Windows Everywhere

That’s some Microsoft mantra that has existed at least since 1998 and apparently still exists today. Misguided perhaps, but only if they literally mean it.

Normally I wouldn’t really care, but I found the whole Windows on ARM thing interesting. Sure, part of it has to do with me being an ARM shareholder1, but most of it comes from seemingly everyone wondering why the hell they’re putting “real” Windows onto tablets and phones.

The angle that seems to be ignored is the possibility of just rebooting Windows entirely. They can’t do that with x86 cause they’re bound by legacy support there, but on ARM they can do whatever the hell they want and clean out god knows how much unnecessary cruft. They could strip it down to a universal core, build UIs for different devices, lock it down to a secure app store, anything. Sound familiar?

If Apple said “OS X everywhere!” five years ago they’d look insane too. Of course “everywhere” back then was just Macs and iPods, but consider what they have now and they’ve pulled it off. Macs, iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Apple TV are all running OS X2. The difference is that they never showed a demo of something two years before the planned release, at most there was a six month delay between show and ship…and they shipped what they showed.

Meanwhile if MS plans to ship other variants with different UIs, they didn’t mention or show them at all. Instead they showed…Windows and Office, and didn’t mention much else, which led to the “what the hell”-ness by everyone. I’m guessing most were expecting something based on Windows Phone rather than a port of real Windows.

On the plus side, if they consider the “Windows” part of “Windows Everywhere” to be stuff like .NET and DirectX and stuff, they could build whatever UIs on top of it and tailor it to each form factor. They already know how to do that3…well, other than for tablets (but give them time there, I’m sure they’ll figure it out. Eventually!).

One form factor that seems to be getting ignored is the plain old computer, even though it was the only one they actually showed. Other than cutting out legacy by going to ARM, the big thing is that it opens up the race to the bottom! That and improving battery life, and cooler, smaller, lighter designs. Intel might get competitive (in price, power, heat, etc) within two years but I sort of doubt they’ll beat ARM designs at it, and performance may suck comparatively while running the real legacy fork Windows. I’m mainly just looking forward to tiny boxes like this one.4

Then again, if they really plan on putting regular Windows everywhere (like they’ve been doing with tablets), they could be boned. Cheaper ARM computers will help to lower the barrier to entry to Windows (and desktop computing as a whole), but they’ll have to compete with increasingly capable mobile platforms with momentum going for them. That could suck.

  1. …wish I thought about picking up NVIDIA too, I already suspected everything was going to go Tegra! Other than Apple stuff I mean.
  2. Well the AirPorts and Time Capsule don’t as far as I know. Or the iPod shuffle. Or nano. But all the important stuff runs OS X!
  3. They have Windows, Media Center, Windows Phone, Xbox, Surface, and god knows what else. May not be perfect but they’re all specifically designed for the form factor.
  4. What can I say, I’m a whore for miniaturization.