The traditional Windows desktop will not be included on Windows 8 tablets and other devices running on ARM-based processors, according to online reports. Instead, ARM devices will have only the Metro user interface that first debuted on Windows Phone 7 devices.
But all is not lost yet for those hoping to see the Windows desktop jump to ARM, according to Windows-focused blogger and author Paul Thurrott. He says Microsoft is still debating whether to include the Windows desktop on ARM devices.
"Things can change," Thurrott said Thursday on the Windows Weekly podcast. "But as of this week the plan internally at Microsoft is for ARM-based versions of Windows 8 not to include the Windows desktop and not to have any facility for running desktop apps."
It was already expected that ARM devices wouldn't run legacy Windows software, despite Microsoft's denial of claims made by an Intel executive in May. Now it appears any future Windows desktop apps also wouldn't run on ARM-based devices, according to Thurrott.
If Thurrott is correct, this change in Microsoft's plans is relatively new. As recently as September during Microsoft's BUILD conference the company was showing off ARM-based Windows 8 devices that included the desktop. In fact, PC World reported on three ARM devices running the Windows 8 desktop. The ARM desktop dump also appears to contradict Microsoft's belief that tablets are PCs too by treating them as a different class of devices with different software needs than traditional x86-based PCs.
Challenge the iPad
Those within Microsoft who support this plan are apparently hoping that a pure Metro tablet will be better placed to compete against the iPad, according to Thurrott. That makes a lot of sense since part of the appeal of the iPad is that it has an uncomplicated touch-centric interface -- something the Metro interface has, but the Windows desktop lacks.
But if Microsoft's purported new plan is to create a Metro-only experience on tablets and other ARM-devices, then why is Microsoft bothering to put Windows 8 on tablets at all? Wouldn't it make more sense to modify Windows Phone 7 for tablets instead?