updated 09:35 am EST, Fri December 2, 2011
Windows 8 on ARM could be Metro only
Microsoft may be shedding the traditional Windows desktop on Windows 8 ARM tablets to deliberately create a more iPad-like design, according to an inside source. Well-known Microsoft-focused technology writer Paul Thurrott stated shortly into TWiT's Windows Weekly podcast (embedded below) that the current plan was to not only pull the traditional Windows desktop from ARM systems but prevent them from running conventional apps compiled for ARM. Only the touch-native Metro interface would be available, Thurrott heard.
He was careful to warn that "things can change" and that the decision was still "hotly debated" within Microsoft. As early as CES, Microsoft had shown a conventional desktop running on ARM, showing that the decision would be arbitrary and not a technical issue.
The most likely explanation would be to intentionally limit ARM to tablets and more directly shape them into rivals for the iPad. Curbing interface support would set expectations for what apps should be written to reach all Windows 8 tablets, ARM or Intel. It would likewise prevent developers from being overambitious in ports by writing apps that run properly on modern Intel PCs but struggle on a contemporary ARM processor.
The strategy would make any ARM-based Windows tablet a more direct parallel to the iPad, where touch is the only interface. It may risk fragmenting Windows 8 as a tablet platform, however, by creating two different tiers. Although Microsoft has argued that a tablet is a PC, it would be putting ARM in the same category as Apple's device while making those who want the PC-level apps that are Windows 8's advantage pay a premium and possibly lose battery life and portability.
Microsoft hasn't confirmed or denied the rumor.