Windows 8 on ARM comes with Desktop (of course..)

Posted by Charbax – February 9, 2012

There has been false rumors going around the web for the past 2-3 months, spread by Mary-Jo Foley of ZDnet and Paul Thurrot of, that somehow Windows 8 on ARM wouldn't be getting Desktop mode and full Desktop apps. Those rumors are wrong. In the following video, Microsoft demonstrates (again) how Windows 8 on ARM is going to come with a full Desktop mode with full Desktop apps such as Internet Explorer and Office.

The question of course is how does Microsoft plan to support more Desktop apps on ARM. For example, can we install a full Chrome browser on Windows 8 on ARM, how about apps like Photoshop and Ulead video studio? I expect Microsoft to have support for some recompiled desktop ARM apps in Windows store and support for PC over IP remote desktop for some x86 apps that can work smoothly over remote desktop which I expect Windows Azure to host as a cloud service.

To simplify compatibility, Microsoft is promoting the new Metro style HTML5 based apps system. Sure enough, Metro style apps all work on ARM and x86. But I am also sure that Microsoft carefully plans to also allow recompiled desktop apps on Windows 8 on ARM, they will for sure provide recompilation tools, specifications for use on PCoIP protocols, even partly use some parts of emulation and an ARM based Virtualization hypervisor.

  • Ian


    what development tools/languages will win 8 likely use on x86 and arm .. and the minwin which will be win phone 8 .. how does this differ from win phone 7 which apparently lost of developers love



  • I think there is Metro style which works on all, and Desktop apps which works on some devices, but maybe all Windows Phone 8 also have a full Windows 8 Desktop mode for free, because most Windows Phone 8 hardware probably can support a full Windows 8 OS. Metro style development kits are maybe out, I think Microsoft may talk more about Windows 8 on ARM Desktop SDK later this month at Mobile World Congress, or later.

  • Sprewell

    Chrome for linux already runs on ARM and since the Windows GUI portions probably don’t have any x86-specific code, it should be a simple recompile to have Chrome for Windows 8 ARM.  The real issue was never whether Windows desktop apps could be ported to ARM, it was whether Microsoft wouldn’t care enough about it to allow it, which they’ve now answered, and whether developers would care enough to port their x86-specific apps, which is still unknown.

  • Marc Guillot Puig

    Microsoft has confirmed that there will be no way to recompile your applications for ARM. Microsoft Office are the only exception, and all the third party software will have to be build from the ground-up for the new Metro-UI.

    Not even .NET applications will be allowed to run on Windows on ARM (and they could run perfectly, because you have a full desktop and a platform agnostic code).

    A limited OS, locked down hardware, software only through Official Store (and built from the ground up). I’m extremely angry, if I want a closed iPad I buy one, I have no interest in a Microsoft iPad clone. I’m done with Microsoft, after 30 years being a loyal costumer it’s time to look to Ubuntu or whatever.

  • I’m been looking through they even mention emulation, virtualization at some point. And they say there is a full Windows 8 on ARM Desktop, that does not mean they don’t support third party Desktop apps, I am sure they will, they just haven’t yet demonstrated and explained how those can be developed and added. For now, most of the Metro style apps SDK is out and been explained about, but not yet the Windows 8 on ARM Desktop style apps SDK. For sure it’ll be very strict and restrictive, for security and stability, but that is the whole point. We don’t want another x86 Windows security/stability bloatware scenario.

  • Marc Guillot Puig

    “WOA does not support running, emulating, or porting existing x86/64 desktop apps”

    This appears in the very last post of that MS blog :

    Everything must be build for WinRT (Metro) and distributed only through their Store.

    May be in the future they will be forced to open the door, but it looks that Windows 8 will be an all-locked iPad clone.

  • I don’t see it saying it’ll only support Metro style apps. They say they are providing a range of Desktop style apps, that does not mean they don’t allow third party desktop style apps and also provide them through that same Windows 8 ARM apps store. And if you try to load an x86 .exe file it can also try to run it remotely using cloud hosted remote desktop, which is not virtualization nor emulation, just cloud hosting of the app.

  • Marc Guillot Puig

    “WOA does not support running, emulating, or porting existing x86/64 desktop apps. Code that uses only system or OS services from WinRT [Metro apps] can be used within an app and distributed through the Windows Store for both WOA and x86/64. Consumers obtain all [WOA] software, including device drivers, through the Windows Store and Microsoft Update or Windows Update”.

    That’s what Sinofsky has said. Clearly says no emulating and no porting allowed, all the software must be obtained from Windows Store, and that means Metro applications (no Desktop). All technological blogs seems to understand it this way.

  • All those “technical blogs” have understood it wrong several times already. Just two months ago they were all saying Windows 8 on ARM wouldn’t even have any Desktop mode at all. They don’t know what they are talking about. What this is saying is that the same Metro style app works on both ARM and x86. That does not say anything about ARM Desktop apps vs x86 Desktop apps, except that you can’t run an x86 Desktop app on ARM, which makes sense.

  • Marc Guillot Puig

    Read this :

    “WOA does not support running, emulating, or porting existing x86/64 desktop apps. Code that uses only system or OS services from WinRT [Metro apps] can be used within an app and distributed through the Windows Store for both WOA and x86/64. Consumers obtain all [WOA] software, including device drivers, through the Windows Store and Microsoft Update or Windows Update”.

    It says you can’t port existing x86 apps to WOA.

    It says only Metro applications (apps that only uses WinRT) can be distributed trough Windows Store.

    It says Windows Store will be the only way to install applications on WOA.

    There is no way to misunderstand that. ARM Desktop applications are out of Windows on ARM (with the only exception of Office 15, and that’s probably because they won’t have a Metro Office for years because rebuilding a complex application to Metro UI is a huge task).

  • It absolutely does not say what you say.

    The paragraph is about “Metro style apps in the Windows Store can support both WOA and Windows 8 on x86/64.”

    It’s not about Windows Desktop ARM vs x86. It’s about Metro being the format for apps to make them work on both. Metro is also their format for apps to work for both touchscreens and keyboard/mouse. It does not talk about Desktop apps in the Windows store and does not say the Windows store only has Metro apps.

  • Marc Guillot Puig

     Come on, he says textually : “Code that uses only system or OS services from WinRT can be
    used within an app and distributed through the Windows Store”.

    No applications using Win32 API (Desktop apps) can be distributed through Window Store.

    He also says : “Consumers obtain all software, including device drivers, through the Windows Store and Microsoft Update or Windows Update”.

    So there is no way to install Win32 Apps on Windows on ARM, because all software must be obtained from Windows Store, and only Metro apps (WinRT) will be distributed there.

  • Don’t leave out stuff from the quote that doesn’t suit your interpretation of what is said:

    “Code that uses only system or OS services from WinRT can be used within an app and distributed through the Windows Store for both WOA and x86/64.”

    That sentence confirms Metro apps are distributed in Windows store and work on both ARM and x86. That does in no way talk about Desktop apps availability. 

  • Marc Guillot Puig

     What I left of that phrase doesn’t affects its meaning (at the moment I’m only interested on WOA, so I don’t care if those apps will also be usable on x86).

    You forgot very quickly that part : “WOA does not support running, emulating, or porting existing x86/64 desktop apps”.

    And you seems to be the only one to not understand that only Metro apps will be allowed on Windows Store. Here you have another sample :

    I suppose we all are misunderstanding that phrase, and you are the only one to catch it real sens.

  • ZDnet is the site that spread the false rumor that Windows 8 on ARM would not have any desktop mode at all, those people don’t know what they are talking about.

    The paragraph is clearly about Metro being the format that works on all Windows 8 devices, it’s not a paragraph about third party Windows 8 Desktop apps availability or not.

  • Marc Guillot Puig

    ¿ What about Anand Tech ?, that’s a top level Tech Blog.

    They also (like everybody else) understand that only Metro apps will be allowed on Windows Store (and that’s the only way to get software on WOA).

  • anandtech is quite the Intel x86 fanboy website. Don’t believe anything they write.

  • Anonymous

    This is Windows CE redux. Seriously. This is a mobile OS with a “Desktop app” Don’t be fooled. I have a 14 year Velo running Windows CE (before it became Pocket PC/Windows Mobile) and it has a File Manager (Explorer), Excel/Word and a Desktop.

    Same thing 14 years later..
    Don’t believe me, see this screenshot

    Microsoft hasn’t learned anything. It may look & act like Windows but if it can’t run x86 apps, it doesn’t matter.
    However, at least with CE, 3rd party devs could make desktop apps. This doesn’t seem to be the case here.

  • Anonymous

    You reading comprehension is bad.
    WinRT apps are Metro Apps. 

    You can’t post w32 style apps to the App Store. Adobe just can’t re-compile Photoshop and sell it to the app store.

    WinRT code apps use a different framework/ui than CLR/.NET. So it is basically re-writing the code from scratch because W32-centric stuff doesn’t work like the File Menu, contextual right clicks, the file-save,etc…

    So the idea of OpenOffice, VLC being straight compile to Win8 ARM is a no-go.

    If the only apps are WinRT, they are by the very essence (non-desktop apps). Also Sinofsky was direct in saying ….

    “WOA does not support running, emulating, or porting existing x86/64 desktop apps. Code that uses only system or OS services from WinRT [Metro apps] can be used within an app and distributed through the Windows Store for both WOA and x86/64. Consumers obtain all [WOA] software, including device drivers, through the Windows Store and Microsoft Update or Windows Update”.

  • Sprewell

    Hmm, looks like I spoke too soon.  I could have sworn he said somewhere in that video that they would let Windows desktop apps be ported to WOA, but maybe I just assumed that.  Marc is basically right: according to the linked blog post, they’re not going to allow desktop apps on WOA (“WOA… will not enable existing x86/64 applications to be ported or run”).  I don’t know why you wasted so much time arguing with Charbax, Marc, if you’ve been around here at all, you’ll know that evidence doesn’t matter to him. 🙂 Once Charbax decides on something, it doesn’t matter what all the evidence says, even when it comes from the horse’s mouth, in this case the Windows 8 blog.

    I’ll note that technically desktop apps can still be repurposed to work on WOA, but you will now have to change the APIs also, to make sure you use WinRT and the Metro GUI.  But since Metro still allows native languages like C and C++, you can still bring your code over, as long as you also swap out the GUI and update the base APIs to use WinRT, which could be a lot more work than a straight recompile of your original app using the old win32 APIs on ARM.  Microsoft should’ve been much clearer with the language they used, as they’re technically wrong when they say they won’t allow existing x86 apps to be ported, as you can still port your C/C++ apps this way.  It’s just a lot more work when you have to port all the APIs to WinRT/Metro, as opposed to just porting the x86 portions of your app.

    I agree with Marc, this is a straight out power grab, just like Apple with their App Store, and while, unlike him, I have never bought or owned a Windows computer, I’ll now be adding Windows to my “Do not buy under any circumstances” list, right behind Apple software, which is already on that list because of their crazy app store policies and ridiculous patent lawsuits.

  • Anonymous

    The whole desktop mode is moot. Windows CE (14 years ago) had Desktop mode as well as Access, Excel, Word. I know, google “Velo” or IBM “z50” See my screenshot.

    The only desktop apps will be explorer, Office 15. They probably found out Office was full of spaghetti code so the decided to make this a hack until Office is fully ported to Metro WinRT.  You won’t be able to plug in printers/scanners because no drivers. He even said only keyboard/mouses. 

    Desktop mode will be an app like it was in Windows CE.

    Explorer is basically useless. You can browse your  SD card but if you don’t have VLC, you won;t be able to play non-MS codecs in desktop mode.

  • Anonymous

    porting won’t be easy because it is a different framework altogether. W32/clr/.NET is different from WinRT. So apps that uses a file menu to save, minimize (menu bars), right click contextually, will need to find a different UI framework. That is a lots of code-rewriting.

    you won’t be able to take the source code for Open Office and change a flag to ARM in the compiler. Won’t be that easy. Furthermore, no side-loading.

    My guess is Office has lots of legacy “spaghetti code” and they could not port to WinRT in time. Hence, the only apps (besides Explorer/Desktop/ControlPanel) to be in Desktop mode.

  • There’ll be third party desktop apps in Windows store. That is the core of it. If it requires more or less work for the few app developers like Google, Adobe, Filezilla, NetMeter, Open-source app developers etc, that is not the issue. I am quite sure this text by Microsoft on Windows 8 on ARM does not say Google can’t provide a full Desktop version of Chrome for WOA, that Adobe cannot provide some full Desktop versions of Photoshop/Illustrator/Premiere on WOA, that small apps like Filezilla, Net Meter etc can’t be made to work as Desktop apps on WOA, that most of the most popular open source free Windows software can’t be ported for WOA in Desktop mode. I am sure we will see it. And yes, everything will have to be installed through the Windows App Store. That only makes sense, that has always been the promise, that is what any analyst and Microsoft has been saying since the beginning. If it’s harder to recompile x86 apps to ARM on Windows than it is on Ubuntu, that is because of the inherent design of the Windows x86 APIs and how those simply cannot be reliably directly ported over for ARM, but that does not change from the fact that Windows 8 on ARM is going to be a full Desktop experience, it’s for ARM Powered Laptops, and just about 95% of the Desktop apps most people 95% of the time are going to work just fine, first party and third party, if not better than they do today on x86.

  • Anonymous

    Read this BLOG from Microsoft’s Developer network. This is a Microsoft OWNED and RUN blog.
    One of the things we know people want to do is reuse existing .NET code but due to the constraints on Metro style apps it is not possible to directly reuse existing .NET class libraries nor is it always possible to simply recompile existing code. We realize this is going to be a pain point for many current .NET developers so we are working on a guide at the .NET for Metro style apps overview page which will assist developers in translating their existing .NET skill set into the Metro style apps world. Sometimes that means explaining why something was removed and other times it means giving another .NET or WinRT API to call instead. Today the page is limited but we are actively working on it internally to update it with more data for Beta and RTM.

    It is clear to anyone who is developer. Are you saying this Microsoft Evangelist is WRONG? 

    You can’t easily port. Major Rewrite.
    You can’t easily port. Major Rewrite.
    You can’t easily port. Major Rewrite.

  • Is it a surprise to anyone that it isn’t easy to port from Windows x86 apps to Windows on ARM? No it’s not. It doesn’t change from the fact Windows ARM is going to have most of the Desktop apps, first party and third party that most consumers need. Most of the rest can still function just fine over remote desktopping. And it’s in the interest of most app developers to rethink their apps so those can also work for touchscreens anyway, so Metro isn’t much more work anyway.

  • Anonymous

    you can remote deskop w/ an iPad and Android. So what.

    None of the legacy APIs will port. Apps that uses 3rd party objects wont port. So if an App uses a media engine for parsing video/photos can’t port, there will be no ARM WinRT version available.

    Adobe uses lots of 3rd party libraries. So don’t expect Photoshop anytime soon.

    Many open-source Win32 apps like VLC, OpenOffice, GIMP uses other libraries like QT and GTK libraries. Ooops, there wont be any desktop versions of those either. 

    So your arguments for Filezilla won’t transpire unless all the developers dump their 3rd party libraries and re-write from scratch w/ WinRT hooks.
    How is filezilla going to allow you to FTP a file if the library that is the file manager and filesystem reader not available. What about the buttons and preference menus? See, these are major undertakings.

  • Are you trying to tell me that there won’t be an FTP client, there won’t be third party photo editors similar to GIMP (or simpler) on Windows 8 for ARM? Are you trying to tell me there won’t be any third party open office like alternative to MS Office?

    I don’t care if this or that open source projects wants to whine about it. It’s normal that VLC does not work on ARM devices, VLC on x86 uses the CPU while video playback on ARM usually is not done on the CPU.

    I don’t care if the FTP software is named Filezilla or some other project, as long as there is an app that does FTP function. And I don’t care if my net meter is based on the old Net Meter source code or some other way to monitor bandwidth usage. And I don’t actually care much if the open Office alternative to MS Office looks like the slow OpenOffice or like the snappier AbiWord of some type, most consumers tend to prefer web based Office alternatives by now like Google Docs.

  • jawbroken

    Very amusing that you accuse another site of being a “fanboywebsite” onyour own blogcalled “arm devices”.

  • Anonymous

    They will have those apps but they will be metro apps.
    And most likely, those apps will be gimped mobilized versions like they are on the other platforms that have APIs tuned for batterylife and mobile considerations.

    App developers will be starting from scratch like they did with IOS and Android. 15 years of legacy Microsoft APIs have been abandoned. The new version of Visual Studio wont use those legacy APIs. 
    It will be like the other hundreds of FTP apps on IOS and Android. It will be like the other hundreds of Office apps and Media apps on iOS and Android.They will all be re-written from scratch with the new framework.The thing is there is no “desktop app” advantage. There is no advantage with thousands of easily ported legacy apps that would make Win8 on ARM a killer platform.

    I suggest you start reading MSDN, .NET and Silverlight developer forums before you talk on this subject. Go to Microsoft’s own blogs and forums. Download Visual Studio 2011/2012.

    You are talking about Adobe, Google, Filezilla.

    There wont be a Chrome or Firefox off the bat. It will have to be rewritten from ground up comparable to something liek Meego or WebOS. All start from day one w/ a level playing field.

  • Anonymous

    One more for Charbax.

    From The MS blog:

    Embedded MultiMediaCard storage (eMMC) is a de facto standard for storage on ARM devices (since most do not support SATA). This was an interesting challenge for us, since Windows expects a fast disk and very high bandwidth data transfer. In addition to supporting eMMC, we made several OS performance optimizations to reduce and coalesce storage I/O, resulting in fewer reads and writes to storage.

    Good luck with a video editing system like Premiere/Ulead video to show up anytime in the near future.

  • The best video editing will be cloud assisted. You upload the raw files to web editor and you just get thumbnails streamed down to your laptop. Rendering and encoding is near-instant done by thousands of grid servers, publishing is instant and worldwide in HD. Also it’s the only way to enable collaborative (and “user generated”) cloud based video editing which I think is going to be one of the biggest innovations in video editing. Basically the future of video editing is and with a bit more HTML5 offline caching and a few more of the advanced features all the professionals need.

  • Very well, that is exactly what Microsoft needs to do. Re-think the desktop, ban bloatware for ever, demand fully optimized apps that hook into the deepest hardware acceleration, GPU used to the max. That is exactly what they need.

  • Very well, that is exactly what Microsoft needs to do. Re-think the desktop, ban bloatware for ever, demand fully optimized apps that hook into the deepest hardware acceleration, GPU used to the max. That is exactly what they need.

  • Anonymous

    everything is a moving target with you. Do you know what moving target means?
    You talk about Premier/Ulead video and when you are confronted with the facts, you change the argument and don’t answer directly.

    If your english is good enough, look up the word “germane.” How germane is cloud to the rebuttal against your Premier/Ulead Video suggestion? You can’t answer it so you move the goal post to appear that your arguments and logic hasn’t been cornered.

    That is the archetype definition of “moving target”

  • Anonymous

    Did you read the MS blog. They are using a generic GPU driver to maximize compatibility. It is one of the bullet points that the Microsoft exec mentions. 

    There wont be “deepest hardware acceleration” He mentions “Soft drivers” It is the 1st bullet point in “Getting to the Start Screen section:Quote:This is a significant undertaking of very complex code since today’s GPUs are even more complex than the CPUs. To bring up Windows 8 on these new SoCs that did not yet have a graphics driver, and since ARM SoCs do not have the industry-standard VGA subsystem to fall back on for compatibility mode, our graphics team wrote a soft GPU driver that was capable of working directly against the hardware frame buffer. Aside from enabling development, it also enabled us to reimagine other things in Windows using the soft GPU driver when the normal GPU driver isn’t available.source: Steven Sinofsky I am starting to think you have a problem grasping the English language.

  • There’ll be native video editors too. This thread isn’t under the Premiere/Ulead video suggestion

  • Anonymous

    There are native video editors and good ones like Avid already exists for iOS too.
    They already exist for other platforms. So where is the WOA advantage?
    The key argument I’m making is the so-called “desktop advantage” with the assumption of companies like Adobe porting their full featured versions to WOA isn’t gonna happen for at least 3-4 years.

  • Sprewell

    The key question is whether “WOA… will not enable existing x86/64 applications to be ported or run” really means that they will not be allowed to be ported to the Desktop, which is the only explanation that makes sense.  Because technically, that statement is wrong on its face because you can still port your x86 app, as long as you use WinRT and Metro for all the parts of your app that touch Microsoft APIs.  What Charbax is missing is that this could be a lot of work, so while most of Chrome, like v8 or WebKit, probably wouldn’t be affected by this requirement, the parts of Chrome that touch Windows-specific GUI and system APIs will have to be ported to the new Metro/WinRT APIs, which could be a lot more work than simply recompiling for ARM with a compiler flag.

    The bigger question here is why Microsoft wants to push all ARM apps to these new APIs, when they are not putting these restrictions on x86 apps for Windows 8.  One possibility is that MS doesn’t really care about ARM and wants to slow it down, so whoever buys ARM tablets and laptops running Windows 8 gets pissed off and blames ARM, when they realize all their Windows apps won’t run on it.  The other possibility is that MS wants to take this chance to finally push everyone off win32 and make all apps go to WinRT and Metro, because any dev who wants their app to run on both ARM and x86 will have to port to WinRT to support ARM.  This is a big change and could be a suicidal risk: developers may decide they just don’t want to do all that work to go to WinRT and move to OSX/iOS or Android instead.

    The key, as always, is going to be what the sales numbers for WOA and WOA apps look like, and it’s possible by then that the install base for iOS/Android, currently about a quarter of the Windows install base, gets big enough that devs really start defecting from the current market share leader.

  • Marc Guillot Puig

    I am a Windows Desktop Apps developer, that’s why I’m so piss off with them for forbidding the easy port of our applications to ARM.

    If I have to rebuild from the ground my applications for Metro, there is no way I will switch to Visual Studio. My days of making Windows exclusive apps are over, and I will switch to whatever IDE that allow me to make crossplatform applications (my first thought is to use Delphi + Firemonkey so the switch from Delphi VCL will be easy, and I will be able to target in the near future Metro, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, …).

    I’m certain that I will not be the only one to switch to crossplatform if we have to confront the huge task to rebuild our applications to Metro (even the .NET developers must be very angry).

    I think the big advantage of Windows will be gone with Windows 8. They lose all the huge base of legacy applications (they are forcing them to switch to Metro), and with the new applications becoming crossplatform the users remain free to choose whatever OS they prefer.

  • Cross-platform sounds great! I expect Windows 8 support Android apps, Android support Metro apps, all platforms support each other, the apps have to be re-thought for touch, cloud, set-top-box, e-readers, smartphone sizes etc anyway. That though does not prevent Android and Windows 8 from having Desktop mode for apps, the Desktop mode remains the most productive one.

  • Anonymous

    Now you are really grasping for air…

    Do you think Microsoft will allow a Virtual Machine Dalvik-like run-time to be approve through their app-store?

    The only way to be cross-platform is to stick to something like WebOS Enyo and use a HTML5 framework. The only problem is the lack of performance/speed/native access to the underlining OS. Wait, that sounds almost like Metro apps.

  • Yeah Microsoft will build the Dalvik Virtual Machine themselves for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, like RIM did. They’d be ridiculous not to do it. If they don’t do it themselves a third party app will do it, and I don’t think Microsoft wants to be as ridiculous with judging what may and may not be in the Windows store. They have to remain judge only to filter out only spyware, bloatware and other types of malware.

  • Marc Guillot Puig

    I agree, that would be ridiculous for them to not add a Dalvid VM. But I fear that’s exactly what they will do.

    Their conditions to upload applications to the Windows Store, they are very restrictive. Something like a VM will not be accepted in Windows Store (like Apple also forbids), only Microsoft would be allowed to build one.

    That’s very far from the full Windows experience that MSFT said. To me they are clearly creating their own wallet garden, cloning Apple. Windows on ARM is only a Windows Lite (or iWindows if you prefer).

  • Anonymous

     The only possible caveat is that Windows 8 for ARM may still evolve over time if MS changes its policy and that will depend on how Windows 8 for ARM is accepted by the market and how strong the demand becomes for change.

    Many of the decisions are being based on present limits of ARM hardware and don’t take into account all of the improvements that Cortex A15 is likely to bring.

    Since one of the reasons to prevent emulation is because it would kill run time but if they improve efficiency enough for VM then they may change that consideration.

  • Anonymous

     Well, it depends as in both ARM and x86 hardware there is a growing development of combining CPU and GPU processing power and video editing programs designed to take advantage of this could possible work with systems that otherwise may be too limited.

    Though I agree it is likely to take awhile but may be closer to 2 years.

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