September 15, 2011

∴ Windows 8 Tablets in Legacy UI Mode

Still scratching my head over the Windows 8 screen shots from the demo given by Microsoft last week. This Is My Next … has a gaggle of photos showing the new Metro UI-skinned Windows product running on an Nvidia tablet, too, so there’s no shortage of evidence that the new OS will drive a new retail tablet device at some point.

Jensen Harris showed off the product at Microsoft’s BUILD demo, at one point switching between the new Metro UI and an old-style Windows desktop. Yet Microsoft’s Windows chief Steve Sinofsky has said that Windows 8 tablets will not run legacy Windows applications, which I can only guess refers to software such as Outlook, Photoshop and Firefox:

We’re not going to port the installed base of x86 applications to ARM. They don’t take advantage of the things that make ARM a great architecture,” he said, referring to the power-efficiency of ARM-based processors in mobile devices such as tablets.

In particular, legacy x86 applications are not built with awareness of power management states, and would lead to greatly reduced battery life, he said.

Sinofsky further stated that all Windows 8 applications for ARM will be available via the Windows Store, and will be the cross-platform Metro style, apparently contradicting earlier statements from Microsoft that a “native” ARM version of its Office suite was in the works.

If you build an app using the tools shown off today, it just runs on ARM like it just runs on x86,” he said, adding that this capability creates a “huge potential” for new apps to run on both platforms.

(Emphasis mine.)

So what’s the legacy Windows UI built into Windows 8 good for, if it won’t run legacy software? Building new apps ugly?

How many Windows users will see the legacy desktop on a Windows 8 tablet, assume it runs all their legacy software because that’s been a key Microsoft requirement for all new operating systems (except for a short break when Windows NT 3.1 debuted), and discover to their dismay that their new purchase won’t run any of it?