Intel: Windows on ARM Won't Run 'Legacy Apps'

Tuesday during Intel's Investor Meeting 2011 in Santa Clara, California, senior vice president and general manager of the Software and Services Group Renee James said that Windows 8 will arrive in two versions: the "Windows 8 Traditional" for the x86 platform and another version that runs on ARM's architecture.

According to James, the x86 version will support legacy programs and include a "Windows 7 Mode." The ARM version will not.

"[Windows 8 traditional] means that our customers, or anyone who has an Intel-based or an x86-based product, will be able to run either Windows 7 mode or Windows 8 mode," she said. "They'll run all of their old applications, all of their old files – there'll be no issue."

But on ARM, there will only be the new experience centered around mobile platforms, specifically tablets and some limited clamshell devices, with no legacy OS. "Our competitors will not be running legacy applications. Not now. Not ever," she said.

Intel also has the upper hand having established a close relationship with Microsoft over the last twenty years. In fact, there's an on-site development team in the Microsoft HQ that actually works "deep in side the OS to make sure that the platforms, and the features, and the new instructions – whatever new thing we're inventing – is ready to go at the time of introduction of the latest Microsoft environment."

"We've been working for the last couple of years – very, very focused – on Windows 8," she told the audience. "I'm very excited about it. We've been working on it for a long time. There's a lot of exciting new features and things about it that I think are going to be great for users, great for the PC and tablet industry."

She also pointed to Intel's unified architecture, that applications and operating systems can run from one generation of Intel platform to the next. Applications can even be executed across multiple versions of Intel's architecture including Atom, Xeon and Core. That's not the case with ARM-based solutions.

"There will be four Windows 8 SoCs for ARM," she said. "Each one will run for that specific ARM environment, and they will run new applications or cloud-based applications. They are neither forward- nor backward-compatible between their own architecture – different generations of a single vendor – nor are they compatible across different vendors. Each one is a unique stack."

Windows 8 for x86 will run both legacy and SoC.

James is also doubtful that consumers will flock to an ARM-based, non-legacy PC experience based on past consumer behavior.

"People do not change their usage models that frequently," she said. "We've done a lot of studies – you go back and you look, and on average it's about 10 years between people changing their usage patterns. So even though we see a huge change in the way people are using applications from the cloud, there's still a long tail on legacy – something that's uniquely a value proposition from Intel."

  • NapoleonDK
    Saw that coming. =|
  • cbrownx88
    Honestly, Kudo's to Wintel....

    Compatibility is something us from the 'PC-era' take for granted. I'm not looking forward to relying on any other companies (beyond Intel/MS) to provide the updates necessary to run on my new gear! Screwed we are...
  • joytech22
    Well at least I can still look forward to Windows 8 for ARM.
  • pelov
    I really hope the word 'cloud' dies a horrible hindenburg-like death. We're still very far from "the cloud" being viable. In an era where ISPs are capping bandwidth somehow the notion that I can download the information instead of my PC doing the work just doesn't sound right. Furthermore, US internet infrastructure is laughable at best when compared to other developed nations (nordic, eastern european and japan/south korea). There are a lot of things that need fixing before the cloud becomes feasible and relying on the cloud to bring forth an ARM revolution is simply unrealistic.

    Kudos to intel and AMD in realizing this (or maybe they're just happy they're the only real x86 license holders). It sounds like intel has a card up its sleeve, i just hope it isn't another atom.
  • socalboomer
    Anyone notice that nobody from Microsoft is quoted here - only from Intel. . .who stands to profit if people stay away from any ARM based Windows installs. . .

    Not saying she's wrong, but I would prefer to hear from Microsoft on this matter, not Intel.
  • HAHAHAHA... I dont want legacy crap on my new Arm Powered windows 8 device thank you very much, for that I will stick to my PC!

    And by saying they will not have forward or backward comparability within the ARM architecture i simply cannot believe, why would Microsoft branch to ARM with one off designs for specific SoC sets, no not a chance.
  • belardo
    So, its just "windows 8." By name. But no actual NT code? So perhaps its repackaged wp7 OS. And so we'll have a longer product name? "Windows 8 64bit professional traditional retail"
  • dalethepcman
    BelardoSo, its just "windows 8." By name. But no actual NT code? So perhaps its repackaged wp7 OS. And so we'll have a longer product name? "Windows 8 64bit professional traditional retail"
    Don't forget the "Windows 8 64bit Samsung SOC ARM Cortex A9+ Dual Core professional retail"
  • nforce4max
    Figures as much that this would come at some point so this is no surprise plus ARM does not offer the raw power that of PowerPC or X86 when most are barely 1ghz or less and only focus on Integer calculations rather than Floating Point with reduced and more simple instructions. ARM is no replacement for gamers and professionals that depend on raw performance or support for existing applications that are not likely to be ported to ARM or moving over would be to costly.
  • tomfreak
    Oh really? Thats like saying Microsoft giving up win9x compatibility when they change to WinXP NT kernel system.

    When consumer showing up their money wanting an OS that support both combined, I dont see how Microsoft gonna reject this, especially there is a huge advange if your OS can run both ARM/x86 base apps by using emulation regardless of what the CPU(Arm/x86).