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Legacy apps won't run on ARM based Windows 8 tablets says Microsoft exec

Written by Rich Fiscus @ 15 Sep 2011 1:43

Legacy apps won't run on ARM based Windows 8 tablets says Microsoft exec

Clarifying statement he made earlier in the week, Microsoft Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky, told analysts programs written for older Windows versions won't be compatible with Windows 8 on ARM processors.
During Tuesday's keynote address at Microsoft's BUILD conference, Sinofsky mentioned that the applications being demoed would run on either the x86 or ARM architecture.

ARM processors are typically used for devices like phones and tablets where low power usage is more important than speed. Windows has been primarily (except early versions of Windows NT) been written for x86 chips.

At Microsoft's annual Financial Analyst Meeting yesterday, Sinofsky was asked how legacy applications would be able to run on ARM processors, to which he responded:

I don't think I said quite that. I think I said that if it runs on a Windows 7 PC, it'll run on Windows 8. So, all the Windows 7 PCs are x86 or 64-bit. We've been very clear since the very first CES demos and forward that the ARM product won't run any x86 applications.

It's an important distinction which underscores a major difference between Microsoft's tablet strategy compared to Apple.

While iOS is based on Apple's desktop/laptop operating system, they have two different APIs. Programs written for OS X wouldn't run on an iOS device even if they used the same CPU.

With Windows 8, a program can be compiled to support both ARM and x86 architectures, allowing a developer to write a single piece of code for both traditional PCs and tablets.

The obvious problem with this approach is consumer confusion over why some Windows programs can be run on a desktop or laptop while others won't. Potentially amplifying the issue is the existence of x86 tablets.

That could lead to a situation where someone sees programs running on an x86 tablet and then buys an ARM based tablet only to find the same programs won't run on it.

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