Woody Leonhard's no-bull news, tips and help for Windows and Office
Home icon Home icon Home icon Email icon RSS icon
  • Windows coming to Qualcomm “mobile” ARM chips

    Posted on December 8th, 2016 at 02:52 woody 24 comments

    As momentous news goes, this one’s a biggie.

    Qualcomm and Microsoft just announced a joint effort (“Project Evo”) to put Windows 10 on the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Terry Myerson has a similar take.

    Chris Williams at the Register puts it succinctly:

    What the hell is happening? Look out, WinTel, here comes Win, er, WinDragon?

    There’s an excellent overview of the history and placement of the product from Matt Humrick and Brett Howse on AnandTech.

    Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet summarizes:

    Microsoft will bring a natively compiled version of Windows 10 to Qualcomm’s ARM processors next year, plus an x86 emulation layer, designed to run on a new class of Windows 10 mobile PCs.

    Note that there’s no mention of 64-bit programs. Looks like 32-bit (x86) programs will run in an emulation layer, which is always tricky and usually slow. My guess is that only UWP apps will run native. That’s a moving target, given how much UWP is changing from version to version.

    Peter Bright at Ars Technica has some additional details:

    Microsoft also plans to bring the kind of always-on connectivity that’s more familiar to smartphones and desktop PCs. The devices will offer cellular connectivity using a virtual/embedded SIM, with data plans sold directly within the Windows Store. Offering this kind of near-permanent connectivity even in a highly portable device will further blur the lines between a PC and a smartphone, simultaneously offering the portability and power efficiency of a phone, with the application compatibility, peripheral support, and enterprise manageability of a PC.

    Will the effort amount to more than a flash in the pan – or a rehashing of Windows RT? Hard to tell. But it’s certainly going to be interesting. Nobody knows how well it’ll work, how quickly it’ll run (in spite of the demo), and whether Qualcomm can put together enough drivers to make it feasible.

    Look for a barrage of “analysis” this morning, much of which will be regurgitation of the press release.

    UPDATE: The WinHEC keynote speech is up, if you want to see the original introduction.

    If that helped, take a second to support AskWoody on Patreon

    24 Responses to “Windows coming to Qualcomm “mobile” ARM chips”

    1. Boris says:

      No thanks! Don’t want Windows 10 on my PC and definitely don’t want it on my mobile device!

    2. Jim4 says:

      I’m not interested in “always-on connectivity”. I take several steps to keep my various online experiences separate from each other. For example, I don’t comment at InfoWorld, because to do so, I would have to do it through Facebook; and I don’t want my Facebook account to be linked in any way with the posts I put at InfoWorld (or at any other blog, for that matter). All these linkages enable Google, et al, to compile a very detailed profile of me, and this is exactly what I don’t want.

      “Always-on connectivity” sounds like yet another way for them to gather yet more information about me.

      My efforts to thwart this sort of thing may be in vain, but I will do the best I can.

    3. Connor says:

      I really hope other ARM manufacturers will want to jump on, namely Samsung. Qualcomm’s stunk over the last few years.

    4. messager7777777 says:

      Mobile smartphones n tablets need to use fanless, low-freq n power-sipping ARM chips, tiny NAND Flashdrives, low-power LPDDR3 RAM, micro-USB ports, touchscreens(= no keyboard n mouse), etc.
      ……. Larger desktops/laptops do not need to “suffer” such space n design restrictions. So, it is needless n foolish to put ARM chips in PCs. It’s like putting a compact car engine into a 4WD or MPV body = top-speed of 10mph.
      Seems, “evil” M$ hv been struck with the dumb-disease, eg the failed Windows Mobile Lumia smartphones, Windows Store n Win 8. Will Win 10 fail as well.?
      P S – My Win 7 PC already can hv “always-on cellular connectivity” by using a 3G/4G USB-dongle modem(with embedded SIM inside) from a Mobile Telco, in order to be able to connect to the Internet via Mobile Broadband. This kind of Internet Data Plan from Mobile Telcos does not allow 3G/4G calling.
      ……. There are many Android tablets that can make 3G/4G calls, besides using the usual Wifi = no need to buy a smartphone.

    5. Noel Carboni says:

      Seriously, just an x86 emulator? Did someone forget to design enough bits into their chip?

      Unless every single available program works on these “Next Generation” chips seamlessly – and that includes x64 programs – what makes anyone think the fate of this will be any different than the fate of the WinRT devices from a few years ago?

      Microsoft keeps making “strategic” moves as though the Metro / Modern / Universal / WhateverTheHellTHeyWantToCallit platform is worth a damn.

      Hello, Microsoft? Anyone home? It’s not.

      People want systems as capable or more capable than what they had in the past. To achieve that you need to be able to run every single program currently available. These chips may be so stupid fast that they can emulate Intel instructions reasonably. Awesome. So emulate ALL of them.

      64 bits finally freed us from the shackles of a ridiculously small (in today’s terms) address space. Leave compatibility with x64 out and…

      (crickets chirping)


      • Anonymous says:

        I do not think MS currently gives a hoot about local deice based computing as they want to push everything into a cloud environment. On one level this puzzles me as the cost and capability of local execution have served to make it very attractive. However, MS is sort of captivated by the “cloud” computing environment because “Wall Street” analysts are currently enamored with the concept as a growth engine. The cloud concept also feeds the strategic vision of a social media/advertising driven business model that MS embraces. So much of what MS has done with Windows over the last decade has made little sense to me and has been of limited value. First in mobile, they tried to put the Windows desktop on the first Windows phones; then with Windows 8 MS tried to put the phone/tablet UI on my desktop. This has left me in a continual search for intelligent life in Redmond. I suppose my thinking is out of step because of my age and computing experience. After all, I remember putting together JCL decks for IBM 360/370 main frames.

        • Clueless says:


          “After all, I remember putting together JCL decks for IBM 360/370 main frames.”

          You just caused a flashback.

          I remember in ‘Nam many boxes of cards stacked in my hooch along the walls in lieu of sandbags. Short half-life from the humidity.

        • PKCano says:

          Cut my teeth on IBM 360 and boxes of punch cards. Do you realize that was going on 50 years ago!!

          • ex-IBMer says:

            I loaded many a punch card into an IBM 1460. I had to use a dial on the operation panel to get a program to branch. An IBM 360/30 (DOS) eventually replaced it. I got to operate just about every 360 model after that. It was an interesting era of computing.

        • Noel Carboni says:

          // PRTY=URGENT

          No, it’s not a “get over here quick for a drink” invitation. 🙂


    6. Canadian Tech says:

      It is really hard to believe that any one is at home actually thinking. MS has failed miserably in every, every attempt to get into the mobile market. Most every company on the planet would have been broke by now. However, the treasury is stocked with Billions from sales of Windows products. That is what is paying for these doomed to fail attempts.

      Meantime, the product that fueled the huge success that Microsoft WAS, is now being shunned and the customer base ignored and brutalized.


      • Anonymous says:

        +1 ditto

        Is it not true that 32b processing is less secure than 64b processing? – Oh but this is W10 right? The most secure Windows ever. LOL, not for consumers.

        Windows 10 was never and will never be a consumer centric OS, even on an ARM processor, re: “This will fill a hole for consumers and low-mid tier knowledge workers”. A desktop phone – just what I need in a small business.

        Microsoft has lost so much credibility in this sector that it is laughable to think that they will stay the course. One left turn and they will dump it. They dominate or run.

    7. LoneWolf says:

      Can someone explain to me what makes this so different from:

      1) The SurfaceRT that fizzled badly, due to poor support?
      2) My Microsoft Lumia 640, which I bought for $40 because I was curious, has a Snapdragon 410, running Windows 10 Mobile, and while a fun toy for being so cheap, will probably eventually be relegated to the dustbin of the WinMo platform, now that Microsoft seems to have become rather half-hearted on the whole thing?
      I can’t see how bringing Windows to the Qualcomm platform will be that different –or how it will be more successful. Unless Microsoft can get great app-dev support, it’s going to be another IBM OS/2 Warp (which btw, I loved back in the day, and which was far superior to existing Windows releases at the time).

      • woody says:

        The pivotal difference is that, unlike Windows RT, these new machines (when they arrive in about a year) are supposed to run regular, old everyday Windows programs.

        Is that enough to kick some life into Microsoft’s mobile aspirations? I dunno. Much depends on how it works out.

    8. BobbyB says:

      Really not seeing any advantages at all, save maybe cost, less dependance on a fan and ergo power savings. What struck me after a bit of reading was there was no reall “eye popping” must have about this range of processors and adding a layer of emulation has all the hallmarks of over complication. I did catch some where that you cant Join a Domain with them (to be honest i really dont know how or why that would be) Ahh well it was a day out i suppose for the M$ Execs. to Shenzhen and i really cant imagine why they would go there its not exactly picturesque lol 😉

      • woody says:

        Au contraire, Shenzhen is a remarkable place. I love going there – not just the geek malls, but the China Folk Culture Village, Window of the World, and the Safari Park are all tremendous tourist places. (Of course, China’s treatment of its minorities is another story, but the Culture Village is remarkable.)

        • BobbyB says:

          Well it was the 90s a rather grim experience watching the gate to HKG close behind the train and all the carriage doors were locked until you got to Guangzhou (Canton) Then again the view from the Train windows is seldom all that spectacular unless your going somewhere nice, My personal favourite was the 1525 Dep.Intl. Express from Hualomphong via Hat yai to Butterworth (Penang) Malaysia (youll know it well i am guessing) 🙂

          • woody says:

            I never took the train all the way, but back in 1980 (81?) I took the train from Hualomphong to Surat Thani, then by bus to Phuket and down to Penang and Singapore.

            My future wife was living not far from the Surat Thani railroad station. Didn’t meet her until 20 years later.

    9. ch100 says:

      Get relaxed people, Microsoft is not owned by you (or it is and this is why you are concerned?).
      Microsoft released in the past products like Windows 2008 R2 for Itanium based systems and for those who remember Windows NT for DEC Alpha CPU.
      Not all products released by any company are a success and this is more normal than many would believe.

    10. Canadian Tech says:

      You are correct of course, ch100, but MS has one of the worst track records I know of and what makes it really stunning is the amazing amount of hype they can drum up, up to the day they drop it. Most of the time, leaving poor customers in the lurch.

    Leave a Reply