Microsoft insider Paul Thurrott says that ARM-based Windows 8 tablets could eschew the traditional Windows desktop environment found on its x86 brethren. How this would affect Windows 8 laptops built upon ARM is unclear: Thurrott's information is described as "generic" whereby he assumed it was about Microsoft's ARM tablet strategy.
The particulars were shared with Mary Jo Foley while the two were taping the latest edition of Windows Weekly. According to Foley, Thurrott says that Microsoft has "rethought" its no compromise approach to computing and is "leaning toward cutting the Desktop from Windows 8 ARM tablets." In other words, ARM tablets would only feature the Metro-style user interface and apps while Intel-based tablets would offer the flexibility of both the Metro and traditional Windows desktop environments and apps. Of course, Microsoft and its partners made it clear back at the Build conference in September that some decisions still hadn't been made or announced with respect to legacy app support on ARM devices.
If what Thurrott is saying is true, then it would position ARM-based Windows 8 tablets as direct competitors with the iPad while x86-based Windows 8 tablets would neatly straddle the line between tablets and laptops for prosumers and business users. Honestly, that's not a bad idea. Limiting ARM-based Windows 8 tablets to the Metro-style UI would avoid the confusion that would naturally arise from users seeing a traditional Windows desktop metaphor that can't run the vast majority of traditional Windows applications (unless specifically ported to ARM by their developers). And simplifying the message for consumers would let Microsoft use its marketing muscle elsewhere as it tries to regain tablet and smartphone marketshare ceded to competitors over the last few years.