Intel : Windows 8 on ARM will not support legacy applications

METRO_Ballmer-TabletThe big mystery of how Windows 8 on ARM will maintain backwards compatibility with the massive legacy of Windows x86 applications has been answered – if we believe Intel it wont.

Microsoft is currently developing Windows 8 for both Intel and the cheaper and lower-power ARM-based chipsets, and demonstrated both Windows and Word running on ARM chips earlier this year.

Windows 8 on ARM will be targeted primarily at tablets, where power consumption is at a premium, but many have questioned the reason for porting Windows to ARM, when Microsoft already had Windows Embedded Compact 7 running on the chipset.  Application compatibility was assumed to be the main reason, but this left the mystery of how compatibility would be achieved.

At Intel’s investor day today, Renee James, General Manager of the Software and Services & Group said they were working with Microsoft on both traditional Windows 8 for PCs running legacy applications (including a Windows 7 mode) that runs just on Intel architecture; as well as a version aimed at System on Chips including both ARM and Intel processors that did not support legacy applications.

She said there would be one version of Windows for Intel processors and four  different versions of Windows for SoCs aimed at four different ARM processor makers.

Of course with Microsoft moving to higher level developer platforms like HTML5 and Silverlight, this kind of fragmentation may not be  such an issue, but concerns will remain about the saleability of a Windows based tablet which comes with its own complexity without the benefits of backwards compatibility.

Would our readers buy a Windows tablet that does not run Photoshop or other major third party applications? Let us know below.