Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) may have finally resolved an internal debate about how to present the first Windows 8 tablets running on ARM processors to the world, and it sounds like the company is ready to put a brave foot forward into the post-PC era.
Back when the first Windows 8 demonstrations were shown at Microsoft’s Build conference, it appeared that the first Windows devices using ARM chips–tablets expected to ship around the release of Windows 8–would be able to run applications developed for two different user interfaces: the Metro UI that is the pretty face of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7, and the Desktop UI that resembles the familiar Windows 7 PC experience. Several observers–including this one–were disappointed that Microsoft seemed unable yet again to make a clean break from its PC past to embrace a new mobile world, which would have reduced the incentive to build the Metro-style applications that have the mobile world intrigued by Windows 8.
But longtime Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley reports that Paul Thurrott–a fellow Microsoft watcher who runs SuperSite for Windows–believes Microsoft has decided to only use the Metro user interface on Windows 8 tablets that run on ARM processors. There’s no confirmation to that effect, but it would be a welcome move on Microsoft’s part.
Microsoft has forever been constrained by the need to support 30 years of PC applications as it tries to build new PC experiences. If Windows-on-ARM devices are Metro-only, they’ll allow Microsoft to present a clean picture to developers: ARM tablets are not PCs. Microsoft likes to argue that tablets are representative of something it calls “PC-Plus” rather than “post-PC,” but they are the only ones attempting to make such an argument.
Offering a Desktop UI experience on ARM-based tablets would have been confusing, since it’s not like developers could bring their Windows 7 apps written for Intel (NSDQ: INTC) chips to the ARM platform and it’s not clear why anyone needs the Windows 7 user interface on ARM chips. Should this move come to pass, it could signal a change in thinking at Microsoft: not everything needs to be about the PC.