Panos Panay talks Snapdragon 8cx and teases more Windows 10 on ARM apps

Panos Ifa
Panos Ifa

What you need to know

  • Microsoft's chief product officer Panos Panay took part in the launch event for Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G chip this week.
  • In a short interview, Panay touched on everything from Surface Duo to Microsoft's partnership with Qualcomm.
  • Panay also revealed Microsoft's App Assure team is now working with companies to get their apps ready to run on ARM at no cost.

If you didn't watch the whole launch event for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 5G chip this week, you likely missed a special guest: Microsoft chieft product officer Panos Panay. Speaking with Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon, Panay briefly chatted about everything from Surface Duo to Microsoft's partnership with Qualcomm and PC makers on Windows 10 on ARM PCs. The most notable part of the interview, however, was what Panay said about the app ecosystem for Windows 10 on ARM.

Microsoft's App Assure team is working with companies to get their apps running on ARM PCs, Panay said. While there were no announcements about which companies Microsoft is currently working with, Panay noted that it's engaged on both the consumer and ISV sides. Further, there's no added cost for companies to work with Microsoft through App Assure.

That's a potentially big deal for the app ecosystem on ARM PCs, if Microsoft can succeed in ushering developers over. Currently, unless an app is specifically built for ARM, you'll have to deal with either installing a web app or running it in 32-bit emulation. This comes with performance costs that you wouldn't see with a native ARM application.

You can view the full clip above to see Panay's full discussion with Amon.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • Qualcomm & Microsoft should have pushed the 7C & 8C more as the lower & mid end is where ARM could get a foothold.
  • That would be a bad idea, it would give the perception Windows on ARM is a weak platform. When it isn't. ARM would get foothold in the premium sector if it had more more Apps.
  • How would it be weak? You don't get a great performance as it is with AMD & Intel in low/mid & people know what to expect so they buy for basic functions but add better battery & cheap lte out the box it would be another option for some.
  • Snapdragon 8cx barely does well enough with day-to-day functions. The issue is you would get even worse performance. They tried the slow, cheap route with Windows Phone for a while (Lumia 520 and a slew of similar devices). It didn't work. A better strategy business wise is to have premium products with a margin so even if they don't sell too well initially, they are sustainable for development. They show off the current best of the platform. Once the platform matures where cheaper chips have tolerable performance, you start using them. Currently, anything below 8cx on WoA devices is slow as hell. It's for people who know what they're getting at the moment. Once there is better app support, it will make MUCH more sense to push it in entry level devices because people will buy it and their apps will "just work", even if slow. They do not want another Windows RT situation.
  • I really wish Microsoft worked with the mobile game development industry. The biggest reason keeping me from buying a Windows 10 device is the lack of games. And I'm not talking about traditional PC gaming or Xbox streaming. I'm talking about touch first mobile games. Almost no mobile games release on the Microsoft Store. I've attended Mobile Games Forum the last few years in Seattle, and it's always disappointing to see zero participation from Microsoft. The entire Surface line is supposed to be a touch first experience, and yet Microsoft refuses to invest in touch gaming. Just take a look at the Microsoft Store in Windows 10. If you go to the Games section of the store, there is no way to even filter games by mobile/touch, traditional PC, controller based, etc. So even if a developer released their touch first mobile game for Windows 10, no one could discover it via the store. Unfortunately it seems this is a space Microsoft has simply decided to ignore. The problem is, it's hurting Windows 10 in general. Hopefully Panos sees the light and makes an effort.
  • I was thinking about that the other day. I can't see the point in selling Surface Pro's without keyboards installed with Windows 10 and it's poor touch implementation. Hopefully, putting Panos in control of Windows was a step in remediating that.
  • Inking and Drawing input are the main users. Neither are nice on touchscreen laptops. I like using my Surface Pro as a tablet but it's niche.
  • Outside of students and office workers 90% of the Surfaces I've seen are used without TypeCovers. I think they have a very strong demand as tablets with inking in niche markets (digital clipboards in hospitals and construction sites, sketch pads for artists and architects, playbooks for the NFL, etc.).
  • Windows doesn't have a Mobile operating system and Windows 10 only has small uptake on 2-in-1s and tablets. Touch Mobile Games wouldn't have much uptake.
  • Dusteater, strongly agree. Unfortunately, this seems leftover from the Windows Phone perspective (or maybe it's my bias as a gamer). It always seemed slap-my-head obvious to me in the early days of Windows Phone from 7 through early 8 that MS should have pushed the Xbox Live integration and promoted the Windows Phone as the definitive phone for games. This was only a niche market among smartphone customers, but MS could have owned it, and it could have been a notable and big-spending base. They absolutely ignored this, even though at the time it was the ONLY phone that offered points associated with Gamertags on your MS account. This meant they never really developed those relationships with touchscreen game developers or an understanding of touchscreen games. The legacy is what you now see -- the best and most powerful (by far) touchscreen computers have virtually no touchscreen games and don't even offer a way to find the few that exist by filtering for touch. Such a blindspot, so sad.
  • I have never thought of it that way but tbh most people buying a surface are not getting it for touch games. I feel touch games are poor. Example is cod. Personally the game is great but as a touch screen game it feels bad. Add a controller to it and its brillent. I own a p40 pro and got a controller for it and it's changed my stance on gaming on a mobile. I hate touch games and perfer a controller. That said its each to there own and there will be 1000s of people thinking down the same line as yourself.
  • " really wish Microsoft worked with the mobile game development industry. " At this point I don't think this will ever happen. Surface devices are merely mobile laptops really. And it looks like they will stay that way permanently. This is why I'd love to see Microsoft release Neo as a dual screen Android tablet. This would give it instant access to thousands of high quality touch first games. And any mobile developers that targeted Duo could easily target Neo without porting to Windows.
  • Selling without the keyboard is just logistics. Most people are going to want one. They either know it, or will find it out. With all the color options, it would be rediculous to try to stock every combo with its own SKU for inventory management. If you just sold it with one color, people who want another are upset and figure they should get a refund on the keyboard. If you price it with a keyboard and let the customer pick the color they want off the shelf, there will be outcry that 'I don't want a keyboard, it should cost less'. These aren't made up. All were tried, except having a SKU for each combo, including naked. They even used to include a pen, and people said, I don't want one, it should cost less.
  • This is why they don't come with keyboards.
  • Give us live tiles on Windows 10 x give us a Windows version of the surface Duo
  • live tiles are bad implementations of vista widgets. hope disappear soon
  • Better than widgets in that they also replace icons for every app, but also more limited in that (to my frustration), they never made it possible to put Live Tiles on the desktop where they could be useful, like Widgets were in Vista and Win 7, and like you can do with all other icons. (No-one leaves the start menu open all the time, so they admittedly don't add much value in Windows 10 for PCs, but still a little but useful to just hit the Windows key and see news, weather, and Windows Central updates at a glance). I don't remotely understand the thinking behind Live Tiles as implemented in Windows on PCs. On phones, I still miss them every day I use my Android phone. Android gadgets are more functional, but poorly integrated with the OS compared with Live Tiles on Windows Phone.
  • I use Square Home Launcher on my phone for Android. That will allow you to basically turn your Android phone into a Windows phone
  • As always that's your opinion there are still many many people that like live tiles and having the square colored boxes behind the icons.
    So what's the best way to go about it? Microsoft should just give us the option so we can have it our way and you can have it your way. I have everything with live tiles and large icons with the color backgrounds on my full screen start menu and that's where I do all my stuff
  • No, Live tiles on a Windows Phone were useful and efficient. On Windows they have atrophied to the point of limited use.
  • How? How are they more useful than a proper notification shade and full featured widgets?
  • No and definitely No.
  • Where's Teams and Skype for ARM Panos?
  • I think he's working on it but he doesn't have control of either of those teams so he can only influence them indirectly.
  • Looks like the Panos piece starts at about 37 minutes in. Hope that helps some people find it. (Sorry if that was already in the article, I couldn't find it)
  • Microsoft needs to get their own apps converted to ARM first, before any 3rd parties will care. Virtually all apps that ship with Windows 10 on the Pro X are still X86. Mail, Weather, Windows Media Player, Groove Music, etc. are all X86. Your Phone and OneNote are native ARM. Not to mention Teams, Office and several background services. Edge is ARM, but the updater service that runs constantly is X86. How stupid is that? An X86 update service to update an ARM app. WOA has no point and no future if MS can’t be bothered to make their own apps ARM native. I just sold my Pro X on eBay for these reasons.
  • This isn't true. I just checked - Mail is ARM. It may still be ARM32 for some reason but it does support ARM. Interestingly, so is OneNote for Win10 (only says ARM, not ARM64).
  • Windows Media Player is put there for compatibility and fail safe.
    You expect a piece of compatibility software to be included on ARM.
    A system that is in itself a compatibility mess.
  • Microsoft is in a chicken and the egg moment with ARM and Windows. They must build machines that have to support x86 because of the lack of native ARM apps otherwise the platform would die. At the same time, they must commit hard to ARM since it is the future of mainstream personal computing even though the native apps are lacking. They had to start somewhere, and they have. Spinning up the Microsoft's App Assure team is a big story and represents how serious Microsoft is about cracking that egg. The impact of Apple committing to ARM and all the app chaos that will follow for a few years when taken in conjunction with Microsoft committing to the same path is an inflection point for developers. They either get on board here right now or they are going to find themselves at a serious disadvantage in about 5 years. The App Assure team is the modern version of Ballmer's greatest moment, "Developers, Developers, Developers." Then there is Qualcomm. The 8cx CPU was in the ballpark of an 8th gen Intel core i5. Not great but not the worst thing ever either. Again, Qualcomm had to start somewhere, and they did, in the push to unseat Intel for much of mainstream personal computing. Once again, Apple's commitment here to building terrific ARM silicon is another affirmation that developers really need to get moving here. Between Qualcomm and Apple the handwriting on the wall is pretty clear. I view all this not in terms of what is deficient with the current hardware and software today. Rather I view all this in terms that the current state is a major inflection point that is going to be followed by a fairly rapid transition period of 3 to 5 years. Nothing is going to be ideal for a few years, but it will get steadily better. Most certainly Microsoft has some work to do to get their applications fully ported over and they will. They have no choice. There are a few major developers that will set the tone: Adobe, Autodesk, and Intuit. Get those running on WOA you have the office productivity, graphics, engineering/architecture, and finance covered. So far, I am aware that Adobe is working with Apple to make this happen. Qualcomm has some serious challenges here to make this fly. Those silicon people do some seriously amazing work. Once again Qualcomm has to make this fly. Gaming is a whole different story. I can't even get my mind wrapped around all the challenges needed to get that transition to fly. The software is challenging enough but what happens with graphics cards to pick out one issue? The best I can speculate is it should be easier to bring mobile gaming apps to the devices that will arise because of the common silicon family. But it is a heady challenge still because they would still need to be ported to Windows. There is a chance they could show up in the Windows Store, but I wouldn't hold my breath - the Google and Apple environments are entrenched and formidable. Having Nvidia getting ARM away from Softbank has the potential for some seriously interesting work to happen. Then there is 5G. It could be a significant factor if the high speed 5G networks get built out widely, become ubiquitous. Cloud and Streaming become first class citizens all the sudden for more than storing files and streaming music. So, yes, I see the App Assure commitment as a significant development here. It is a big deal given how I read the lay of the land.
  • Are they still doing this? Seemed WoA was dead. No new machines for a while now.
  • In addition to this, Microsoft needs to get that x64 emulation layer ready as a stop-gap measure until all major third-party app makers (Spotify, Adobe, etc.) release WOA versions of their respective apps. The good thing is that, since Apple is already moving to ARM silicon, it will probably accelerate the migration for Windows as well. X86 is great, but I want ARM to succeed, because it is awesome when it comes to power consumption.