One of the first things Windows 8 chief Steven Sinofsky said in the Build keynote this week was that all the demos were “equally at home on ARM and on x86.” However, besides that statement and our brief look at the Developer Preview running on an Nvidia quad-core Kal-El reference tablet, Microsoft remained relatively tight-lipped on the new architecture support – especially on when it will release the ARM version of Win 8 to developers and how it plans to address the fact that future ARM PCs won’t run x86 desktop apps.
Sure, there were a few ARM tablets hidden behind glass with a static Start screen, but it’s really been from chatting with Microsoft and executives from Nvidia, Qualcomm, and TI that we’ve started to put together the pieces of what Windows 8 on the low-power architecture is going to look like, at least in respect to form factors and apps. It’s going to be much bigger than just that tile-based interface on a tablet — hit the break to see what we were able to dig up.
“Assuming ARM equals slate is wrong,” Microsoft’s VP of Windows Planning Mike Anguilo told us. And that was certainly the message we heard throughout the show from Nvidia, Qualcomm, and others. Nvidia’s Rene Haas told us that the interest in other form factors, including laptops and “ultrabook-like” clamshells, is “overwhelming,” as is the interest from OEMs in building Windows 8 Kal El systems. (Nvidia’s CEO hinted at the same thing just last week.) Haas also told us that “Kal-El is much more comparable to a Core [Intel Core processor] than an Atom in terms of raw computer power.” So we’ll take that as a “watch out netbooks!”