FAQ: Windows on ARM explained

Microsoft spells out some details of WOA, its 'touch-first,' tablet-oriented OS

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So, Microsoft is giving away Office with WOA? Hang on a minute.... The company never said that. Sinofsky said the four Office apps for WOA will be "included" with the operating system, but nothing more. (And earlier in his dispatch he put it into context: "Today's blog post is about making WOA, not marketing or selling it."

That leaves lots of wiggle room.

Clearly the code for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote will be on all WOA devices. But the apps could easily be time-sensitive -- they run for a limited number of days or months, as trial software usually does -- or initially with limited functionality. On the latter, think of Office Starter 2010, the ad-supported, bare-bones edition bundled on many PCs.

In both cases, Microsoft would pitch users a paid upgrade to the full versions of the applications.

We find it hard to believe that Microsoft plans to simply give away Office with WOA-powered devices, what with the money the Office line brings in. Last quarter, the division responsible for Office accounted for 30% of Microsoft's revenue and 52% of all operating income, which is profit before taxes.

And if Microsoft generates revenue by selling WOA Office licenses to device makers, that's going to be reflected in a higher price for the hardware, putting WOA tablets, for instance, at a disadvantage to those powered by Google's Android or Apple's iOS.

Assuming I bite, how will I update WOA and its apps? Two ways. Apps other than those from Microsoft that run on the WOA desktop will be updated through the Windows Store, the company's app market it intends to launch alongside the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at the end of this month.

WOA itself, as well as necessary drivers and IE10, will be updated via Windows Update, as the OS and drivers are now for Windows itself. The Office apps that run on the WOA desktop will be updated and patched through Microsoft Update, the superset of Windows Update that also provides patches, fixes and feature upgrades for Office on Windows.

Is WOA the official name of the OS? Maybe, maybe not. Sinofsky was coy there, saying, "[This is] what we call, for the purposes of this post, Windows on ARM, or WOA."

In other words, the nameplate may change.

What's been the reaction to WOA so far? Generally positive.

Upbeat comments appended to Sinofsky's blog -- over 170 and counting -- were in the clear majority, with many applauding Microsoft for finally clearing the air and answering some of the most pressing questions, such as whether Office will run on WOA and whether there would be a desktop mode.

Some, however, were clearly angry about the lack of support for traditional Windows apps on WOA. "No non-Metro apps, except for the...Microsoft ones, is a huge betrayal to all loyal Win32 developers," said someone identified as "Sammy" in a comment Thursday. "What are we supposed to do? Just throw everything out and start anew?"

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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