Tuesday 24 January 2012

Windows 8: Some ARM Twisting for Legacy Applications

As we have have heard for the last long while from Microsoft, application compatibility is key to their product development and a key feature of the Windows ecosystem (extended franchise model?) This was a huge issue for the release of Windows 7 (as evidenced by the creation of several companies successfully built on identifying and solving compatibility issues for clients) and will likely continue to be an issue for the release of Windows 8; for both versions. Meaning for separate platforms; INTEL and ARM. 

This is the first time that Microsoft has released a version of their operating system for use on a non-Intel architecture and this move asks a number of questions;
  1. Which applications will run on the new ARM platform?
  2. Which applications will run on both?
  3. Will the build and application deployment techniques and technology differ for each platform?

We are coming up to a big fork in the road for Microsoft: How is Microsoft going to ship and provide application support for the ARM Windows platform?  

And, it already looks like we are seeing these two roads differ with the three nominated ARM-based Windows 8 vendors (Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments)  indicating that their customized versions would not be compatible with each other.

In addition, Renee James from Intel said about application compatibility and legacy support on ARM based Windows 8 system;
"upcoming versions of Windows that Microsoft will provide for ARM-based systems will not run "legacy" applications. "Our competitors will not be running legacy applications. Not now. Not ever,"
In addition, Renee added;
"There will be four Windows 8 SoCs for ARM. Each one will run for that specific ARM environment, and they will run new applications or cloud-based applications," "They are neither forward- nor backward-compatible between their own architecture – different generations of a single vendor – nor are they compatible across different vendors. Each one is a unique stack."
Wow! And I thought having to worry about deprecated API's, new file-systems and old middle-ware dependencies would be enough to keep interested Windows 8 application compatibility issues. 

Having multiple platforms, multiple stacks, new input hardware (touch) and potentially zero support for legacy applications on some versions of Windows 8 will definitely increase the complexity number of compatibility issues for Windows 8.

Application Compatibility Experts - Don't quit now, Windows 8 is coming!

And, for further interesting further reading:

Will Windows 8 on ARM be an OEM-only product?

Microsoft embraces ARM with Windows 8 Breaks Wintel fidelity

In case you have not heard about the ARM architecture and/or just need to know more, read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_architecture

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