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Thursday, August 16, 2012

What You Need to Know About Windows 8

This week Windows 8 passed a major milestone and the final version was made available to many of those responsible for its future.  Most everything you’ll read will  be debating the radical new interface formerly called “metro”. The real impact of Windows 8 is so much larger.  The difference for consumers goes way beyond flat tiles, a missing Start button or a touch screen interface.


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Window 8 Preview Version


Most of my readers know I never was a fan of the 64 bit version of Windows. As I wrote last year, “64-bit Windows is Here, Like it or Not”, continues to be true. As a developer, the changes created quite a learning curve and many hours of programming, testing and customer support.

When first released many users stayed away from 64-bit Windows because it didn’t support some of their old programs or devices. If you purchase a new desktop or laptop today it’s unlikely you’ll even have a choice. Well, the change to 64-bit Windows is nothing compared to what’s coming with Windows 8.


Windows x86/64 or Windows ARM

When the time comes to purchase a Windows 8 system you’ll want to know the kind of processor is used.

Windows PC laptops and desktop computers generally have processors from Intel or AMD that use the x86\64 based instruction set.  Smart phones, tablets, camera’s and many other new devices use chips with a completely new instruction set called ARM.  The major advantage of the ARM design is that is uses far less power than traditional processors and can be built into smaller spaces with less heat.

ARM-Logo-ProductPicture

No single company makes the chips using the ARM instruction set, but the specification is owned and licensed by ARM Holding, based in Cambridge, UK. It’s based on the idea of “Reduced Instruction Set Computing” or RISC. The ARM design and instruction set was originally developed by the Acorn Computer Group in 1985 as “Acorn RISC Machines”. 

ARM now known as “Advanced RISC Machines” was created in 1990 as a collaboration of Acorn, Apple and VLSI Technology. The Apple Newton PDA was based on ARM technology.  ARM chips for Windows have been announced from NVidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

Microsoft’s plan is the release a separate “Windows on ARM” (WOA) now called “Windows RT” so companies can create tablets for Windows that will be smaller, use less power and take advantage of other features that may only be possible on an ARM based device.  This has been a huge development project for Microsoft and this week they made Visual Studios 2012 available allowing developers to create both x86/64 and ARM based Apps.

Which Windows are you Buying?
Consumers need to know if they are buying a tablet or convertible laptop with Windows RT using an ARM processor or a traditional system running on an Intel or AMD processor. A Windows RT machine will only run programs specifically created for ARM processors. Even programs from Microsoft will be limited.  On release you’ll find Internet Explorer but for Office users you’ll be limited to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.  It makes my changes for 64-bit Windows look like a stroll in the park.

The good news, Microsoft has provided plenty of options with respect to programming languages. The bad news, how a program communicates with Windows is brand new. Developers won’t be able to just recompiled their current applications.  New Windows RT apps will need to be designed for the new Windows 8 interface. Just like programs for an iPhone/iPad or Android device, new Apps will only be available from the Microsoft Store.

At this time I can’t advise readers on when they should feel comfortable making the purchase of an ARM only based Windows machine.  I suspect many of us will continue to use our traditional PC’s while the tablet market grows. If the price is right, many of us will pick up an ARM based Windows tablet or convertible laptop for a variety of reasons.

The change to ARM based code is a major risk for Microsoft and indicates a major direction for the leader of the computer industry. History will show if this is bold leadership or a desperate move to compete with the expansion of the smart phone/tablet industry.


I’m Optimistic
Ultimately, like it or not, what we call a computer is changing. I have a personal interest in programming in ARM assembly code and will be expanding my security research to new WindowsRT tablets. The reduced instruction set reminds me of my start in the PC market when I programmed Commodores and the Apple II using the 6502 chip.
globalfoundries_logo_web


The economy of my upstate NY neighbors may also depend on the success of a new GlobalFoundries chip plant which has invested heavily in the ARM chip design. The success of ARM based devices could directly impact my local taxes.


I’ll continue to write more so stop by again, especially before you purchase a device that says it comes with “Windows 8”.

Update from Bloomberg: David Schmoock, head of Lenovo North America says Windows RT systems using ARM chips will sell for $200-$300 less. Schmoock predicts Windows RT will be a good consumer box while corporations will stay with Intel based Windows 8 for compatibility.

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16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though ARM devices have been around for ages using the ARM hardware to drive an operating system like windows used to be a dream really. The change is not going to effect desktop users for a very long time. This change only effects people who purchase a new ARM device and plan to run windows on it. Win8 is far more efficient to use than 7 currently is because of the new interface and the way things are handled. Pair that with ARM processing and you have the future as it should be. My only wish is that we could move away from x86 based processing and go ARM only. It is a green option in comparison to the power hungry processors we use now. I am also surprised it has taken this long for ARM to become what it is. For years I have wondered why do we still use x68 based processors when ARM is so simple and efficient. The learning curve is worth it in every way.

3:35 AM  
Blogger Bill Pytlovany said...

You're so right and I only disagree slightly on the number of ARM devices for Windows that will be sold.

I think a lot of people will purchase Windows tablets and convertibles using Windows RT with ARM CPUs. The power features & price will be great but I fear many of these people will expect some of their legacy (x86) Windows programs will run.
That is the main reason I wrote this article.

I'm not surprised it has taken a long time. There are a lot valuable programs that we can't live without. I personally expected battery technology would have improved beyond its current state by now.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all honesty; Who cares?

I'm skipping this Windows like I skipped both Windows 2000 between 98 and XP, and also Vista between XP and 7.
I had NO issues with that at all.
Especially since Windows 7 will be supported for years to come, and I already have the 64bit-version, AND it's work just fine (not to mention the money I paid for it), I'm sticking with this.
I'll be looking out for "Windows 9" (or whatever they decide to name it by then), in many years when there's a whole new generation far after the HDD has died.
Windows 8, no thanks. Maybe for a tablet.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all honesty; Who cares?

I'm skipping this Windows like I skipped both Windows 2000 between 98 and XP, and also Vista between XP and 7.
I had NO issues with that at all.
Especially since Windows 7 will be supported for years to come, and I already have the 64bit-version, AND it's work just fine (not to mention the money I paid for it), I'm sticking with this.
I'll be looking out for "Windows 9" (or whatever they decide to name it by then), in many years when there's a whole new generation far after the HDD has died.
Windows 8, no thanks. Maybe for a tablet.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I upgraded to Windows 7 very reluctantly due to a graphics issue. In the end I ended up with two PC's. One running XP with a lot of older material on which is gradually being transferred to hardcopy. The other runs 7 but not a lot of older programs. The idea of transferring to 8 does not fill me with glee, the great advantage of Windows to me was cbackward compatibility. That is now lost and I am looking at a UNIX operating system, IF I can get one Windows program to run on UNIX which is proving difficult. Windows (*? Not for me, I'm afraid.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Windows 8 Should be for Tablets, Phones, Touchscreens and the like
Laptops and Desktops however...I don't see this as optimal OS Software as Windows 7 did a pretty decent job of speeding things up and making it alot cleaner
Windows 8 Undoes the clean part and only seems to speed things up slightly
If Microsoft expects to stay in the running in the near future being competitive they need to just develop and release a drastic change to the OS but leaving it familiar enough to Navigate since MAC OS is going on a speed development drive upwards and onwards

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen several tablet manufacturers such as samsung getting ready to launch x86 based tablets with win8. Can ARM applications run on an X86 based machine? Also, with windows running ARM do you think we can expect to see tablets hitting the market with dual boot android/windows os?

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also was reluctant to upgrade OS when various new versions came out, and only had Vista because it was pre-installed on a new laptop. Windows 7 I found to be not really any different to XP, as I can run all my programs on both OS. I used the 32 bit version of both. I now have Win8 as a dual boot option on 2 7 machines, one 32 bit and one 64, and again, I find I can run all my old programs on all OS. This includes my personal favourite Need For Speed 5, Porsche, from the year 2000, LOL. What I do like in 8 is the uploading speed, it is comparable to your download speed now, and I have seen no comment anywhere about this aspect of the new system. I will admit I miss the start button, why that had to be removed I will never understand, I refuse to use the panel option, and always go directly to the desktop, these machines are PCs, not touch screen phones or tablets, and it will be sold as the OS on many new PCs without touch screen capability. Never mind, you can still get to the programs via the desktop button on the task bar.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Bill Pytlovany said...

No, Windows RT/ARM applications will not run on x86 based tablets.
OEM's will not bt allowed to create Windows RT tablets that are capable of dual booting to Android. That would be cool.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Bill Pytlovany said...

I haven't heard of higher upload speeds but it sounds good to me. Normally, this is a function of the ISP. One of the reasons I changed from Time Warner Road Runner to Verizon FIOS was lack of options for upload speeds. Time Warner didn't offer any plans with high upload speeds. FIOS gives me a 50/25 Download/Upload plan. I don't watch TV or movies over the internet so upload speed was much more important. It makes uploading photos much faster.

As I focus on in the article, be sure you get a x86 machine and not Windows RT if you stil want to run Need for Speed. ;)

Bill

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Bill, I can tell you that I now get upload speeds of over 12Mbps from win8, where I only ever saw/see sub 1Mbps from win7 or any previous version. This is not a joke, I am serious, and I do upload a lot of data from my business. :D Check task manager next time you are in a video chat program, ... although skype often has bottleneck issues :(, strange from a program claiming peer to peer connection, that the data rate varies from 20Kbps to 4.3Mbps throughout a call.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Bill Pytlovany said...

I believe you. I just haven't heard of it before. I hope more people have the same experience.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Amazon13 said...

I have been using Windows OS's since 1991 and liked them until they started to get complicated and unreliable (Vista)which I never liked up until the day my computer died with it on it.

My surprise though was when I purchased a new computer with Windows 7 Premium installed on it which I had never even seen a screen with Windows 7 on it this was all new to me!

I found out quite by surprise that tech support was not available to me unless I purchase a separate software insurance policy from either the store where I purchased the computer, Lenovo or Microsoft.

You can imagine how shocked I was when I went to the Microsoft website
for support and was sent this information. I was on my own, so far so good. I don't remember reading anywhere that Microsoft had discontinued tech support for their OS and software?

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Mike kPepper said...

Where's the part about if WinPatrol works on Windows 8?

Does it? Need an update? Any conflict issues?

Thanks.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Mike kPepper said...

Where's the part about if WinPatrol works on Windows 8?

Does it? Need an update? Any conflict issues?

Thanks.

2:59 PM  
Blogger Bill Pytlovany said...

Thanks for asking. I've posted our plans for everyone to see at
http://www.billp.com/support.html
Any changes will also be reflected in our support page unless we have a major announcement which will be mention in the blog here.

----
WinPatrol works well on the desktop version of Windows 8. Not all features work the same as previous versions of Windows but these are more related to changes in Internet Explorer and not Windows. WinPatrol PLUS still monitors in real-time and actually performs quicker on a Windows 8 desktop.

If you're using a tablet based on Windows RT, traditional applications like WinPatrol will not work and WinPatrol is not available in the Microsoft Store at this time. If you are not sure which version of Windows 8 you have you should read What You Need To Know About Windows 8.
---

Bill

9:32 PM  

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