Windows has been traditionally run on Intel and AMD processors i.e. x86 processors. Microsoft tried to lay the foundation for Windows on ARM in 2012 with ARM-based Surface RT. However, it proved to be a disaster. The poor app selection along with the sluggish performance resulted in a great flop which caused Microsoft a loss of $900 million. Microsoft Surface RT amassed poor reviews and sales overall. However, as you would expect, this did not mark an end to its journey.
Microsoft has since then ARMed itself to redress the balance. Windows on ARM is in news again in 2022 but for all the good reasons. In this blog post, we trace its development and answer questions like, “does Windows on ARM have a future?”
What Does Windows on ARM Mean?
First things first, we need to establish what it means. It simply means running a Windows PC on an ARM chipset. Due to a completely different architecture, ARM CPUs were previously limited and could not run Windows apps that were designed for x86 processors. That is not the case anymore. Microsoft introduced x64 emulation so native apps could run on ARM PCs. Most of the ARM PCs are now powered by Qualcomm SOCs as Microsoft and Qualcomm have an exclusive deal. Windows not only offers smooth performance on ARM processors now but also promises a number of benefits.
What Does Windows on ARM Promise?
That brings us to our next question, why is there a need for Windows ARM-based PCs and why is it gaining popularity now? ARM-based Windows PCs promise some impressive features such as low costs, always-on systems with 4G and 5G, longer battery life, and energy-efficient devices. ARM based computers raise the bar with multiple connectivity options. Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 compute platform offers extreme connectivity with 4G LTE, 5G, and Wi-Fi 6/6E speeds along with a suite of security features. Moreover, these cost-effective ARM devices consume less battery power and are highly power-efficient.
Does Windows on ARM Have a Future?
While ARM processors have not displaced x86 processors, ARM CPUs are here to stay! Since its official launch in 2017, Windows on ARM has shown considerable improvement in performance and is growing to become a strong contender. Apple’s transition to its proprietary ARM chips from Intel processors has definitely contributed to the rise of ARM. Considering all the aforementioned advantages of ARM processors, Microsoft is also continuously investing in WoA devices. Microsoft collaborated with Qualcomm to turn this vision into reality. In Feb 2022, Apcsilmic launched the first-ever ARM-powered Windows mini PC, Dot 1 Mini PC. Since then, Microsoft has announced the development of an ARM-native toolkit and an ARM-powered mini PC for ARM developers, Project Volterra. All these developments suggest that ARM is the future!
Microsoft Announces Project Volterra- a Mini PC for ARM Developers
Project Volterra was announced by Microsoft in May at the annual Build conference 2022. Microsoft has not disclosed the specifications or pricing of Project Volterra as of yet. However, it shared that Project Volterra is a dev kit powered by an unspecified Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC. The dev kit will enable developers to use ARM-native versions of Visual Studio 2022, Visual C++, Modern .NET 6, Classic .NET Framework, and Windows Terminal. Similar in size and design to Mac Mini, Project Volterra will feature a neural processing unit for AI capabilities.
With the range of WoA PCs coming out, Windows on ARM has a bright future. Microsoft is collaborating with leading brands like Qualcomm to improve the performance of WoA devices. The recent development in ARM PCs running Windows by Microsoft shows that ARM-powered Windows devices will only gain more popularity with time and show better performance and features.