The ARM version of Windows 8 might have just become the most desired version of Windows in our hearts and minds. After us talking about legacy code and backwards compatibility in Windows for years now, an Intel senior vice president, Renee James, has just stated that Windows 8 on ARM will not have any form of compatibility for legacy applications whatsoever. Update: Microsoft has responded to Intel’s claims. “Intel’s statements during yesterday’s Intel Investor Meeting about Microsoft’s plans for the next version of Windows were factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading,” the company said, “From the first demonstrations of Windows on SoC, we have been clear about our goals and have emphasized that we are at the technology demonstration stage. As such, we have no further details or information at this time.”
It’s no secret that Microsoft is working on a tablet user interface experience for Windows 8. This new user interface will run on both Intel and ARM chips (obviously), but Intel has confirmed that while the x86 version of Windows 8 will obviously be able to run the vast collection of legacy applications, the ARM version will not. “Our competitors will not be running legacy applications. Not now. Not ever,” James said.
The setup seems to be that Windows 8 will come in two trees, if you will: Windows 8 ‘traditional’, as Intel puts it, runs on x86 and includes a Windows 7 mode to run legacy applications. The ARM version of Windows 8 will not have this Windows 7 mode for legacy applications. What intrigues me is this: does this mean that on x86, the Windows 7 mode is optional? That you can simply not install it and only run new applications?
If that’s the case, then we could be looking at a significantly leaner Windows 8, where much of the legacy stuff has been relegated to an optional package. This would be the culmination of a lage, ongoing project within the Windows team to componentise and restructure the Windows operating system, a process which started somewhere in 2002 or 2003.
In any case, if Intel is telling the truth here, it will at least mean that the ARM version of Windows 8 will not include any Rosetta-like technology (not unsurprising, since ARM is not (yet) fast enough to properly emulate x86), and that the recently demonstrated ARM version of Office is indeed fully native.
This shouldn’t be particularly shocking to anyone, and honestly it’s probably for the best. Less headaches for everyone in the long run with a clean break.