WARMer or Colder?

Here we are, over a year since we last checked in on Windows 8, and the latest aspirant to the Microsoft operating system dynasty continues its slow meander to market. Since our last installment:

  • Apple has shipped over 55 million iPads. I wonder how many versions of the iPad will ship before we see Windows 8 tablets. iPad 2 shipped since our last installment and iPad3 looks to be announced next week. A modest slip and we could be asking about iPad 4.
  • PC sales continue to shrink in absolute terms, while the Mac grows and takes share.
  • The next version of Windows Phone is confirmed to run “big Windows” (as predicted), but the messy euthanasia of Silverlight continues to cloud the future of Windows Phone 7 applications. Microsoft pledges support for Windows Phone 7 applications going forward on “big Windows” but the successive departures of not just one but two execs responsible for Windows Phone developer evangelism might give cause for skepticism. No one in that role likes to renege on promises to developers.
  • Microsoft has embarked on a quixotic crusade to get us all to describe ARM-powered Windows tablets as WOA (Windows on ARM) as opposed to WARM.  I admit I have forgotten what the politically correct and corporately decreed alternative to Wintel was back in the day.

The “consumer preview” was delivered yesterday, which is basically the first beta. There is little noteworthy new functionality in this release. The most interesting thing was the vague disclosure that “Although the ARM-based version of Windows does not include the same manageability features that are in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, businesses can use these power-saving devices in unmanaged environments.”

Evidently WARM tablets can’t join a Windows domain, which has major implications for a Microsoft proposition that its tablets are better suited for the enterprise than the iPad. This is probably just a schedule casualty in the enormous effort required to port to a new processor architecture (ARM support is almost certainly the long pole for Windows 8), but it could also be a convoluted attempt to advantage notebook PCs or, even more implausibly, represent a bold endorsement of Intel’s power consumption roadmap.

It means Windows 8 ARM tablets are going to be consumer devices that don’t integrate with the Microsoft enterprise infrastructure any better than the iPad, so Microsoft loses what should have been a major selling point. You will have to sacrifice battery life and go with x86 to get enterprise features and manageability. This is a big blow to Microsoft’s tablet proposition for the enterprise and WOA may be DOA as a result.  It will be fascinating to understand the decision-making behind this result.