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Don't look for Windows 8 to be ported to current Android tablets

Even so, some IT pros think its a great idea

April 13, 2012 01:26 PM ET

Computerworld - With a variety of new tablets hitting the market, some IT pros excited by the upcoming version of Windows 8 on tablets wonder whether Android devices like the 13.3-in. Fujitsu Excite 13 could be converted to support Windows 8 on ARM (WOA).

That would allow workers to access a variety of Microsoft Office applications and internal office apps built for Windows on existing Android tablets retrofitted with Windows 8, IT managers have noted.

Don't count on that happening, though. The prospect of WOA conversions is unlikely and -- as far as analysts are concerned -- ill-advised. They reason that Microsoft will want to keep a tablet's hardware and its upcoming OS tied closely together for greater power and processing efficiencies -- and to limit competition from Android tablets.

Steve Buehler, an analyst at IDC, said Microsoft will find ways to ensure that IT shops and hobbyists can't get Windows 8 to run on Android tablets. "It won't happen," he said. "Doing so is tantamount to [Microsoft] admitting they've lost [in tablets]."

Alternatively, Buehler said there will be a variety of new tablets that run Windows 8 on X86 and Windows 8 on ARM.

Microsoft is pretty clear already that Windows 8 on ARM migrations to existing hardware aren't intended. In a now-famous Feb. 9 blog, Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky wrote: "Windows on ARM software will not be sold or distributed independent of a new WOA PC [including tablets], just as you would expect from a consumer electronics device that relies on unique and integrated pairings of hardware and software."

Even so, some experts note that tablet makers make the ultimate call on what devices will ship with Windows 8, which could mean a variety of tablet bodies seen on the market today for Android could end up running Windows 8 on ARM .

On June 1, 2011, Microsoft blogged about how Windows 8 will run on both x86- and ARM-based architectures used in "a variety of different prototypes including touch-centric hardware."

Before that, in January 2011, Microsoft said it would work with chip makers such as AMD, Intel, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments to support the next version of Windows.

Rob Chandhok, senior vice president at Qualcomm, said Qualcomm's manufacturing partners will have the flexibility to build devices based on Snapdragon chips, but it will be up to Microsoft to determine how to lock down the devices. Microsoft may want devices with a trusted boot system that will be hard to subvert, making it hard to swap in other operating systems, he said.

But while Microsoft has been clear that Windows on ARM will not be sold separately from a new WOA device, it hasn't apparently said whether it will block other OSes on machines designed to run WOA natively.

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