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Inside the Windows 8 Runtime, Part 1

This is the next installment in a series of blog posts on the recent Windows 8 release that I began a few months back. In the last entry I expressed some reservations about the architectural decisions associated with the new Windows Runtime API layer. In this post and the ones that follow, I will provide more detail about my concerns as we look inside the new Windows Runtime layer. But, first, we will need some background on the native C language Win32 API, COM, and the Common Language Runtime (CLR) used in the .NET Framework. Collectively, these three facilities represent the run-time services available to Windows application prior to Windows 8. As I mentioned in the earlier posts, the new Windows Runtime layer in Windows 8 is a port of a subset of the existing Windows Win32 run-time to run on the ARM hardware platform. Windows Run-time Libraries Run-time libraries in Windows provide an API layer that applications running in User mode can call to request services from the OS. For …

Plug-and-Play devices on Windows Tablets

In the last post on Windows 8 and the new Windows Runtime libraries for Windows Store apps, I mentioned that the key deliverable in the new version of the Windows OS is the port to the ARM platform. In this post, I will discuss the implications of Windows running on ARM, emphasizing the impact of “plug-and-play” device driver technology. In porting the core of the OS to the ARM platform, Microsoft was careful to preserve the interfaces used by device driver developers, ensuring that there was a smooth transition. Microsoft wanted to allow customers to be able to attach most of the peripherals they use today on a Windows 7 machine to any ARM-based tablet running Windows 8.
What is ARM?In discussing the Windows 8 port to the ARM platform with some folks, I noticed that not everyone is familiar with the underlying hardware, that it runs a different instruction set than Intel-based computers, that it is not Intel-compatible, etc. So, let’s start with a little bit about the ARM hardware it…

Is there an ARM-based PC in your future?

In the previous blog post in this series on Windows 8, I explained that Windows RT is a new application run-time layer in Windows that was built when the Windows OS was ported to the ARM architecture. ARM is the dominant processor architecture used in current smartphones and tablets, including the Apple iPhone and iPad. So, the short answer to the question posed by the title is, “You already do run an ARM-based computer, and it is the smartphone in your pocket.” The problem for Microsoft is that this ARM computer is probably not running an OS based on Windows.

Microsoft’s new Surface tablet, designed to showcase the capabilities of Windows 8, uses an ARM processor. On a Surface, you can only run applications known as Windows Store apps that are specifically built to run on top of Windows RT. You can also install and run Windows 8 on any Intel-compatible 32 or 64-bit compatible processor. The Intel version of Windows 8 is called Windows 8 Pro. Windows 8 Pro includes the new Windows RT a…

Is Windows RT in your future?

I am writing this in the wake of the Windows 8 launch on October 26. It continues a blog entry I posted last week that discusses some of my early experience running and testing the new Windows 8 release. I want to focus here on discussing what Windows RT is, which seems to be generating a good deal of confusion. That is probably because Microsoft has not done great job in explaining what exactly Windows RT is. Windows RT itself is not as complete and as fully realized as it should be, and that, of course, is another source of some of the confusion.

If you go out to the Microsoft Store, you will see this description of Windows RT:
Windows RT is a new version of Microsoft Windows that's built to run on ARM-based tablets and PCs. It works exclusively with apps available in the Windows Store.
Windows 8 Pro runs current Windows 7 desktop applications. It can also use the programs and apps available in the Windows Store.
That first sentence is confusing because Windows RT is part of Wind…

An early look at Windows 8 and Server 2012

Windows 8 is about to become widely available to great fanfare, while Windows Server 2012 was quietly released recently “into the wild,” which is the discouraging way many Microsoft product development teams characterize the real world environments where their products run. Third-party developers have had access to the final RTM (Release-to-Manufacturing) versions of the Windows 8 release for several months now.

Here at DemandTech, we have been testing Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 in the lab, making sure our software is compatible, etc. We have been running Windows 8 on virtual machines exclusively, not the dedicated hardware (tablets, mainy) it was designed to showcase.

The most noticeable change in Win 8 is the new UI. There is also a new kind of Win 8 app that when it runs, takes over the entire screen. Under the covers, the Windows OS is still multithreaded, but the interaction model is that, in any of the new apps, you are only working on one thing at a time. It is like -- t…