Microsoft has spilled the beans on ARM support in Windows 8, but the biggest revelation is that this version of the platform will include Office applications, a move that seems designed to boost Microsoft's share of the tablet market.
In the latest update to its Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft ended months of speculation by clarifying that Windows on ARM (WOA) "supports the traditional Windows desktop experience including File Explorer, Internet Explorer 10 for the desktop, and most other desktop features", the opposite of what Microsoft had earlier appeared to suggest.
More interestingly, Microsoft stated that within the desktop environment, WOA will include desktop versions of the upcoming Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote applications, codenamed "Office 15".
In other words, it appears that ARM-based devices running Windows 8 will come with the next version of Microsoft Office ready built in, a move that is almost certain to make Windows tablets a more attractive prospect to buyers than other devices, even perhaps Apple's iPad.
This is a very cunning ploy by the software giant, but also risky. Microsoft Office is possibly the most eagerly sought-after business software, and the ARM-based incarnation looks set to be a full implementation of the features seen in the desktop version for x86 PCs, along with enhancements for both touch input and minimal power/resource consumption.
However by bundling Office in this way, Microsoft will also be risking further anti-trust action, such as the case brought against it by the US Department of Justice over the inclusion of Internet Explorer with Windows, or the European Commission case over bundling of Windows Media Player.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has explicitly stated that WOA will feature the traditional desktop interface as well as the Metro-style front-end. Previous Microsoft statements about only Metro-style apps being supported on ARM led to the widespread perception that the desktop itself would be omitted from WOA.
"The availability of the Windows desktop is an important part of WOA. The desktop offers you a familiar place to interact with PCs, particularly files, storage, and networking, as well as a range of peripherals," Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky wrote on the Building Windows 8 blog
"You can use Windows Explorer, for example, to connect to external storage devices, transfer and manage files from a network share, or use multiple displays, and do all of this with or without an attached keyboard and mouse."
However, it does seem that Microsoft expects third-party developers to stick to Metro apps, because of the power-efficiency features the firm is explicitly building into the new WinRT programming model.
"The conventions used by today's Windows apps do not necessarily provide this," said Sinofsky. "If you need to run existing x86/64 software, then you will be best served with Windows 8 on x86/64."
Microsoft is set to unveil the first public preview of Windows 8 on 29 February at Mobile World Congress.
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