ARM-based Windows 8 tablets to get Office after all

Microsoft plans to produce a special version of Windows 8 and Office for touch-oriented ARM-based devices

Microsoft has released technical design details about the new version of Windows for laptops and other computers that use ARM chips. Called WOA (for Windows on ARM), the Windows 8 variation is still under development. This means that there won't be a universal version of Windows 8 for Intel x86-based and ARM-based devices. But a big surprise revealed in that bog by Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky is that Microsoft will have an ARM version of its Office 15 suite; a version of Office 15 will also be available for x86-based PCs and tablets.

WOA will be based on the x86-oriented Windows 8 code base, itself still in development, and will replicate some familiar Windows design features, such as having a desktop interface component. In other ways, WOA will be uniquely crafted, such as requiring that devices running it use a system-on-a-chip design, which means the support components for the processor can't be separate items on the motherboard.

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Microsoft announced plans for ARM support a year ago and reconfirmed them in September when it unveiled Windows 8, marking a major move away from the long-held exclusive tie to the x86 processor designs from Intel and Adbanced Micro Devices (AMD). ARM chips are used in most smartphones and tablets, whose sales have eclipsed PC sales. Microsoft expects WOA PCs, which will be based on hardware platforms from ARM licensees Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments, to start shipping at the same time as Windows 8 PCs for the 32-bit x86 and 64-bit 64 x64 processors from Intel and AMD. The Nvidia, Qualcomm and TI platforms will share what Sinofsky calls a "common" WOA foundation, running the same Windows OS binaries.

Like Windows 8 PCs for the x86 platform, WOA devices will be able to run Metro-style applications from the Windows Store created using the WinRT APIs. However, WOA PCs will not run, emulate, or port existing x86 desktop applications.

WOA will also support hardware-accelerated HTML5 with Internet Explorer 10, and will include desktop versions of the upcoming Office 15 applications -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- that have been redesigned for touch-based interfaces and for minimal power consumption. WOA's Office 15 apps will offer "complete document compatibility" with files created using the main Office 15 suite, Sinofsky said, and its desktop interface will include "most other" Windows desktop features like File Explorer and IE10 for the desktop, again redesigned for touch-based, power-constrained devices.

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