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Microsoft Teams finally getting compiled for ARM64 Windows 10 … eventually

Samsung Galaxy Book S
Samsung Galaxy Book S (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft Teams is planned to get ARM64 support.
  • Currently, Teams must run in emulation on devices like Surface Pro X.
  • There is no ETA on when to expect the recompiled version.
  • Microsoft still has a problem making its own apps optimized for Windows on ARM.

Late in 2019, the team behind Electron, which drives many cross-platform apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams, announced that it has been recompiled for Windows on ARM. But since its announcement, we have seen virtually no companies recompiling for ARM64, including (and embarrassingly) Microsoft.

That seems to be about to change. Just a few days after I lamented the status of Microsoft Teams for devices like Surface Pro X, Lenovo Flex 5G and Samsung Galaxy Book S, Rish Tandon, corporate vice president of Engineering for Microsoft Teams gave some guidance. In response to a question on Twitter, Tandon noted that Microsoft Teams for ARM64 is in the works.

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Of course, no timeline was provided, so its exact stage of development is unknown. However, considering up until this point Microsoft has never even committed publicly to making Microsoft Teams for ARM64, this is, sadly, progress.

An ongoing problem

Image

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft Teams does run on devices like Surface Pro X, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, but it needs to run in Win32 emulation with reduced performance. Users can also opt to use Microsoft Teams as an "installed app" through the new Chromium Edge browser and its Progressive Web App feature. Still, issues with notifications and windowing are not uncommon.

Companies like Electron and UNITY have released the tools to developers to bring native apps and games to Windows on ARM, but so far, it has been a slow burn. Even the new Skype is running on Electron with reduced performance.

Microsoft has been quite egregious with such inconsistencies. Its new Xbox (Beta) app for Windows 10, for instance, won't even install on a Windows 10 on ARM PC. Rumors suggest Microsoft may integrate its Project xCloud into said app for handiness. If accurate, that means Windows 10 on ARM PCs won't be able even to leverage Xbox game streaming, which seems like a massive oversight.

At the very least, such lagging support for Microsoft Teams, Skype, Xbox, etc. signifies a lack of coherent vision at Microsoft. New platforms are only supported when convenient for the teams behind them.

Microsoft even had to be prodded to release its Chromium-Edge browser for ARM64 even as Surface Pro X was hitting stores. It was only eight months ago Microsoft began filtering non-compatible Microsoft Store apps for Windows on ARM users.

As I remarked on last week's podcast, Apple would not do this. When Apple launches its custom ARM devices and OS launch later this year, it is highly unlikely it will be in the same position as Microsoft.

Microsoft announced it would begin supporting ARM in December 2016, with the first PCs announced a year later. Since then, there has been steady progress, but it is also clear that Microsoft could be doing a lot more to support its own platform and hardware.

But hey, at least we now know that someday, Microsoft Teams will run natively on Surface Pro X. Sarcastic golf claps all around.

Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

50 Comments
  • This always makes me worry that recompiling for ARM from x86/64 is nowhere near as simple as 'just click a checkbox' and you are good. These delays always point to underlying complexities in porting over original x86/64 code.
    Maybe the simple ports are those that were written from the beginning as cross-platform. But for ports, I think it may be a bit more involved. If not, how hard can it be to simply click on the compile button??
  • It's simple right up until the point your apps gets complex relying on various external libraries, dependencies, e.g. UNITY for a game engine, or using custom controls and features like Photoshop. Teams and Slack, for instance, could not be compiled for ARM64 until Electron gave them the tools to do so (and even though they did, there is still work to be done). So many apps/games these days are built piecemeal: you code some, add on a library (that you didn't write), cobble it together. But all those parts need to be ARM64 compatible, which is what is taking so long. That's again the strength/weakness of Windows. It runs so many platforms/languages, which is what makes it so loved as you can install nearly anything including 30yo software. But to have to switch all that to a new architecture gets, well, complicated. Google took like 5 years to make a 64-bit Chrome browser after Windows Vista hit. In fact, getting 64-bit drivers and apps was excruciatingly slow by today's standards.
  • I am glad to see you've learned something.
  • You must be fun at parties.
  • Dark mode, Fluent Design, ARM64, and even App features within a program features like Outlook are very inconsistent. Why can't they prioritize these across the company? I think it is easy to do with incentives like, tying payroll bonuses and stock options to completing these types of things. As far as not having external libraries are concerned. Does Microsoft not have if figured out that those need to be under their control or have their input to get them done first and quickly so that programs using them can be updated. Yes there are a lot of dependencies, but not at a high level. It just requires all managers in charge to have the analysis done to know those dependencies and request them to be updated with the company prioritizing that work to be completed. They just need authority from the top.
  • "They just need authority from the top."
    That's how I see it too. It seems as if no one is coordinating company-wide efforts, it's each team for themselves.
  • I think it's because there's no/little motivation, especially if it's not exactly a trivial matter to fully port and extensively test ARM executables of complex code. ARM only recently became a serious contender in the desktop space. Microsoft may even believe building an emulation layer is actually a simpler solution.. I suspect they are just not driven enough to do it (yet). Maybe the Apple silicon will force them, but with the way Intel is going, I foresee the difference between ARM and x86/64 in the low power space becoming very marginal in a few years, so that even further kills any motivation to dig through all the legacy codebases and port them over to ARM.
  • Kaymd, I suspect you're right, but then it goes to disjointed leadership with launching products. When launching something new, success is largely a function of coordination, appearance of commitment from the backing company, and support. It seems that MS believes success either happens or not purely by the preferences of the market. From the perspective that ultimately only the market can make something succeed or not, that's true, but it misses that market perception is heavily influenced by the things a company of Microsoft's size does. At a minimum, they should leverage their strengths, one of which is the huge array of software support that MS could require of its software all by itself (even with no third-party support). They seem to fundamentally not believe that they have any control or influence on whether or not new launches succeed after something has gone RTM. It's a bizarre strategic blind spot.
  • Yes you are making a very good point. That is definitely one thing Apple does much better at the moment. I guess too many 'failed' experiments/projects have made them reluctant to force anything. And their products have always actually been good, but timing has always been off - Zune (still use the desktop app till today, it's awesome), WP/WM, Band etc.
  • Both Microsoft and Apple have shown porting apps to ARM64 is simple. No code needs to be changed. My guess they don't want to maintain when the user base is low. What Intel is doing is just adding a plaster.
  • And not only Intel now but also Amd as serious competitor in the laptop market (now still to the u and hq series but probably later on also to the m/y series and low power pentium series).
  • They are busy AGILE-ing x86 versions of windows 10
  • If I'm made Microsoft CEO, all these obvious issues will be fixed.
  • Ok its settled guys Olumide O will be the new CEO, let he may bring WOA to newer heights/clouds.
  • In other odd MS ARM news, yesterday I got a notification when I launched Minecraft on my SPX that it will no longer support my OS for multi-player. I can keep using it only as stand-alone. What up with that?
  • Really, this is the universal Bedrock edition, right? It works from everything from Kindle Fire to Xbox and everything in between, and not Microsoft's own Surface Pro X?
  • Very weird indeed, I am wondering if MS is even aware of it in this example.
  • I love the Surface Pro X, but Microsoft's lack of native-ARM apps on their first party apps (like MSOffice) is the only reason I haven't bought one. I use mainly MS apps, so if they'd all be compiled, that would be a really great Surface product.
  • Office works very well on the Pro X though, don't know what exactly they've done underneath, but it's really good.
  • Office is actually ported, AFAIK. I've explained before how the app uses a shim to present itself to the OS as Win32 only so that third-party plugins will see it as a viable install target. Were it to be all ARM64, all third-party plugins would have to be reconfigured to target Office; by going this route, the system tricks those plugins. No work is needed by outside devs who originated those plugins. I have no complaints about Office on the Pro X.
  • Office is great. Teams and Skype badly needs a Native version.
  • Very true. The hardware is outstanding, but lots of the included apps - like mail, weather, groove music, windows media player, and on and on - are still Win32. Lots of background tasks that auto launch - for example the Edge browser updater - are also Win32. I am told this is somewhat improved with 2004, but it is still not available yet for the X. Until MS commits to making EVERYTHING they write native ARM64, no one else will bother. Which means that WOA will have no future. "Sarcastic golf claps all around". Lol, nice. I like that.
  • Weather, mail and groove are UWP as far as I know. The big ones are Teams/skype and VS etc imo considering the Pro X would lend itself well for both otherwise. And to a degree xbox stuff I guess.
  • UWP does not matter. They are still not ARM code. I should be saying they are X86 code, not Win32. My mistake. But the point is, they are running in emulation. Which impacts battery life. I get better battery life on the Go 2. Emulation is NOT a permanent solution. All of this stuff needs to be ARM native. Otherwise there is no point to WOA.
  • Ah okay, it seems like MS has not ticked the 'compile to ARM' box for UWP than in Visual Studio, strange. They do not seem like complicated apps to the compile for ARM (considering I personally made similar apps for UWP and it was easy to compile to x86, 64bit and ARM. Than on installation from the Store, the user should automatically get the right version. I cannot understand why MS does it like this.
  • Forget ARM support. Teams isn't even in the Microsoft Store. Slack is, though!
  • Neither is Office. Neither is Edge. No one cares about the store. Not even MS.
  • They should do. It's an excellent update mechanism. No extra EXEs running in Task Manager or other nonsense.
  • Completely agree, it is also nice when you have to reinstall stuff on newer devices. Though in the case of Office I don't think it matters much considering the updater can install & update all of the office stuff (from a trusted source) so not much extra work there.
  • Edge even has its own updater that runs in the background. It is also X86, so it is running in emulation, to update the ARM version of Edge! How friggin stupid is that?
  • Skype is in the store.
  • Getting Electron working on ARM is now a higher priority now that Apple is going that route. What is sad is that it took Apple for MS to take notice. I think MS owns electron now, because it was a GitHub project if I remember correctly? Sad that they can't get their own teams to support their own platforms. I've sad this before and I'll say it again, if I was the guy at the top, I would mandate that everyone use MS tools as much as possible. Need a cross platform app? Use Xamarin. Xamarin can't do want we need it, then let's build it out so it can. Teams, Skype, should be Xamarin Apps, Xbox Console, should be a UWP app. Eat your own dog food was thing MS started back in during the Gate era, they should go back to it. You know if they supported UWP more, this decision that Windows 10 X will not run win32 apps at first would not be so bad. But since they themselves can't be bothered with UWP, they have to delay the OS now, and even then, what it will come out, and not run anything because let's face it, who really makes UWP apps these days?!?!?!
  • Exactly. Why was the Teams team allowed to use a resource-hungry framework such Electron from the start? They had a Teams for Windows Mobile client but let that die. A UWP (WinRT) version of Teams would simply work on ARM right now. I have Teams running on my HP tablet and Teams chews memory like you wouldn't believe. I just want the app to sit there quietly using few resources and battery until it's needed. Using over 700MB of RAM is simply inexcusable. It just chews memory, processor time and precious battery. I use a tablet in the field and battery life is critical. Why were they allowed to design the app so poorly like they did?
  • Only if the UWP app was 32-bit or ARM. There are UWP apps that are 64-bit only. Like Facebook Messenger and the new XBOX app.
  • Strange that they are only available as 64 bit, it is so easy to compile for 32 bit, 64 bit and arm with uwp, it is even the default setting (iirc using plugins/code from others also does not or barely effect this for UWP), especially since the Store handles the rest (i even only have to upload 1 file for everything, the rest is automatic). I also don't think usable ram differs for UWP here but could be wrong with that one.
  • Windows 10X is now positioned as a ChromeOS competitor running Web Apps primarily too.
  • Indeed Xamarin is awesome but MS lets Xamarin's Windows/UWP support drop to much in the background.
    Personally I still use UWP though, but it needs to be changed so sideloading works at default otherwise I think.
  • Teams works as a PWA using Edge Dev, that should run natively on a Surface Pro X. Microsoft really needs to improve the developer environment for Windows on ARM. Visual Studio still isn't ARM-native and compilation uses x86 binaries, unless you drop in the new ARM clang compiler. Apple's upcoming Macbooks running Apple Silicon should light a fire under Windows on ARM efforts. If Apple can create a complete developer environment running natively on a new architecture, why can't Microsoft?
  • They still have too many “old guard” obstructing progress.
    Office Div especially did not embrace UWP and are now putting lipstick on pig win32 apps.
  • I wonder if Teams on ARM will gourmandise close to 800MB on Surface Pro X
  • It’s a massive memory hog When I tried a personal account the app barfed. A far cry from the near 10th of a footprint Slack.
  • Daniel, thank you for the update. Do you know if Satya has ever been asked directly about this topic? Microsoft 1st party apps supporting their ARM effort?
  • Good question Scott.
  • while they're at it, Electron on Android please. I'd love to see VS Code on that platform.
  • VS Code got released to ARM64 - https://www.theregister.com/2020/05/29/visual_studio_code_windows_arm64/
  • I'm still waiting for my Surface Pro X to get the May 2020 update. It was released to the public 2 months ago but still isn't ready.
  • Great news. It's embarrassing Teams and Skype aren't available for ARM64. WTF the new XBOX app is 64-Bit only. ******* madness.
  • Microsoft has a serious messaging disconnect:
    Do this, while we do that.
    Use UWP, while we use what we want.
    Support ARM, while we don't. They need to follow their own messaging. It's been a problem for years. If they did and used their own tools, things would get better a lot quicker for people trying to follow their messaging as they'd find all the issues external developers do and fix them first or quickly!
  • Expensive hardware and lame software. WOA had failed for second time (after windows rt)
    If those things stay unresolved by end of next year, WOA is dead.
  • Oops oops oops