Microsoft Takes Another Shot At ARM: Cellular PCs With Qualcomm On Board And A Better Approach Than Windows RT


Microsoft has teamed up with Qualcomm to bring Windows 10 on ARM, this time promising a better experience than Windows RT.

It's safe to say that while Windows RT was an ambitious project, setting out to drop traditional desktop apps in favor of touch-based ones optimized for ARM-powered tablets, it was a flop. Windows RT launched four years ago on Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet with an ARM processor, but it basically offered a watered-down version of Windows that didn't really live up to the hype.

Basically Windows RT looked like Windows but didn't work like Windows. While it has a desktop mode and most familiar Windows utilities, it couldn't run traditional desktop apps and ended up being mostly confusing rather than useful.

Microsoft is now giving ARM another shot, partnering with Qualcomm to make laptops, tablets and phones run millions of traditional apps on ARM. The company announced the move as part of the broader Windows 10 Creators Update. Come 2017, Windows 10 will be able to emulate traditional desktop apps, enabling device makers to create tablets, laptops and smartphones that support existing Windows applications.

Microsoft Windows And Qualcomm Snapdragon 835

Microsoft will support the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor starting in 2017, with laptops as the first devices to hit the market. To support ARM chips in Windows directly, Microsoft is baking an emulator right into the operating system. Devices will be able to run x86 Win32 applications, but x64 versions won't be supported.

If all goes well, we should soon see light laptops with long battery life and Windows desktop apps support on ARM.

Cellular PCs

"For the first time ever, our customers will be able to experience the Windows they know with all the apps, peripherals, and enterprise capabilities they require, on a truly mobile, power efficient, always-connected cellular PC," says Microsoft.

Thanks to this new partnership with Qualcomm, hardware partners will be able to create Snapdragon-powered Windows 10 PCs that run x86 Win32 and Universal Windows apps such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Chrome, Windows games and more. Microsoft says this project will allow for "cellular PCs" that push the boundaries of hardware and software innovation.

"We look forward to seeing these new devices with integrated cellular connectivity and the great experiences people love like touch, pen and Windows Hello, in market as early as next year," adds the company.

The Snapdragon 835 will be the first one to join the party, but more Qualcomm processors will be supported in the future.

In the demo video below, Microsoft shows off a Snapdragon-powered machine running Adobe Photoshop, which typically weighs quite heavily on a computer's performance. Other apps also seem to run smoothly, just like they would on a desktop processor.

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