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Windows 8 chief Steve Sinofsky reveals ARM plans, MS Office compatibility

by David Needle

February 9 2012

The new Office 15 will run on ARM-powered Windows 8 computers, says Microsoft's Steve Sinofsky.
The new Office 15 will run on ARM-powered Windows 8 computers, says Microsoft's Steve Sinofsky.

Windows 8 is slated to run on a wide variety of tablets and PCs powered by Intel and AMD processors. But the new OS will also appear on devices running on ARM processors, the low power chipset favored by most mobile device makers.

This will be the first time Microsoft has supported ARM. An in-depth blog post by Microsoft president and chief Windows 8 evangelist Steve Sinofsky details how ARM-based devices will handle the new OS.  

He said ARM-based tablets will be able to run new desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, codenamed Office 15. However, he said WOA (Windows on ARM) does not support running, emulating, or porting existing x86/64 desktop apps.

“WOA will be a no-compromise product for people who want to have the full benefits of familiar Office productivity software and compatibility, an industry-leading hardware-accelerated web browser, apps from Microsoft, and access to apps in the Windows Store,” Sinofsky said in the lengthy post aimed primarily at developers. 

Within the Windows desktop, WOA includes desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, codenamed “Office 15”.

Sinofsky said these new Office applications have been significantly architected for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption, while also being fully-featured for consumers and providing complete document compatibility.

One aspect of WOA devices that differs from traditional Windows PCs, is the Connected Standby power mode that Sinofsky compares to the way mobile phones operate:  

“When the screen is on, you have access to the full power and capabilities of the WOA PC. When the screen goes dark (by pressing the power button or timer), the PC enters a new, very low-power mode that enables the battery to last for weeks. All along, however, the system dynamically adjusts power consumption and is always on the lookout for opportunities to reduce power to unused parts of the system.” 

He points out that a unique capability of WOA end users can control what programs have access to background execution so that those apps are always connected, and information like new mail is always up to date.

Sinofsky said Connected Standby will be available in the future for x86/64 (Intel/AMD) computers as well.

The first Windows 8 devices are scheduled for release this fall. Microsoft plans to release the first public beta version of Windows 8 for download on February 29 known as the Consumer Preview. A developer beta has been out since September.

Sinofsky hedged a bit as to whether ARM devices will be available at the same time as their x86 counterparts, noting that “our collective goal to is for PC makers to ship them” at the same time. Microsoft is working directly with chip makers Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments who will produce the ARM-based SoC (System on a Chip) products that will enable the new devices. 

Microsoft is introducing a new interface with Windows 8 called Metro. Sinofsky said WOA can support all new Metro style apps, including apps from Microsoft for mail, calendaring, contacts, photos, and storage. WOA also offers support for hardware-accelerated HTML5 with Internet Explorer 10. 

Sinofsky said WOA will provide support for other industry-standard media formats, including those with hardware acceleration and offloading computation. “In all cases, Microsoft seeks to lead in end-user choice and control of what apps to use and what formats to support,” he said. 

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