Windows 10 on ARM: Microsoft's ultimate mobile device vision comes into focus

An objective observation of the current smartphone paradigm reveals a saturated market, iteration- versus innovation-focused hardware advances and an inefficient warehouse of apps ecosystem model. That war, though lost to Redmond according to those aging rules, is arguably merely going through the motions in 2016.

Ten years is an eternity in tech. We've seen incredible advances in intelligent cloud computing, mobility of digital experiences, AI, bots, mixed-reality, digital inking and more since the iPhone's debut in 2007.

Full Windows on ARM is key to Nadella's ultimate mobile device.

These advances have broadened the mobile computing experience significantly beyond the "iPod, internet device and phone" merger that so excited the world who watched the late Steve Jobs introduce the first iPhone. We have yet to see a similar cohesion of the breadth of current technologies on a mobile device. But we may see it sooner than we think.

Microsoft's announcement of full Windows 10 on ARM will eventually bring the full power of Microsoft's unique universal OS to a pocketable form factor. A Continnum-powered Surface ultra-mobile PC (3-in-1) running Windows 10 with x86 apps, would bring together the diverse and modern benefits of the unified platform and would be an ultimate mobile device indeed.

It's about Window 10, not the device

There are barriers Microsoft must work through before we see full Windows 10 with x86 apps on a "phone." Still, as hardware partners bring Windows 10 to more affordable, power-efficient and streamlined ARM-based tablets and 2-in-1s, rest assured, we will see the same on "phone" in time.

Microsoft's hardware strategy is intricately intertwined with its Universal Windows Platform vision. As the UWP is positioned as a ubiquitous platform to facilitate users' digital experiences, a diverse Windows 10 device family is designed to provide context relevant portals to those same personal and professional experiences. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer explained:

No technology company has as yet delivered a definitive family of devices useful all day for work and for play, connected with every bit of a person's information available through one cloud. We see tremendous room for innovation in software, services and hardware to bring the consumer this new, more complete and enveloping experience.… Our family will include phones, tablets, PCs, 2-in-1s, TV-attached devices and other devices to be imagined and developed.

Microsoft reimagined the desktop PC with the Surface Studio, the tablet with the Surface and the laptop with the Surface Book. Phone is an integral part of Redmond's Windows 10 device family vision and, per Nadella, will be reimagined as a clear deviation from market leaders definition of a phone. Since Microsoft's device family is focused on a cohesive Windows 10 experience, where the device fades into the background, Redmond's "phone" vision (unlike rivals') is platform- rather than device-focused.

Microsoft's phone vision is platform focused.

Thus, this full Windows 10 ultra-mobile PC running x86 apps will be positioned among the Windows 10 hardware family as a device capable of the full range of the Windows OS. Of course, Continuum will be key to allowing a docked or wirelessly connected device to project x86 apps to a larger display as it currently does with Store apps.

Microsoft's hardware vision of empowering users with the full power of Windows regardless of device is becoming a reality.

Window's Creators Update; a platform for everyone

Microsoft strategically made Windows relevant to more users, via the Creators Update, broadening the appeal of a platform that powers a device family to which Redmond hopes to win consumers and enterprise users.

The Creators Update is preparing the masses for a Surface phone.

The Update pairs a forward-looking vision of how the current generation of young users embrace sophisticated interactive 3D tools with the legacy productivity strengths of the platform. Windows Chief Terry Myerson articulated the updates inspiration this way:

…we're thinking about each of us as creators…these kids are so fluent and interactive in really quite rich 3D concepts.So the inspiration really is in looking and saying what are the trends in this next generation that we can foster and invest in. And in a way that's relevant for a broad base, but also looking for inspiration for what's coming next.

The 3D tools built into Windows, along with the ability to share 3D creations across other Microsoft products like PowerPoint and HoloLens exemplify the breadth and unity of the platform. A mobile device with full Windows would share these abilities as well as the additional enterprise-focused IT benefits the update brings.

Advanced threat protection and device management tools that allow users to keep devices personal are among these benefits.

Microsoft's push of the personal and productivity benefits of Windows 10 can potentially win users to a mobile device powered by the same platform they have come to love on a 2-in-1, laptop or Surface Studio.

Furthermore, "cellular-PCs," which will precursor this "phone" to market on popular 2-in-1 and tablet form factors, will prepare users for this "phone" that does everything their PC's do.

Surface "phone", everything you can do…

Like Apple famously brought the iPod, internet and phone to a pocketable form factor in 2007, Microsoft's ultra-mobile Surface will bring today's cutting edge technology together to our pockets in the near future.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has become a leader and platform for exciting innovative technology like Windows Holographic, mixed reality, gaming, 3D content creation, digital inking and more. The Continuum-powered ultra-mobile Surface will put these technologies that have excited the industry in the pockets of consumer and enterprise users alike.

Finally, though Store apps are still vitally important, with 16 million x86 apps available to Windows, the app gap has been flipped on its head.

Yes, Microsoft lost the smartphone war, but with full Windows on ARM they've changed the rules of engagement. A new war has just begun.

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

197 Comments
  • Apparently the UWP had a much bigger role in Nadella's master plan than any of us could imagine.
  • "Microsoft hasn't just been waiting for the next bend in the curve, they've been creating it" -AkiraX
  • They are gonna create some hairpin bends my friend. Just wait and watch. iOS and Android users will want to switch in 2018.
  • Our time has finally come! I've been telling everyone, 2017 is the year of Windows Mobile!
  • He said 2018.
  • The good stuff comes to us in 2017 though.
  • And in every year since 2010...believe it when I see it.
  • I said 2018 on purpose. Because obviously, however cool this news sounds (btw, it's frikkin COOL), it'll take a good amount of time to actually disrupt android and iOS. 2017 is the start and 2018 will only take it further with RS3 on the majority of devices and probably RS4 on quite a lot of devices too.
    .
    Cheers ! :)
  • YEAH !!!! *evil grin* while thinking about future sulking iPhone and android users. LOL.
  • No one will remember us as soon as windows becomes the standard. And then we'll move to the next niche platform because windows will be the standard :D (not me I actually love .NET programming so I'll stick with win10 and try to make some money!).
  • Haha, you may be right. I still have my Maemo device from years past.
  • Dream on...
  • Lemme guess. A troll.
  • Nope, A realist!
  • Me a Troll? You are probably not a long timer @ "Windows Phone Central"? Microsoft just don't get it, and I will believe it when I see it. At least they have realized they have to give Windows a better and more polished design.
  • Yup.
  • It's going to take some convincing as they're still going to need all of the popular smartphone apps to come to the platform. Running desktop apps doesn't fix this for the mass amount of people who use a phone as their primary device.
  • Yup, that's the only issue.
    .
    Probably, Android and iOS for the kids and Windows 10 for adults to do real work.
  • Apple was the first to come with bending tech on their iPhones :D ;)
  • Sure. Steve Jobs was a genius and the industry respected him. They definitely brought something new to the market but now its Microsoft's turn.
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    Surface Pro, Surface Book Surface Studio, Surface Phone/Ink/One.
  • I guess you did not get it, sir... Let me help here: I guess he is reffering to the Bendgate :D
  • They still had apps and worked however.
  • I still have all the apps I need on my 950XL
  • Me too! Don't know why ppl whine about not having Snapchat of all things.
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    And now they might say facebook isn't that great too which is true but a more powerful OS might finally solve this issue.
  • good for you....NOT everyone has the apps they want and NO I am not talking about snap chat or pokemon like all the fanboys think everyone is talking about.
  • I know some people are missing 1 or 2 apps if I look in my immediate environment where quite some people are happy Windows 10 Mobile users. They can live with the lack of that 1 or those 2 apps because the Windows 10 ecosystem is really working out for them (as for me too). I admit that I'm a bit a fanboy (Surface Pro 3, Lumia 950XL, Xbox One, Band 2) but not too fanboy to declare all is perfect. Then again, I had my share of experience on Android & iOS and with all the apps they have, they weren't perfect either. For me, Windows 10 works best and in the end that's what matters most :)
  • As I said in another area here, I have 30 apps on my iPhone that are not available on windows 10m that I use pretty well every day! so that's not 1 or 2......
  • Where did I mention you missed only 1 or 2? I was talking about myself and the people I know. Apps one uses is very personal so there's actually no discussing about that, just like you don't argue about taste of food or colour.
  • Ahh. Didn't catch that before. But I'll let that one pass. Lol.
    .
    There are many 'gates' in the iPhone world.
  • Yeah the best one is work gate. You know....where the phone works as intended! 99.99999 % of phone users outside of MS have this "gate". hence the market share of windows phone/mobile.
  • Steve Addams, your a bum and an iPhone deepthroater! Enjoy sir!
  • wow...so mature! "shady" ha ha ha. wow, nice burn you child! The truth hurts sometimes. and this magical phone is NOT going to fix the windows mobile problem for consumers. Just so ya know.
  • You just keep indulging yourself in the thought that you're phone is the perfect uberphone and all the others are crap. I know plenty of people who switched between all platforms but then again everyone who left iOS is probably ignorant or wrong in your narrow vision so I'll now let trolls be trolls and let them mins their own vision.
  • .
  • You just keep indulging yourself in the thought that you're phone is the perfect uberphone and all the others are crap. I know plenty of people who switched between all platforms but then again everyone who left iOS is probably ignorant or wrong in your narrow vision so I'll now let trolls be trolls and let them mind their own vision.
  • Well we all now why Steve Adams got banned on the Windows Central forums. Too bad you can't get banned from leaving comments...or can you? :)
  • It's possible for Daniel to ban him from comments too.
  • Wow I cannot believe the number of deluded windows phone users here
  • Go back to your own delulded bubble and let us delude in peace.
  • lol.
  • I use Windows Mobile 10. There was a time Microsoft brought finished product to the market. Now, everything Windows seems like Alpha/beta. I miss the versatility of the WinMobile 6.0/6.5 design language. Not this black and white nonsense, and limited selectable predefined accent colours.
  • Akira, Yes they have. :-)
  • Nadella is slowly gonna be liked by W10M fans again. Microsoft is gonna be king in the mobile field again. Bring it on !!
  • C'mon, were all fans here but please, kings of mobile!?
    I'd be happy with a sustainable 10-20%
  • Why not? Btw, I'll be happy with a constant 20% share too!
  • If windows can get to 10-20% it probably means it can be king. What I'm saying is that a platform that never succeeded would have so much momentum that it wouldn't stop at just 20% if it reaches it.
  • Dude, you need to lay off what ever great drugs you are on. Microsoft was NEVER the king of the mobile field. Sorry to massive explode your fanboy bubble.
  • You know I love the TRUTH downvotes.
  • Back in the Windows Mobile era (WM6 and down) they were doing great, and revolutionary things compared to the competition. But Microsoft's no stranger to be far too far ahead for people to accept the new tech... That's why competitors have done so well, because they've taken what Microsoft started and redeployed it at a more mature time. If you don't know this part of history, then, I'm sorry, but you were born too late.
  • You need to go back to 2000 and start over again. Go till like 2008, that'll give you an idea. By the time, your mind would probably grow up too - Bonus !
  • I was in the phone business from 1998 until 2003 abhi....sorry!
  • Well then you should have known better before commenting here.
  • But with this they are losing a trusted partner in intel going for snapdragon.
  • Intel will remain as the only option for high end PCs. I could see these being a replacement for say, the base core M3 Surface Pro line, but nothing higher
  • Hope so! Intel has been very good with PCs and qualcomm has been good with mobile. MS has a tough task to create balance between the two partners which is actually outside of technical world.
  • For a while that thought came to my mind as well. But just think a little more. Do you really think ppl are gonna stop using Desktop PC's and Laptops and Tablets and 2-in1's in 2017-18 ? Of course not!
    .
    Intel is king with the Core i series of processors and that won't change anytime soon.
    .
    They withdrew from the Mobile Chip market themselves. They could have easily improved the ATOM line of chips but didn't. That's not MSFT's fault and it shouldn't spoil the WIN-TEL relation :)
  • Definitely they are not going to stop using PCs but there is no denying that they may shift towards Mac OS. One cannot deny the vulnerability. Just hoping, this will not happen.
  • Wait, I'm confused. Who will shift to MacOS ? Intel?
    .
    They don't have to 'shift' bro. Intel already supports MacOS. And just think - Intel's profits is really due to Windows 10 ! That's what runs the company. They won't 'shift' to Mac.
  • I meant "consumer base".
  • That would be a joke. Majority of the population have no clue how to use MacOS. It's more complex for many people and also just downright expensive !
    .
    Windows 10 is easy to use.
  • If this is hard to happen then it holds true for mobile as well. People will not shift to Windows untill the apps are available I.e. Availability of services and ease of using them and they are cheap as well.
  • Valid point but Mobile is easier to get used to.
  • Nah. Intel was supposed to have an intel chip for an intel powered phone. But they screwed up so its their own fault.
  • Yeah, the DELL phone shown recently.
  • Intel bailed on them...not the other way around. Plus, they are still using intel in all their desktop devices, the stuff that sells.
  • MS has already tried ARM on surface RT in 2012, It was a failure. Although, MS didn't try it on phones and after that on intel chips surface has been a huge hit. Generally, an emulator slows down the performance of a PC but the progress has been made since 2012 when Surface RT was first launched. I am being optimistic here but do not want success of mobile comes at the cost of PC.
  • Success of mobile won't be bad for PC man.
  • It has been a concern if not bad. Actually, Surface came to the rescue.
  • You beat Jason Ward to the "first" comment?
  • Fresh dose of awesomeness
  • Far from it. When you take "Universal" to mean "everywhere," it's what we expected. The problem isn't that we don't get the plan. It's that the plan has been horribly executed for years now, under Nadella and his predecessors. We've had people suggest that W10, in full, could be on a Surface Phone and more for a long time. We have seen HoloLens and Cortana and Kinect and everything else promise these "paradigm shifts" for too long, with nothing shifting but mobile sales to competitors. So, as always, we have a rose-tinted view of a plan from a company whose problem continued to be the action, bit the idea. HoloLens is still too expensive. Band has been axed after MS let the second one hang around with detective core parts. Kinect was shoved down the throat of those who didn't want it, then ripped away from those who did. W10M is still slow to progress on the software AND hardware sides. IoT has given us little in the way of a goal for MS and a new market. We didn't fail to get the goal, MS has just failed to reach it.
  • MJF: "I realize this year was a year when Microsoft planned not to release any new Windows Phones itself. But the question I keep getting is why is Microsoft wasting time updating Windows Mobile when the market share is one percent? You don't have that many phone OEMs. Why not just say, you know, maybe we'll come back some day, but for now, let's just stop playing around with mobile."
    .
    .
    MYERSON: "Technically, there are really two things that are unique about Windows Mobile. One is cellular connectivity and the other one is the ARM processors that are there. And I think both cellular connectivity and ARM processors have a role in the technical landscape of the future.
    So we're going to continue to invest in ARM and cellular. And while I'm not saying what type of device, I think we'll see devices there, Windows devices, that use ARM chips. I think we'll see devices that have cellular connectivity.
    When you stop investing in these things, it's super hard, super, super hard to restart. And at Microsoft we have a few of those examples where we stopped. Sometimes, when you're investing into growth. it's easier, but when you're investing for technical strategy or things like that, sometimes people can question it -- like you're doing right now. But especially among your readers, I don't think there's much debate that ARM processors have a role in the future. And cellular connectivity does as well."
    .
    .
    . He wasn't kidding when he said that ARM and cellular have a role in the future.
  • 1997?
  • I know right, I noticed it too... who knew the iPhone has been here for 19 years, almost 20.
  • Yep, i just exchanged my old iPhone 16s for new iPhone 17 XXL. Haven't you? What are you waiting for?
  • "Like Apple famously brought the iPod, internet and phone to a pocketable form factor in 1997​ [...]". It might just be a reference to the iPod and its capabilities, but I dunno. :p
  • Good stuff. I wonder if this means Cerulean will change gears.
  • whats cerulean?
  • Cerulean is the name of the consumer focused Windows line Connecticut based WhartonBrooks plans to.bring to market.
  • There is no Cerulean and you know it. It vanished as many of us has guessed.
    Please, stop promoting this scam.
  • Totally missed that joke/dig there Jason. But yes, please stop promoting until there is an actual product. Then.....have at it.
  • Dope. Can't wait to come back to Windows phone. Although my nexus 6p has been running like a champ I still prefer Microsoft services over google any day.
  • Thanks for reading folks!!!! You guys beat me to comments, but you know the drill, this is huge news...Let it RIP!!! :-)
  • Yes, It has begun!!
  • Being X86 compatible, Will this bring the virus and malware scurge with it??
  • Considering I haven't had a virus or malware in over a decade, I think most of us will be OK.
  • My kids get smashed on their machines, depends where you go on the net but is still a massive problem.
  • You need to keep an eye on your kids then :)
  • Microsoft will have to emulate the virus to get it to work.
  • Lol, nice one @DickSORosary.
  • No.....i don't get it, Android is just as susceptible to this as Windows, and now MacOS even has it's issues with malware. I've been using Windows since 95, Android from DroidX to Galaxy Nexus, and now WP with Lumia Icon and 950....... I've never had a virus (knock on wood).
  • No.....i don't get it, Android is just as susceptible to this as Windows, and now MacOS even has it's issues with malware. I've been using Windows since 95, Android from DroidX to Galaxy Nexus, and now WP with Lumia Icon and 950....... I've never had a virus (knock on wood).
  • Not sure why people downvoted you. It stands within reason that since these apps won't be sandboxed any virus affecting the PC will affect the emulation. So sadly the answer is YES. In addition, without sandboxing i suspect we will see the familiar windows slowdown the longer we own the device. Still, it's a great achievement by msft!
  • N m u bum!!
  • Ask a serious question and get a juvenile response. Thanks.
  • I always thought that your FIRST "BIG" comment was already prepared in advance so that it's at the top. Lol.
  • @Abhi Yes it usually is. :-) With all that's been going today I just missed it before this published. Lol
  • No probs man !! Your articles are great! I love reading them. :)
  • So, in theory, this is to drive stronger consumer/business interest in mobile-friendly Windows 10 hardware, which brings users, which brings money, which brings developers, which brings new UWP apps, which closes the app gap, no?
  • Yet....with 16 Million X86 applications...people will still say "But.....can it run Snapchat (replacing "Crysis"). :) I have been telling to corporations that this day was coming...for the last 2 years and all I got was mockery for using Windows powered phones and speaking of things to come. I hope the Snapdragon 820 stays the baseline for