Microsoft’s plan to bring Windows 8 to the tablet and smartphone worlds might be a bold one, but it’s one that could well end up paying massive dividends in the coming years.
“That’s because much of what’s been bogging the Windows operating system down over the past couple of iterations is legacy support for older hardware and software,” says Traci Maynard, GM at Tarsus Technologies.
But, with its move to the tablet and smartphone world, she says Microsoft has an opportunity to wipe the legacy that plagued the x86 platform away and start afresh on ARM devices with a new driver architecture and runtime environment.
For Windows 8 on ARM, Maynard confirms that Microsoft will be developing the base driver database and instead of building their own driver software, hardware vendors will have to ensure their devices are compatible with Microsoft’s stack.
The Redmond giant has chosen this route because it will dramatically simplify the user’s experience of connecting to a wireless network, printing a document or sharing data with another of their devices, yet bring control over power management to one of the battery-conscious environments in the technology sector.
“By building the base drivers itself, Microsoft can ensure that users get a consistent experience regardless of what Windows 8 ARM edition hardware they make use of, and that a third party driver doesn’t suddenly begin acting strangely and either introduce instability into the environment or drain the device’s battery,” she says.
“The danger of course is that the individuality that hardware vendors like to showcase with their hardware and driver combinations will disappear. Microsoft has got that avenue covered too,” she adds.
Microsoft is encouraging their hardware partners to build metro-style applications rather than drivers to extend the user experience, for example, when printing, allowing for device management and the checking of ink levels and such.
The raw functionality of the printer – its ability to lay ink or toner down on a page – will be taken care of by Microsoft’s driver.
“While the industry has been unsure of how to respond to this, I’m responding positively,” she says.
“There’s a lot to be said for the headway that smartphones and tablets have made in the past couple of years. These devices have classically made use of software environments – Android and iOS – that handle the hardware world in the same way Microsoft intends to going forward.
“So, quite frankly, Microsoft doesn’t have a choice but to follow suit if it wants to remain relevant in the years to come,” Maynard adds.