Windows on ARM

Qualcomm and Microsoft are at it again, this time announcing that ARM (specifically the Snapdragon 835 mobile processor) will run Windows. Last time this announcement was made it was the doomed from the start Windows RT initiative. This time Qualcomm is introducing x86 emulation into the chip, which means that you'll actually be able to pull all your desktop apps along with you onto a mobile processor. 

The chip that powers the latest generation of Flagship Smartphones (except the iPhoneX)

The chip that powers the latest generation of Flagship Smartphones (except the iPhoneX)

Why this is great

Mobile processors, like the Snapdragon 835, are designed to operate on minimal power consumption and scale performance easily. This is something that rival Intel treats as a lower tier priority. Intel's game is making the most powerful processors and then scaling for efficiency. The clear gain here is that Qualcomm is going to make laptops that last forever (actual time may differ) on a single battery charge. The other huge boost is that the Snapdragon 835 system on a chip has the X16 LTE modem baked in. This makes it possible to have a laptop that is truly a mobile work station.

Why this is only good

ARM processors are powerful, energy efficient and can scale easily between these two tasks. They are designed to handle the loads of current mobile operating systems like iOS and Android. Microsoft abandoned its mobile operating system. The announcement is that Qualcomm and Microsoft have worked together to create chip-set emulation. This means that there will need to be additional process dedicated to translating every instruction from Windows (x86) to ARM. This is a drain on any system, and it will be seen how this actually affects battery life etc. 

Why this is bad

This will represent the 13th public attempt from Windows to make a mobile operating system.  These custom editions were ALWAYS fitted to the hardware that they were destined to be embedded in. Always re-imagining the operating system to conform to how the user was going to be interacting with it. Custom user interface (UI) was key to all these editions in every case. Except one. Windows RT. 

Windows RT failed in being developer supported, it failed in UI design, it failed in being hardware supported. Windows RT was Windows to mobile chips. It was dead on arrival. It was most importantly the last time that a non-custom Windows UI was put into a mobile world. Apple separates iOS from OSX because they understand that even the iPad pro is not a replacement for a desktop under and conditions but the lightest of use. One could argue that the Microsoft Surface Pro breaks that divide, If you've ever tried using it as anything other than a laptop you will be surprised to learn it makes a miserable tablet. This should also be evident with the release of the Surface Book and Surface Laptop. Whether Microsoft is saying it or not Windows 10 is not a mobile operating system. So far, the only announced implementation of Windows on Snapdragon is two hybrid laptops from ASUS and HP.

  • Battery life will be incredible
  • You will be always connected thanks to LTE modem
  • Emulating x86 to ARM is an unknown
  • Windows 10 is not a good mobile UI

THE VERDICT

The real question in all this is can an ARM chip actually run Windows 10? We won't know until an actual hardware piece. Speaking of which so far there are two that are announced the ASUS NovaGo and the HP Envy x2. We'll track down hardware and distribution very soon.