Friday 17 February 2012

Windows 8 on Arm (WoA): A birth of a new ecosystem

9000 words! Yes, a blog post that would put most graduate essays to shame. Well written, in fact, a joy to read. And, I have read it over many times.

I am talking about Steven Sinofsky's epic blog posting, "Building Windows for the ARM processor architecture" Steven may or may not have written this (though I am sure if he did - he had lots of help. 

Read it, have a bit of a think, and then you will probably want to read it again.

As I stated in the first few words of this post, this is a rather large posting and so I thought I might summarise some of the key points made by Steven when he introduces the Windows on Arm (WoA) architecture and how Windows 8 will offer an entirely new ecosystem (after the Windows desktop, server and embedded offerings). Effectively, creating a consumer "durable" (something you plugin, turn-on and the use for a specific purpose - think stereo, fridge or DVD player) that is based on Microsoft Windows 8 code base. We have been waiting for this (or have been promised with Windows Embedded) for a number of years - this could be the time when Microsoft has a proper offering for our "smart" TV's, integrated stereos and game stations.

Here are some summary points from Steven's post;
  • Windows on ARM, or WOA, is a new member of the Windows family that builds on the foundation of Windows, has a very high degree of commonality and very significant shared code with Windows 8, and will be developed for, sold, and supported as a part of the largest computing ecosystem in the world.
  • WOA PCs are still under development and our collective goal is for PC makers to ship them the same time as PCs designed for Windows 8 on x86/64
  • Metro style apps in the Windows Store can support both WOA and Windows 8 on x86/64. 
  • WOA can support all new Metro style apps, including apps from Microsoft for mail, calendaring, contacts, photos, and storage..
  • WOA includes desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. 
  • With WOA you can look forward to integrated, end-to-end products—hardware, firmware and WOA software, all built from the ground up. 

Let me put me put some perspective on each of these points;
  1. This is the birth of new ecosystem, that could extend and benefit from THE largest software/hardware ecosystem in the world
  2. WoA looks like it will be ready for the shipment of Windows 8. Which judging by the planned release date of the public beta (called the Consumer Preview) of Windows 8 and positive feedback will have a Windows 8 gold build in the hands of OEM vendors in time to ship Windows 8 machines for the holiday season.
  3. WoA will most likely use a customised version of the Metro style apps due to power consumption and the ready access to HTML5 applications that will already work on ARM platforms.
  4. WoA will start out and ship with a version of Office. I don't expect that we will have many native WoA applications ready initially. However, having in place and working on the platform is a HUGE commitment and should demonstrate Microsoft's weight behind the new platform. This should give developers a boost, both in terms of confidence and a layered, robust platform to develop upon.
  5. Look to "walled garden" or closed systems. As stated in previous postings from Steven, he has indicated that there are three main providers of WoA products; Texas Instruments, Nvdia and Qualcomm. Expect a closed system (a weaker form of Apple) from these providers. Note: "closed system" in this case is not a pejorative, in fact, for the planned usage, it may be a good thing.

In addition to these thoughts, here are a few more points from the posting;
  • The Windows desktop will be supported/provided on WoA machines
  • Windows App Store will be offered in WoA platforms
  • Office 15 (the hybrid/cloud/table supporting version of Office) will be available on WoA
  • You won't turn-off WoA machines, you suspend them just like an iPad 
And you for you application compatibility hounds, Steven has said (in bold no less) that;
"Absolutely nothing about this approach will change for Windows 8—as millions have experienced with our Windows 8 Developer Preview, Windows 8 will run on every Windows 7 logo PC, and will run all of the existing software and peripherals designed for and supported on Windows 7 (when supported on Windows 8 by the manufacturer, of course)."
There is still huge amounts to think about here, and to comment upon. This is posting that will spawn a thousand blogs! More will come on this topic.

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