When it comes to Windows 8 there are two key changes that really seem to get the most focus, the new Metro UI and added support for ARM processors.
Both of these features are certainly deserving plenty of attention because of what they imply for the change to the desktop in coming years.
Microsoft’s ‘core’ OS has always been targeted at x86 processors (Although NT4 did support a few other architectures like Alpha, MIPS, and IBM Power) and primarily at the traditional workstation-style PC and laptop.
As the company has evolved, so has its strategy and with the newest set of changes heading to Windows 8 we are seeing a complete shift that opens up the door to more casual touch-friendly interfaces and laptops/desktops that no longer use traditional legacy code and x86 processors.
With ARM companies like Qualcomm and Nvidia preparing initiatives that move beyond mobile and into a landscape dominated by Intel, you think that the x86-based Intel and AMD would be at least a little nervous.
According to Intel the legacy support that is found in x86 isn’t present in ARM, this means less drivers that work for your favorite cameras, printers, and other attachments. ARM also isn’t as fast as Intel, and overall Intel is confident that they have little to lose with Windows 8.
On the contrary, Intel has openly praised Windows 8 and claims to be looking forward to it. Whether or not this is just a ‘show’ or not, who knows.
What I do know is that I’ve personally been mixed about the whole thing for a while now. After all, legacy support is awfully important. Still, I’ve started to think about what major advantages you will find with going ARM on workstations, laptops, and home PCs versus keeping to the traditional x86 side of the fence.
I’ve come up with one possible BIG advantage, security.
While this is theoretical at the moment, it seems possible that since Windows 8 isn’t legacy-capable in the coding you won’t have to worry about all the viruses and malware that currently plagues the x86 version.
I know what you might be thinking, “Well hackers and malware creators will just go ahead and make new viruses that are modified to target Windows 8 on ARM”, maybe.
Keep this in mind though, at least for a few years the biggest players in ARM OSes will remain Apple and Google, not Microsoft. So this makes Microsoft less of a target.
Additionally, much of the code found in ‘desktop mode’ of Windows is very aged and so getting a clean start with the Metro UI and the apps that run it might not be a bad idea.
Additionally, since the Windows ARM version is largely locked down in a way similar to Apple when it comes to apps, it is again a much more secure option than the x86 version.
The big downside though is that if you are a business that is interested in the security aspect you have to be willing to re-make in-house programs for ARM and re-train users for efficiency on the Metro platform, which could become a costly endeavor.
Paying for losses brought about by viruses might end up the cheaper solution for some of these businesses.
Still, getting aboard with Metro might not be a bad idea as I do believe a day will come when Windows no longer supports the traditional applications, instead favoring a combination of Metro and Cloud-based APIs for running programs.
The ARM debate isn’t anything new but I do personally think it could have a niche, especially for businesses that don’t mind updating to more cloud-centric solutions now.
What are your thoughts? Share them below.