Windows 8 on ARM: No legacy, no legs?

Will running older software be less of a concern with Windows 8?

A Texas Instruments Windows 8 tablet that is inaccessible because it's behind closed glass. And users won't be able to access older Windows applications either.
A Texas Instruments Windows 8 tablet that is inaccessible because it's behind closed glass. And users won't be able to access older Windows applications either. Brooke Crothers

Would you buy a Windows tablet that doesn't run older Windows applications?

That's the question that keeps dogging me when I see Microsoft demonstrating tablets based on ARM processors from Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Nvidia. Tablets with those processors will not run so-called Intel "x86" legacy software (though they will run a full version of Office 15).

Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky wrote about this on February 9. "If you need to run existing x86/64 (Intel-based) software, then you will be best served with Windows 8 on x86/64."

And he reiterated this at Mobile World Congress on Wednesday.

Curious what readers thought, I read through the comments below this post.

Not surprisingly, there were comments that claimed legacy software is not important. And others that said it is.

I lean toward the latter. In short, if you're going to buy a Windows 8 tablet, why not buy one that at least offers the option of running the galactic library of Windows apps? After all, don't consumers favor platforms with a large selection of apps? (Albeit, in the case of Intel/x86, older apps not optimized for tablets.)

Not to mention that's one big reason people use Windows. It's runs all of those applications they've come to love (or loathe, if that be the case).

"Windows per se comes with an expectation that, 'hey everything that I ever bought I should be able to run on this thing?'" said Nathan Brookwood, a principal analyst at Insight 64.

Needless to say, Microsoft is aware of this. "They know they have to address that. And there is a way they're going to do that in terms of the branding," Brookwood said.

Here's what Microsoft's Sinofsky said about that. "We do want to assure you that, when a consumer buys a WOA (Windows on ARM) PC, it will be clearly labeled and branded so as to avoid potential confusion with Windows 8 on x86/64," he wrote.

So, am I wrong? Does legacy not really matter any more, i.e., it's old software not written for touch anyway? Will most consumers be starting with a clean slate or be more concerned about other features and/or capabilities?

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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