or slow, MS will take a big hit.

  • Anonymous

    HTML 5 is the future and I wouldnt be surprised if its going to be the next big thing on Windows 8 (mainly for tablets). So running apps shouldnt be an issue

  • Anonymous

    MS need to come out and clarify this.

    Intel are going to be doing all they can to limit the up take of Windows on ARM.

    As well as having Windows running on tablets I want an ARM based HTPC the likes of Apple TV that is small energy efficient and can run 24/7 with little power issues.

    If ‘legacy’ apps ruin the UX then don’t include them by default.

    It would have been too massive a challenge to re-write the drivers and libraries required anyway. Put the onus on those who developed the apps in the first place.

  • Ian Walker

    I don’t want legacy support( for ‘non touch’ built apps), I would rather just have apps built specifically for the new tablet interface 

  • Fenley

     4 versions of Windows on ARM…




    …What’s the 4th one?

    At least it proves to everyone that Windows 8 is destined for phones. It will replace Windows Phone 7 / 7.5.

    • Anonymous

       Look at the story again.  It says “aimed at four different ARM processor makers.”  That means there will be 4 different manufacturers that Windows will be compatible with.  I doubt we will see a convergence of Windows and Windows Phone.

  • Lolol

     Fuck yeah!!

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