Microsoft makes Windows 10 run on ARM devices

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.

Comments closed
    • End User
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]We must note that the new ARM-x86 compatibility does not yet extend to x64-based programs.[/quote<] Oh FFS. So now there is even less incentive for developers to update their apps to support x64 or to create new apps that support x64. As someone firmly planted in the Windows on the desktop realm, I view this as extremely negative news.

      • terranup16
      • 3 years ago

      They should be working on UWP, not Win32, so your concern is pointless. If the developer uses UWP, it’s a minimal skip for them to support ARM v8 64-bit, which is what the ARM Windows device would use to render that app rather than the x86 emulator.

        • Flying Fox
        • 3 years ago

        Problem is UWP is not gaining traction fast enough thus continuing the “app gap” problem.

          • Krogoth
          • 3 years ago

          App gap problem has more to do with lack of economic incentive to upgrade x86 legacy applications over to native x86-64.

          The main benefit of x86-64 has always been the ability to address beyond 4GiB of memory and most of those x86 legacy applications barely use 1GiB of memory at most.

    • JMccovery
    • 3 years ago

    I wonder what could be possible using this on an ARM64 SoC/CPU designed with a 35w TDP.

    • Welch
    • 3 years ago

    Hell yes! I could use this for solo many things for myself and customers who don’t need overkill core i3 or lower machines for simple tasks.

    One such use I have is a customer who I installed a Raspberry Pi2 with Raspbian for where a precision slide measurement tool is used to simply display the readout of the number remotely. It works well, but the setup was a bit more than it should have been. Plus they can’t use it for much else because Linux (ARM version) is to different for them.

    • ludi
    • 3 years ago

    Oh, [i<]magical[/i<] emulation technology. That explains it.

      • DragonDaddyBear
      • 3 years ago

      Who said this was an Apple product?

    • odizzido
    • 3 years ago

    Rebirth of the netbook coming?

      • Laykun
      • 3 years ago

      I think this mostly focused on their continuum efforts, which I could actually see myself using if I were some sort of spreadsheet yuppy who effectively uses their computer for fuck all.

    • cygnus1
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<] 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. [/quote<] I know a lot of people take x86 to be generically interchangeable with Intel compatible or PC, but I think it's worth pointing out, for audience educational purposes, that in general x86 in MS speak (and even for a lot of other software developers) implies 32 bit code. Usually they will say x64 or Intel 64 or even AMD64 when talking about 64 bit code. Something I'm curious about though, is what Intel/AMD x86 extensions are supported in this emulation, the MMX/SSE/AVX type stuff. Haven't seen that detail in any of the write ups on this news. They showed Photoshop running, but there are a lot of plugins and features that are tied to hardware requirements. Hell, on the Photoshop base requirements page there's this: [quote<] * 3D features are disabled on 32-bit platforms and on computers having less than 512MB of VRAM. Video features are not supported on 32-bit Windows systems. [/quote<] On the Photoshop Elements requirements page there's this: [quote<] 1.6GHz or faster processor with SSE2 support [/quote<]

      • RAGEPRO
      • 3 years ago

      Windows itself requires SSE2 these days. I suspect at least that much is supported.

        • cygnus1
        • 3 years ago

        I would hope it is as well. The ARM NEON extensions have fairly similar SIMD functionality from what I’ve read. The Windows binaries being compiled for ARM are probably using NEON, so hopefully the x86 emulation layer can translate to that as well for the comparable x86 extensions.

    • tipoo
    • 3 years ago

    I think the Surface 3 hasn’t seen an update in a while because Intel discontinued that line, right? ARM could open up a lot of possibilities there, particularly on the low end ARM SoCs could handily trump that Atom.

      • cygnus1
      • 3 years ago

      Agreed. I’m thinking an ARM Win10 tablet with even a mid-range Snapdragon (one that will be current in 2017) will likely outperform the Atom based tablets and completely trounce the old WinRT based ARM systems too.

        • DoomGuy64
        • 3 years ago

        Atom sucks, so maybe. Native apps for sure, especially in battery life.

          • sweatshopking
          • 3 years ago

          of course a new arm soc will be faster than an old atom or arm soc.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 3 years ago

      #makeAtomGreatAgain

    • Peter.Parker
    • 3 years ago

    There is a plethora of ARM Android HTPC micro devices, costing somewhere between $40 and $100, just search on Amazon.
    Prepare for a wave of Windows 10 micro ARM HTPC devices from China in 4,3,2..

      • Prestige Worldwide
      • 3 years ago

      I got time fo’ dat.

      • mat9v
      • 3 years ago

      It could work if Snapdragon 835 were to be both cheaper and faster then Intel Atoms, they can power Windows 10 pretty well.

        • cygnus1
        • 3 years ago

        With the 8 cores it’ll have and along with the rumored 8GB of dual channel DDR4, I’m pretty sure they’ll have the ‘faster than Intel Atoms’ part secured pretty handily

    • Duct Tape Dude
    • 3 years ago

    This is incredible, and I hope it becomes a replacement for this whole “app” movement. Just being able to a single x86 binary or whatever and have it run on any Windows device… that’s impressive. And then I can stop having two of everything.

    Meanwhile though, no 16-bit apps can run on x64 natively. Poo.

      • TheRazorsEdge
      • 3 years ago

      Apple did the same thing when they transitioned from POWER to x86, so Microsoft should be able to pull it off with their massive engineering team.

        • Duct Tape Dude
        • 3 years ago

        If I recall correctly, no they didn’t. Nothing made for POWER runs on x86. Everything had to be ported over or recompiled.

          • raddude9
          • 3 years ago

          Nope, the x86 version of Mac OS X had a powerPC emulator called Rosetta:
          [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_(software)[/url<] which allowed x86 machines run powerPC software.

      • End User
      • 3 years ago

      What is the point?

      I don’t want Windows running on a low powered CPU. I’ve got Android and iOS for that. I want Windows running on powerful hardware. Power is the only thing that Windows is good for now.

      You are worried about 16-bit apps? WTF.

        • Flying Fox
        • 3 years ago

        [quote<]I want Windows running on powerful hardware.[/quote<] And you can continue with the regular SKUs of Windows. They are losing big time vs Chromebooks so they need to come up with something. Intel is quitting altogether so they have to turn to ARM.

          • End User
          • 3 years ago

          If it is not Windows 10 x64 then it is not Windows 10.

          Call it Windows Hobbled Edition and you would be more accurate.

            • Flying Fox
            • 3 years ago

            That is somewhat of a narrow view. The new SKU is ARM64 native, with full emulation for 32-bit x86 apps. Most x86 desktop apps are still 32-bit, so I don’t see a problem. Being ARM64 native means it can support 4+ gigs of RAM (2-4GB should likely be the most common config). This is similar to current x64 setups: way more than 4gigs of RAM, but with many 32-bit processes with 4gigs of addressable space [i<]each[/i<].

            • sweatshopking
            • 3 years ago

            remember you’re talking to eu, and don’t waste your time.

            • End User
            • 3 years ago

            Says the mother of all time wasters.

            • sweatshopking
            • 3 years ago

            No disagreement here.

            • End User
            • 3 years ago

            What a mess.

            • Flying Fox
            • 3 years ago

            I don’t think even a fresh x64 Windows install contains only native 64-bit apps. We already have that big SysWoW64 folder with all the 32-bit stuff in there. So yes, it is a “mess” to begin with. But does it make your system run any slower? Does it affect your productivity?

            • End User
            • 3 years ago

            Sweet christmas. I thought we moved past this 10 years ago. I want developers to be looking to the future, not mired in the past.

            • Krogoth
            • 3 years ago

            It is because there’s no economic incentive to do it. Why fix something if it isn’t broken in the first place?

            Not everything in the massive x86 library needs to recoded with x86-64.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 3 years ago

            To be fair, i see fewer 32-bit programs running in task manager than I ever have*, and I know a lot of newer games and stuff pretty much require 64-bit support these days.

            *9 distinct processes including “Apps” and Background Processes. No Windows Processes. Chrome is the biggest offender. There are 130 running in total, and a good 30 must be chrome tabs.

            So really it’s about 9% legacy stuff. Not bad.

        • Krogoth
        • 3 years ago

        You aren’t Microsoft’s primary demographic. Computer enthusiast have never been relevant for Microsoft.

    • ronch
    • 3 years ago

    Time to resurrect the K12 project, Lisa. 😉

      • Welch
      • 3 years ago

      Right…. would open a whole new cheap market segment. If this works as well as it should on ARM chips, we will probably see these replace a lot of full desktops for the older crowd who want to check email, now from their TV with windows.

        • Flying Fox
        • 3 years ago

        I thought the K12 was mostly about servers? This is about the desktop/laptop.

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      Knowing AMD they’ll see this as a good time to dump all ARM project development :/

      Hmm, mobile is exploding? Better sell off Adreno.

    • Neutronbeam
    • 3 years ago

    Windows 10–ARMed and dangerous.

      • meerkt
      • 3 years ago

      Planet Moon’s? Ah! I really should finally get to it.

      • rechicero
      • 3 years ago

      That game was hilarious… like MS mobile strategy. Well played: 2 puns for the same price

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 3 years ago

    Windows Phone just got a big boost. I was already thinking of switching. This might just put me over the edge.

    EDIT: I should add assuming developers take advantage and Microsoft allows apps.

      • chuckula
      • 3 years ago

      There’s a big difference between a PC that happens to use an ARM chip and a smartphone platform that is controlled by your wireless carrier and not you.

        • DragonDaddyBear
        • 3 years ago

        If you’re like me and buy your GSM phone outright your phone isn’t controlled by the wireless carrier.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 3 years ago

          Read the announcement closely, though. No current hardware will be able to do this. It’s for Snapdragon 835 (upcoming SoC) and not anything available now.

            • DragonDaddyBear
            • 3 years ago

            I did see that. Here’s to hoping the rumored Surface Phone will have the Snapdragon 835. It’s plausible that the rumors have been quiet because this very feature needing that SOC. I nothing other than hope to base that off, though.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 3 years ago

            Fingers crossed, anyway. It’d be nice to have more competition in mobile OSes, especially something with better performance that Android. While many say it’s “fast enough”, I can tell you that switching between iOS and Android is definitely noticeable.

            • rechicero
            • 3 years ago

            If MS hopes for 3rd party Win10 phones, forget about that. iOS works so well because it only works with a very selected range of hardware… and it’s always high-end

            • terranup16
            • 3 years ago

            Pretty sure the demo was run on an 820 unless multiple other outlets really flubbed up.

            • sweatshopking
            • 3 years ago

            It was in fact run on an 820, which is a little slower than a 2013 i3. 835 should be quite a bit faster.

        • sweatshopking
        • 3 years ago

        Not sure what this means. It’s a windows device. Verizon isn’t going to dictate your application installs.

          • EzioAs
          • 3 years ago

          I’m going to guess that is exactly what he means.

      • raddude9
      • 3 years ago

      That’s funny, because I see this as the death knell for Windows Phone. Why would anyone want Windows Phone if they can just run windows 10 on their phone?

        • sweatshopking
        • 3 years ago

        They’re just becoming the same thing in many ways.

          • End User
          • 3 years ago

          Windows 10 is x64. If it is not x64 it is not Windows 10 no matter how much backward luddites such as yourself pretend otherwise.

            • Flying Fox
            • 3 years ago

            32-bit (x86) Windows 10 is currently sold and supported from Microsoft itself. So you are saying Microsoft is selling fakes?

            • End User
            • 3 years ago

            Windows 10 x86 is a turd and it should be taken off the market. Defending x86 was bad enough back in 2006. Bringing it up now is just ludicrous.

            • ET3D
            • 3 years ago

            You mean ‘no matter what Microsoft says’. I find it funny when users try to tell Microsoft what Windows 10 is and isn’t, especially after Microsoft went to a lot of effort making the Windows 10 core cross platform.

            • Pancake
            • 3 years ago

            My Asus T100 Transformer kitchen computer and occasional travelling companion would disagree. You’re tremendously ignorant and proving to everyone yet again.

        • Flying Fox
        • 3 years ago

        Agreed with SSK, Microsoft is a software company first (unlike Apple who claims itself to be a hardware company first). As long as the device is running Windows, I don’t think they care too much. With Intel throwing in the towel on mobile Atom chips, they pretty much have no choice if they want the app count and staying with the ARM architecture for their mobile hardware. Intel’s ULV chips are simply too much at those price points.

          • sweatshopking
          • 3 years ago

          I think much of this was intel’s “fault.” I am sure that MS was looking at it prior to the cancellation of atoms, but I doubt it was as hard. The failure of intel to get into the market was a huge driving force of this, i’m sure.

            • Flying Fox
            • 3 years ago

            No argument there. The inability for Intel to get the Atoms with respectable performance soon enough (by the time Silvermont hit the brand is already tarnished to the point where people equate slow with the name), and to get lower in terms of power consumption are what killed it. I think we can both agree that MS was hoping for Intel pulling it off but they just quit altogether.

        • rechicero
        • 3 years ago

        Nothing unexpected. MS destroys his mobile ecosystem every other year.

      • VincentHanna
      • 3 years ago

      [quote<]This might just put me over the edge. [/quote<] I wish this was a pun.

      • ET3D
      • 3 years ago

      Definitely a step forward towards the panacea of one computing device to rule them all. A phone that I could dock and run Visual Studio on or some games would be cool. The initial solution won’t be perfect, especially if it’s not x64, but it’s a big step forward.

    • seeker010
    • 3 years ago

    if it didn’t work the first time, keep doing it until it works. or you’re fired.

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