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This article was published on February 10, 2012

This week at Microsoft: Office 15, Windows 8, and Zune

This week at Microsoft: Office 15, Windows 8, and Zune
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

It’s been quite a week in the world of Microsoft, with news coming in on a dozen fronts. We’ve had a hard time keeping it all straight, so you must be spinning. We’re going to fit our favorites stories into this post, but if you want the full scoop, head to the archives.

Now, as always, ensure that you are following TNW Microsoft on Twitter, and Facebook, and let’s dig into the news. There is, after all, much to get to. As a side note, we’re going to include a huge tract of Microsoft’s notes on Windows 8 in this post. This is to bring you new information in its most unadulterated fashion. You’ll see why.

The Big Windows 8 Unveil

We’ve been working on the issue of ARM-based Windows 8 machines for so long, that you must be tired of it. Happily, after endless prodding on our end, Microsoft gave an interview on the topic, acknowledging that the market has been asking questions. We don’t like to overtoot our in-house horn, but we think that our writing had something to do with that.

We could summarize for you, but in all honesty, Microsoft provided a tl;dr of its own post that we cannot improve upon. So, we are going to bring to you here. Enjoy:

  • Windows on ARM, or WOA, is a new member of the Windows family that builds on the foundation of Windows, has a very high degree of commonality and very significant shared code with Windows 8, and will be developed for, sold, and supported as a part of the largest computing ecosystem in the world. We created WOA to enable a new class of PC with unique capabilities and form factors, supported by a new set of partners that expand the ecosystem of which Windows is part.
  • WOA PCs are still under development and our collective goal is for PC makers to ship them the same time as PCs designed for Windows 8 on x86/64. These PCs will be built on unique and innovative hardware platforms provided by NVIDIA, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments, with a common Windows on ARM OS foundation—all running the same Windows OS binaries, a unique approach for the industry. PC manufacturers are hard at work on PCs designed from the ground up to be great and exclusively for WOA.
  • Metro style apps in the Windows Store can support both WOA and Windows 8 on x86/64.Developers wishing to target WOA do so by writing applications for the WinRT (Windows APIs for building Metro style apps) using the new Visual Studio 11 tools in a variety of languages, including C#/VB/XAML and Jscript/ HTML5. Native code targeting WinRT is also supported using C and C++, which can be targeted across architectures and distributed through the Windows Store. WOA does not support running, emulating, or porting existing x86/64 desktop apps. Code that uses only system or OS services from WinRT can be used within an app and distributed through the Windows Store for both WOA and x86/64. Consumers obtain all software, including device drivers, through the Windows Store and Microsoft Update or Windows Update.
  • WOA can support all new Metro style apps, including apps from Microsoft for mail, calendaring, contacts, photos, and storage.WOA also includes industry-leading support for hardware-accelerated HTML5 with Internet Explorer 10. WOA will provide support for other industry-standard media formats, including those with hardware acceleration and offloading computation, and industry-standard document formats. In all cases, Microsoft seeks to lead in end-user choice and control of what apps to use and what formats to support.
  • WOA includes desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.These new Office applications, codenamed “Office 15”, have been significantly architected for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption, while also being fully-featured for consumers and providing complete document compatibility. WOA supports the Windows desktop experience including File Explorer, Internet Explorer 10 for the desktop, and most other intrinsic Windows desktop features—which have been significantly architected for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption.
  • With WOA you can look forward to integrated, end-to-end products—hardware, firmware and WOA software, all built from the ground up. Building WOA has been an ongoing engineering effort involving Microsoft, ARM licensees, PC makers, and developers of components and peripherals. These efforts spanned a wide array of subsystems that have been newly created or substantially re-architected for WOA. Partners will provide WOA PCs as integrated, end-to-end products that include hardware, firmware, and Windows on ARM software. Windows on ARM software will not be sold or distributed independent of a new WOA PC, just as you would expect from a consumer electronics device that relies on unique and integrated pairings of hardware and software. Over the useful lifetime of the PC, the provided software will be serviced and improved.
  • Around the next milestone release of Windows 8 on x86/64, a limited number of test PCs will be made available to developers and hardware partners in a closed, invitation-only program. These devices will be running the same branch of Windows 8 on x86/64 as we release broadly at that time. These are not samples or hints of forthcoming PCs, but tools for hardware and software engineers running WOA-specific hardware.
  • The Windows Consumer Preview, the beta of Windows 8 on x86/64, will be available for download by the end of February. This next milestone of Windows 8 will be available in several languages and is open for anyone to download.

Office 15

In its coverage of Windows 8, Microsoft put out a video that detailed various elements of the operating system. In doing so, it wittingly (we assume), leaked a sheaf of details on Office 15, the coming edition of the Office suite. Office 2010 has been a smash hit for Microsoft, but the world of touch is a new frontier.

Our own Matthew Panzarino weighed in on the leak: “The new Office looks to be a much cleaner and crisper version of the industry standard productivity app than many of us were hoping for. Despite jokes about how poorly the classic ‘Ribbon’ interface would translate to tablets, this new version actually looks pretty great.” I agree.

After you look at the images, leave a comment with your perspective, we need more opinions:


Zune is dead. We think. And we think that it’s actually really dead this time. The problem with Zune is that it never seems to die. Despite existing on life support, Microsoft has yet to pull the plug. However, we think that the end is in sight, at last:

Later today, the last piece of the ‘Zune is probably dead’ puzzle came out: Microsoft is set to demo the Windows 8 Consumer Preview (and probably distribute it) on February 29th. At the Mobile World Congress. Windows Phone 8 leaks, Windows 8 leaks, and a huge Windows 8 event at a mobile event? It seems that Microsoft is set to demo the connectivity of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 at the event. In short, we will likely see the app that Windows 8 will use to talk to Windows Phone 8, and it sure as hell should not be Zune.

And that will be, essentially, the end of Zune. Unanchored from Windows Phone, it’s just the orphan project that never found a home. Oh, and whatever app Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 use, we assume it is coming to Xbox, squeezing Zune out of that niche as well.

Zune is then just a music app with a subscription system that never took off, so far as we can tell. Hell, I’ll miss Zune. But if we have to move on, can we get on with it?

We apologize for this post being as quote heavy as it is, but some weeks require it. It’s Friday, friends, so we hope you close Twitter and make a proper Martini tonight. Tech can wait. Have a great weekend.

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