That sounds like as good of an explanation for the view of the iron surfaces as any to me. Though my testing stops at the what in terms of publishing results, and less about the why.
I also wonder about the higher fe carbide irons that are well made so that the carbides are evenly distributed, but I only have japanese white steel in japanese planes, and they're all 8/10bu. I could build a temporary dai, but I think the design of the plane, the weight proportions, downforce, etc, is all too different for it to be comparable to these results.
Stan mentioned that he's seen white steel plane irons being made in some shops in japan (western style irons), but I don't know if that's in small quantity. I'd guess that it would probably plane for about as long as the hock iron and my O1 iron, perhaps as long as the A2 iron. That's just a guess, though.
I looked around for white rikizai (I've bought some powder metal bars ,too, to see how good a PM shop-made iron can be, knowing that it may come up a little short compared to the good ones), and I could only find three layer white rikizai. I would love to be able to find it in two layers thick enough to warm forge and then hand thin/scrape and oil quench. It's not to be at this point.
I think it would look a lot like the ward, though. Even the O1 gives no evidence that it wants to give up anything other than even looking wear. Maybe the particles are too small to be seen optically, that's possible. Both the hock and my iron looked very similar under the microscope, and very similar to the ward.
I will finish giving the ward some proper preparation on the back and sharpen it identically to the others used in the test to make sure that I have a good number for it. I expect that it will be similar, but it won't be hard to finish the job. It's much easier to test a plane iron that lasts 150 strokes than one that lasts close to 700.