One of the more exciting — and potentially underrated — announcements out of Microsoft’s 2016 WinHEC conference was upcoming Windows 10 support for ARM processors. While the original Windows-on-ARM experiment, otherwise known as Windows RT, was Microsoft’s first Surface iteration, Microsoft’s future efforts will be more aggressive and likely successful.
Apparently, Microsoft’s OEM partners believe that the company will be more successful this time around and also less exclusive. According to industry supply channels, a number of companies are planning to create ARM-based notebooks and tablets running Windows 10, Digitimes reports.
The reports don’t have any meat to them and so they deserve a strong rumor caveat, but they make sense. Microsoft seriously gimped Windows 10 running on ARM with the first Surfaces, limiting them to running only Windows 8 apps — equivalent to today’s Universal Windows Platform, or Windows 10, apps — and a special version of the company’s Office suite. Going forward, Windows 10 on ARM will support the entire library of millions of standard Win32 desktop apps via an optimized emulation engine.
That means that while ARM-based Surface devices were limited to a relatively small selection of Windows 8 apps and Office, future ARM-based devices will run any of the more feature-rich Windows desktop apps that so many individuals and organizations rely upon. And, they will run them on machines that enjoy the power management benefits of ARM processors.
So far, it’s looking like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 is the first candidate to receive Windows 10 in 2017, likely starting with the Redstone 3 release expected in late 2017. Microsoft did show off this version of Windows 10 running on a Snapdragon 820 and performance seemed good for both Windows 10 and a couple of Win32 applications.
It’s likely that Windows 10 support for ARM processors will represent one of the bigger stories in computing in 2017 and could represent the basis for the much-anticipated Surface Phone initiative. In the meantime, Windows fans should be excited to know that there are already rumors of serious OEM support for ARM-based Windows 10 devices.