Since Microsoft shared the first obscure hints of expanding the architecture horizon to include running Windows 8 on ARM processors, there has been rampant speculation and anticipation of what that will really mean when the OS finally launches. Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky is providing some more clarity about Windows 8 on ARM (WOA), including the fact that it will have Metro-styled "Office 15" apps.
The Sinofsky post details extensively the techniques and technologies that WOA is built on, and how it will work. There are two points stressed by Sinofsky that I found particularly interesting, though -- WOA will have the Windows 8 desktop and not just the Metro UI, and WOA will have "Office 15" apps built in.
There seem to be surprisingly high expectations for Windows 8 tablets built on ARM architecture, but there has also been some serious anxiety over the past few months regarding the capabilities and limitations of WOA. One of the reasons there is so much apparent demand for a Windows 8 tablet is that there is a customer base out there that wants the power and functionality of Windows, with the features and capabilities of an iPad -- and Android tablets thus far have failed to meet this demand.
It makes sense, then, that those same users are worried about how the tablet will integrate or work with the more familiar desktop version of Windows 8. While the traditional x86 and x64 versions of Windows that run on Intel and AMD processors are distinct from the WOA versions (I'm assuming multiple flavors, but Microsoft hasn't yet revealed details of the actual Windows 8 lineup), Sinofsky spells out in the blog post that Microsoft has gone to great lengths to ensure a consistent user experience across the entire Windows 8 ecosystem.
That said, I am still left feeling like I am not 100 percent sure whether software written for Windows 8 will run on both Intel / AMD and ARM platforms, or if developers will have to create two separate versions -- one for the desktop OS, and one for the tablet. Unless I am missing something, or misinterpreting it, it seems that Sinofsky says that it is possible for an application to be cross-platform, but that it is also possible that an application that taps into native features unique to a given platform will require separate versions as a result.
The most exciting news in the blog post, though, is the revelation that WOA will include "Office 15". When Microsoft revealed plans for a summer beta of "Office 15", there was concern that Microsoft seemed evasive about whether or not it would be available for WOA. A lack of Microsoft Office would severely handicap the potential of Windows 8 tablets.
Thankfully, Sinofsky states unequivocally that WOA will include "Office 15" version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. He explains, "The new Office applications for WOA have been significantly architected for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption."
He then goes on to say, "This engineering work is an important part of being able to provide Office software with WOA, as these are not simply recompilations or ports, but significant reworking of the products with a complete and consistent user experience and fidelity with their new x86/64 counterparts," which implies that they are separate distinct, separate versions from the x86/64 versions.
With the Windows 8 Consumer Preview expected to be available by the end of this month, there is an expectation that Microsoft will officially launch Windows 8 before the end of 2012, and we may see Windows 8 tablets in time for the holidays.