Microsoft never seemed to have put together a cohesive strategy for mobile device software. The company's Windows Phone operating system has never been able to carve out significant market share, despite its relatively early entrance on the smartphone scene. Redmond's ARM-powered Surface RT devices were met with a collective yawn, likely due to their substantial app gap when compared to Android and iOS tablets. The company seems like it might have finally learned the lesson that application compatibility is Windows' most important asset. Microsoft has announced that it's preparing full Win32 compatibility for Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 ARM SoCs at the WinHEC hardware developer conference in Shenzhen, China.
The software compatibility on the devices Microsoft is calling "cellular PCs" is brought about by using x86 emulation on ARM hardware. In the video above, a Microsoft spokesperson shows off a Snapdragon-powered device running the company's all-important Office suite, as well as Adobe's Photoshop and World of Tanks: Blitz. We must note that the new ARM-x86 compatibility does not yet extend to x64-based programs.
Redmond's previous efforts on Windows Phone software have been limited to applications written specifically for Microsoft's smartphone platform. Microsoft hobbled Windows RT, its last stab at running Windows on low-power ARM chips, by limiting the devices to programs written using the then-new Windows RT API. The company's choice to limit application support was especially disappointing because the company had gone to the trouble of porting the traditional Win32 API to ARM in order to have a version of Office that was pre-installed on Windows RT devices.
Qualcomm expects Snapdragon-powered Windows PCs to appear in the first half of 2017. Windows Central reports that Enterprise and Consumer Editions of Windows for ARM will be available. The site expects the first wave of machines to consist of tablets and compact laptops, with smartphones being a more distant possibility.