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Windows 10 on ARM is NOT Windows RT all over again

Microsoft and Qualcomm are moving forward with their Windows 10 on ARM initiative, which is expected to debut publicly in late in 2017 with new devices from HP, ASUS, and Lenovo. Taking Windows 10 from the Intel processors to the ones found in high-end smartphones is one of the biggest, most substantial jumps in modern computing history, because it opens the floodgates to new always-connected consumer experiences.

One area of confusion that I want to put to rest is that somehow Windows 10 on ARM will be crippled, à la Windows RT, which was riddled with unfortunate complications. That is not the case.

Windows 10 on ARM is just Windows 10

Part of the problem Microsoft is facing — at least amongst enthusiasts — is the misunderstanding around the varieties of Windows in 2017. At least for consumers there are a lot of configurations (or stock-keeping units [SKUs]), including:

  • Windows 10 Home — The normal, run of the mill Windows 10 that lacks the advanced networking and management features found in Windows 10 Pro. Windows 10 Home users can at any time upgrade to Windows 10 Pro through the Store for a $99 fee.
  • Windows 10 S — Mostly an education version that limits installation of apps to the Windows Store. However, it will also be featured on the new Surface Laptop. Like Windows 10 Home, it can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro for free through 2017 and for $49 after that.
  • Windows 10 Pro — Geared towards those who need remote desktop management and some other non-essential consumer features, Pro comes with many high-end laptops and PCs, including the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Studio.

Any versions of an OS can be confusing, but so far, these variants of Windows 10 are cut and dry with only a few minor differences. They can all run proper Win32 desktop applications and act like full Windows. Only Windows 10 S has some limits.

Windows 10 on ARM is not Windows RT

Where things seemingly get messy is with architecture, which refers to the underlying hardware required to run Windows 10. Since its inception, Windows has run on Intel x86 (32-bit) and more recently x64 (64-bit) Intel and AMD processors. These are the familiar Intel Core, Pentium, and Atom processors that are sold in consumer desktops, laptops, and tablets.

Windows 10 on ARM is nothing like Windows RT.

In 2012, Microsoft put a version of Windows onto an ARM processor, specifically a 1.3GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 with the Surface RT. The problem there as many remember was that version could not run proper Win32 desktop applications. It looked like full Windows, but it was limited to the Windows Marketplace, which itself was nascent at the time. This limitation and the radical UI shift of Windows 8 doomed Windows RT to a niche category before fading from the market altogether.

Here we are again in 2017 with Microsoft putting Windows on ARM. Same thing as RT, right? Far from it. Here is why Windows 10 on ARM is very different than RT.

  • Windows 10 on ARM is SKU agnostic — Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can put Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 S, or Windows 10 Pro for ARM onto any device. Just like PCs and laptops today this decision will come down to target markets (consumer versus education) and desired price points (Home is cheaper than Pro to license).
  • Windows 10 on ARM can run Win32 applications — Windows RT could only run a subset of proper Win32 applications like Microsoft Office, and users could not install anything else. Due to Microsoft's new emulation layer (which is a bit mysterious at this point), Windows 10 on ARM should run any application whether it is from the Windows Store or user-installed via .exe files.
  • Windows 10 on ARM is upgradable to new SKUs — Just like today, if you buy a Windows 10 on ARM device with Windows 10 Home you should be able to upgrade to Pro. The same applies to Windows 10 S editions that can be upgraded to Pro to install non-Windows Store applications.

From this perspective, Windows 10 on ARM is nothing like Windows RT. What you can say is that Microsoft seemingly learned its lessons from Windows RT and fixed all of that for version 2.0. It's approaching the problem differently this time while retaining the benefits of using an ARM hardware architecture — better battery life, instant-on capability, and 4G LTE Advanced cellular connectivity.

The 'cellular PC' revolution begins: full Windows 10 and desktop apps are coming to mobile ARM chips

The most important takeaway here is that Windows 10 on ARM does not mean it's Windows 10 S. One is the hardware architecture, the other is an OS SKU, but they are not bound to each other. In fact, Microsoft and Qualcomm have demonstrated Windows 10 on ARM using mostly Windows 10 Pro so far.

Why this probably doesn't matter to you

After reading this, you may be throwing up your hands exclaiming it's all too complicated. Indeed, once you break it down by OS SKUs and hardware architectures, it is messy. None of this even accounts for Windows 10 Mobile (itself ARM 32 but there are internal ARM 64 builds too).

To the consumer, though, none of these intricacies matter. Here's why.

Emulation layer and structure of Windows 10 on ARM.

Emulation layer and structure of Windows 10 on ARM.

When your average person walks into a Best Buy or a Microsoft Store, they will simply see Windows devices. Some will be thin and less powerful with 4G connectivity (new "cellular PCs") while others will be bigger but much more powerful like a Dell XPS 15 (9560) running a quad-core Core i7 with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB of storage.

Windows 10 S Review

The hardware architecture — x86, x64, or ARM — won't be a visible factor. All these devices have Windows 10 and can run Win32 applications. Differences will be found in price points, size, form factor, performance, and 4G connectivity — the same hardware variants we've seen for years now.

This observation gets back to Microsoft's long-term goal for Windows: make the underlying hardware architecture invisible to the end-user but deliver the same Windows experience. That was not the case with Windows RT, but it is the case with Windows 10 on ARM.

Microsoft's long-term goal for Windows: make the underlying hardware architecture invisible to the end-user.

Reading Microsoft's roadmap, it should be clear the same will happen with Windows 10 Mobile as that gets folded into proper Windows 10. The key to making that happen is still down the road with CShell and Project Andromeda, which is needed to shift the UI to different experiences. For instance, imagine having a proper Game Mode on your Razer Blade gaming laptop that shows an Xbox One UI instead of Windows 10.

Questions remain ...

None of this is to say that Windows 10 on ARM is a slam dunk. Big questions remain regarding performance. Initial reports coming out of Computex claim the experience of running Windows 10 on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 feels like running the OS on a Compute Stick. Presumably, that puts the Snapdragon 835 around an Atom or Core-m3 level of performance, which is impressive but still far from a proper dual-core Core i7 or even quad-core experience.

Other questions remain about how well the Win32 emulation runs legacy applications and if it lives up to expectations. Battery life, standby times, software bugs and integration with modern hardware will also be up for review. Those are all legitimate concerns.

But there's a lot to be optimistic about. I think the next few years we will see Qualcomm's ARM architecture make steady advances in power and performance. The Snapdragon 835 gets the foot in the door to be comparable to x64 Intel chips but is still behind in some ways. And it should be leaps and bounds better than a 2011-era Nvidia Tegra 3.

Qualcomm is already reportedly gearing up for Snapdragon 84x for the end of 2017 or early 2018 — again, another octa-core 10nm variant — which will push the category further. Combined with Microsoft's continued streamlining of Windows 10 and the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), the user experience should be excellent. Running UWP apps even on an anemic Intel Atom chip is still a better experience than running old Win32 applications, which are slow and sluggish by comparison.

Microsoft's future for computing erases the underlying hardware from the equation. Windows 10 on ARM is just another example of an OS spreading – in theory, unhindered – to new systems, resulting in never-before-seen devices.

The only thing consumers need to worry about is what PC and experience they want and can afford. In other words, leave the nitty-gritty details to Microsoft and just be productive.

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.

  • Wow, good stuff Dan.
  • Thanks!
  • Who, and why would anyone every think, that WOA is a RT all over again????🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔
    Are there actually those who perpetuate this nonsense?.... Oh, wait, it must be all those no Windows, iDroid, fans you guys welcomed in here... Yes, only here because they have to be, not because they are enthusiast..... The only good thing I can see come from the rouge iDroid fans being here now is if MS actually ever did bring a Surface Phone to market they might inadvertently be heavily influence by WC articles to try one out... So, being an optimist, maybe WC is slowly creating more Windows fans, and by a stretch, more WP fans. I would say MS is in on this, but I'm not ready to claim that they are this smart.. That's the best I can do, Daniel 🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄
  • If Daniel has to make several articles addressing the issue, that's why.
  • Why what?... Did you reply to the wrong comment?
  • [Who, and why would anyone every think, that WOA is a RT all over again????] If Dan has to make several articles, there's obvious people out there that will believe that WOA will be RT again.
  • Well, that's obvious..... My question is rhetorical.
  • Indeed Dan ! WoA looks well baked and ready to transform our Windows devices and the market !
  • What is gonna make Windows on ARM quite similar to Windows RT is that most OEMs will opt to couple newer ARM devices with Windows 10 S.
    - Similarities here will be: An OS that looks like full Windows, but limited to a slower processor like RT was, and cannot run any apps outside of the Store.
    - Differentiators: Store apps can now contain Win32 apps that can run on newer ARM devices, and Windows 10 S can be upgraded to full Windows via the Store.
  • I'm looking forward to seeing more later this year. Interested to know how good the x86 compatibility is. For example, could I run Visual Studio and all its associated tools and also build apps targeting x86/x64 from an ARM PC. I would just go for a more powerful PC for now but the future of ARM could be promising
  • I hope that the launch will be with the next gen x84 processors. 835 is aging now. It's much better to release really strong/solid device at launch. Surface Phone will be SD 840 running Windows 10S. It's obvious by now.
  • 835 is barely a month old for consumers though. I think you're confusing hearing about SD835 vs. it actually being a thing people can experience. LG G6 launched with SD820 because SD835 was (a) so new (b) scooped up by Samsung.
  • Dan, thanks for reminding me that the LG G6 has a Snapdragon 820. My wife bought me an Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows today (For Father's day, arrives tomorrow...too bad same day delivery doesn't exist everywhere :) ) and even though that SD 820 is the most powerful chipset in a Windows 10 Mobile phone, techy Android users would make it seem like it is woefully outdated but in the context of the LG G6, a 2017 Android flagship coming with the 820, I don't feel so bad about. Sure, I would have rather the G6 had an 835 but it is what it is. Plus, paying under $301.74 with next day shipping for an unlocked, premium build, powerful phone with the OS I prefer that can push pixels like my Galaxy S7 Edge and the 2017 LG G6, makes me smile. Thanks for the great article and for the great work that you do for Windows Central!  
  • Cheers! Yeah, I use the OnePlus 3T - SD821 - and LG G6 and both are fine with that processor. In fact, most reviews about GS8 don't say much about SD835 as being a big jump for Android. I'm sure it helps, but feels more Skylake to Kaby than anything. G6 is a fun phone, enjoy.
  • Sorry Dan but his wife got him Alcatel Idol 4s runningW10M, like any good wife would, not a LG G6 which while being a good phone could still lead to divorce and hardship.
  • Sorry BEBO,  but the G6 is an awesome phone,  and much better tahn the alcatel idol 4.   Fanboys would not see that tho...what kind of woman would divorce over a phone?  really?  Come on!  
  • First device with it launched April 21st, how is that a dated product already?
  • Welcome to modern society, technology is obsolete the day it releases now!
  • So, we can call win 10S, The Windows RT with upgrade option(to add little bit more confusion 😁)
  • I'm looking forward to reading DR's smackdown comments.
  • You mean like a virtual ***** slap n m?
  • From a marketing / spec sheet perspective, I imagine that the only differences people will see is the name Qualcomm or NVidia instead of Intel, AMD under chipset. For anyone previously willing to go AMD to save money, they might also consider Qualcomm, since their phone might already has a Qualcomm chipset in it, and the Qualcomm option will likely boast better battery life. On a slightly related note, does anyone else here remember Cyrix? Ugh, I feel old.
  • Don't feel old... I remember Windows-on-MIPS, Windows-on-Power and Windows-on-Alpha... I am sure Windows-on-ARM will have much brighter future :-P
  • Heh, yeah, I got to play with Windows NT on a few DEC Alpha servers too. What a waste of money, honestly. Anyway, glad I'm not the only one that remembers this nightmare like it was yesterday.
  • I have a couple of Jensens at home that can be switch to run either NT 4 Workstation or Open VMS.
  • I still have a few years on you, youngsters - was dual-booting Windows NT and AIX on RT/6000 (not RS/6000, mind you) :-P  
  • Well, if we're turning this into a competition, then I guess we should start asking who here remembers life before the introduction of IBM-compatible PCs, long before the introduction of MS Windows
  • I used an Epson PX-8 during college so I could type papers for class without having to book time in the computer labs. Used CPM instead of DOS, ram chips for programs, and your files were stored on micro-cassettes.  Probably one of the first consumer-oriented laptops.  The thing was a tank at almost 15 lbs, but a lightweight when you consider a full AT tower back in the day was almost 90 lbs. I still have it in storage too.  Now you've got me curious  whether or not it'll run.
  • I still have an ST-238 RLL hard drive floating around somewhere. You know, the 40MB one that if you didn't park the read heads you'd lose all of your data every time you rebooted? It was like magnetic RAM.  Also, I had the unfortunate mistake of being contracted when I was 16 to build a Banyan Vines network for a small business that got suckered into it. And then there's the pre-ZIF days where replacing your CPU meant breaking out the soldering iron.  I was so proud of my 8088 pc I built when I was 10 years old. Funniest thing is I'm only 37.  Technology has advanced at a exponential rate.  If you told most 'gamers' that paying $100 / MB (not GB) of ram was a deal back at the same time that Sublime was recording their first albums (early 1990s) they'd never believe us.  I lived through it, and I almost don't believe it.
  • LOL, I remember that... Eeeee-oo-eeee-oo-oo-oo-eeee-oo. My first was the 20 MB model. Mostly consumed by Word Perfect, so I had to keep most of my games on 5-1/4" floppy disks...
  • Wow, my first PC had a Cyrix processor, along with 4MB of RAM and a 100MB HDD. It ran Windows 3.1 like a charm.
  • Yes, Cyrix! One of my first PC builds used a Cyrix 486(? I think) clone. I can't recall now if that was an upgrade or the original CPU. I do recall that it was a luggable 25lb semi-portable computer with a built-in 7" CRT screen. Had 4MB RAM. I had been an Apple ][+ and //GS guy before that. Apple lost me when there was no upgrade from Apple // -> Mac (they did later release the Mac LC, which could run 8-bit //e software via an add-in card, but it abandoned the more advanced 16-bit //GS line). Thanks for inspiring that memory!
  • My first computer was a Tandy TRS-80,  then moved to a commodore 128,  and so on.  My first windows computer was a 286 before internet was even a thing!  WOW.....
  • I first programmed on a TRS-80 Model 1, when I was about 8, with file storage on casette tape. I didn't own it, but loved that I could enter programs in BASIC code found in magazines like Softside and Byte and the computer would do things, even play games! Based on that connection, my mother bought us an Apple ][+ a couple of years later. While I did a fair amount of stuff with other people's PCs and DOS, I didn't have my own until 1990 or 91, which the first Windows 3.1 with Multimedia Extensions -- it could play CDs! Even though I had been an Apple fan from my Apple ][+ and later GS, I still wanted games too, and the Mac just didn't come close to the PC for game options. So if I had to start over from scratch to build a library, I figured I'd go with the option that had the games. Not sure how representative that is, but was why I contributed to the 90% Windows, 5% Mac user base.
  • For me, it was the Sinclair ZX-81 and the ZX-Spectrum, also with audio cassette tape storage. TFW you've been waiting an hour for a good game to load from tape before having it crash and rewinding to start to load again because someone walked into the room and breathed too heavily...
  • @Jessicator, I remember that -- membrane keyboard right? I never used one for more than a few minutes. I think I had an art teacher whose house I'd get dropped off for lessons. Her husband played around with a ZX80. I tihnk. I may be mixing up stories from my early youth. He definitely had one of the early systems, and I don't think it was the Altair and I don't think it was 6502-based...that pretty much leaves the Sinclair models, right?
  • I think your memory serves you correctly. :-)
  • I was ten when the TRS-80 came out and yeah,  I still have it...with the tape deck too.  I have not plugged it in for like 20 years or more.  ha ha.  My first games were on floppy 5.25 disks.   They were awesome.   I had a huge amount of them,  and had an old machine to play them on but it all dissapeard when I moved.  My favorite game was some fishing game i had on a 386.  I would play that for hours at a time when I was supposed to be studying for university  ha ha!
  • Sounds like we're from the same generation. Care for a game of pong?
  • Well, would be theoretically possible that Windows 10 S (on ARM) work on old RT devices, if Microsoft wanted?
  • The old ARM processors like the Tegra 3 are far too slow, there's a reason this is only supported with the best smartphone soc of 2017. Technicly it would probably be possible, unless the emulation requires something hardware specific in the new snapdragon.
  • They supposedly worked with the 835 manufacturers to ensure full DX12 support, so...
  • Nope. Windows RT devices have ARMv7 CPUs (32 bit) while Windows on ARM only support ARMv8 (64 bit)
  • Correct! The x68 emulation is part of the WOW64 layer.
  • I imagine this will go hand in hand with windows 10S allowing manufactures to ship cheaper arm bases devices to compete with chrome books which the user can upgrade to full windows if they choose to do so.
  • the key factor will be the price. If they can lower the price of W10S devices around 99USD it can be a viable option for many people... but I bet that wont happen. Microsoft is too greedy and the price will be higher which means = people will continue to buy devices with regular W10PRO because the price wont be much higher and the HW will be a bit better
  • Got to love it when the Apple horde claims that Microsoft is the greedy company.
  • Lol
  • Seeing as MS rarely makes devices, and 10S can be had for free to OEM's, it's not MS that you need to call greedy. Yet again, you fail at what you talk about.
  • Atom devices aren't that cheap, why would a better product be cheaper?
  • Windows 8.1 with Bing was free and the result was very cheap tablets which started to flood the market. I was fortunate to get a $59 dollar Windows 8.1 Atom Bay trail tablet with 1GB of RAM, also got Office 365 free for 1 year, but now I lookat economy market and this damages other brands like HP, Dell, Lenovo, ASUS which make better quality hardware, so I think Microsoft decision to put only Windows 10S free is to help the economy of their hardware partners
  • Lol. Snapdragon 835 alone is like 75$. You really cannot compare Snapdragon 835 devices to crappy Atom tablets. Has nothing to do with greedy.
  • 99USD for what? There are already cheap tablets at that price. Wouldn't expect a 99USD laptop running the latest smartphone SoC that's ridiculous. Look how expensive smart phones are. These things won't be super cheap when they first release IMO
  • Windows 10 S (ARM) would be great to the old RT devices because it would give them access to the native UWP apps, like Groove, Movies and TV, weather, etc. And yes, I don't think that Tegra 3, Tegra 4 and Snapdragon 800 could emulate smootly Win32 apps.
  • We can just wait and hope.... to xda developers. My surface 2 would be so much revitalized with that...
  • Good article, maybe an addendum about how the W10 on ARM isn't a going to be a phone-like device either? At least not for the foreseeable future. Just waiting for the influx of comments about 6 inch screen devices that must be shipping in Q4 as a W10M replacement...
  • Maybe. Thing is we really have no idea what HP, Lenvo, ASUS, or even Microsoft (you can bet there will be a Surface device) are planning to release. Sure, laptop-like devices and 2in1s have been bantered about but even Qualcomm demo'd this on a 6-inch phone-like device at Computex, so it may be too early to say what is coming. A phone-phone is out initially, but this stuff really starts to blur.
  • And the lines are already beginning to blur a bit.  T-Mobile just took Digits out of Beta and it appears they will support the esim found in these devices, so they could build a Digits app for UWP just as they have for iOS and Android.   So what is a phone?  With VoLTE and things like Digits, the reality is an ultra mobile PC can be a phone - and different OEMs can have different takes. The positive is that these devices will be free from the carriers preventing updates while Android phones still languish.  Maybe it won't be a market changer, but there's a good chance that Microsoft fans can have a Windows 10 device they can use to make phone calls, that will have LTE connectivity, and will update regularly. I expect MS will launch something that blurs all those lines in the form of some kind of Surface that will not be branded as a phone, but will be an ultra portable or mobile PC.  Then HP, Lenovo, Dell, and whoever else can follow suit with ARM based esim devices - and we'll also see plenty of Intel based cell connected machines too.
  • Yes, every fanboy on this site is expecting this magical device to launch.  Maybe it will at some point. As Rubino has said many times, the Surface team doesn't release a device until it's ready.  It took them 2 years to design & release a thin & light laptop...  Also, not only is this device supposed to be revolutionary, but will also seemingly disrupt the status quo of what phones are and the trillion dollar plus market cap of the mobile carriers and OEMS... Or, you know, maybe W10 on ARM will  just be limited to chromebook clones & cheap tablets for the forseeable future.
  • I think a bunch of "magical" devices will launch that blur the lines.  I have no doubt that Dell, HP, and Lenovo would like to expand their footprint a bit.   The mobile carrier status quo has already been disrupted quite a bit in the US.  T-Mobile has shaken things up and now some form of unlimited data package is pretty standard.  T-Mobile is also very happy to let you bring your own device on their network. unlocked.  If anyone will be willing to embrace the idea of the e-sim and devices they don't control as much, it's Legere.  I think Android actually puts the carriers in a bad place in many ways because of the fragmentation and liability issues.  In fact, I've been told this by a high level mobile exec.  There is the controlling aspect, but the carriers are often left to deal with the problems Android represents and so they have a one size fits all policy towards anything not an iPhone.  A bad iOS update falls squarely on Apple, not the carrier.  Android is murkier.   We already know AT&T and T-Mobile will support these devices.  Sprint and Verizon are not onboard yet and that's not shock concerning Verizon.   Windows 10 on ARM will never be about being a Chromebook clone because it can do more.  It IS Windows.   And the OEMs are always looking to expand their market.  As I said, HP, Dell, Asus, Acer, etc would all love to find any way to make gains and if they can do it at the expense of the phone market, so be it.  The PC OEM most threatened by this is Samsung, but they are a much smaller presence in the PC market.  Lenovo and HP have a lot of manufacturing power they can leverage and the designs from most of the PC makers have been innovative and stunning of late. I expect Microsoft to make a more expensive halo device - the hero.  But I think the OEMs will find ways to deliver new form factors to expand their markets while providing them at a competitive price. The Snapdragon 835s are much cheaper than Intel Core i series and from all I've seen, they can provide performance on par with a Core i3 at least - and maybe match an i5 - and do it at 1/3 of the price.   This will make for thinner and lighter 2-in-1s and it will allow for some very real pocketPCs.  
  • They won't be cheap initially. You don't get a brand new smartphone with the latest CPU for £100 after all, so why would you get a laptop using the same hardware for £100. Sure cheaper camera ans stuff but still not looking at £100 for these things
  • I keep coming back around to the Courier concept, perhaps with a small pairable/dockable handset for the "phone" stuff.
  • They probably won't limit themselves to just calling them phone but there are hundreds of OEM's around the world producing very inexpensive Windows 6, 7 & 8” tablets and now that Microsoft is releasing its OS for ARM, most must be considering replacing Intel’s Atom processors with Qualcomm’s faster, smaller, inexpensive, feature rich processor that has better battery life. It’s safe to say, most OEM’s won’t disable the 835’s integrated hardware and see the advantages over Chrome when to selling Windows all-in-one devices to budget minder consumers.
  • This is all just fluff talk until someone shows me Win 10 on ARM running faster than the moderatly painfull experience of Win 10 on Atom.
  • I should have written a section talking about performance...oh wait, I did. Even if it is like Atom - and it could be - ARM will only get faster and better as it drops below 10nm manufacturing process. It's inevitable.
  • Faster processor means nothing if the hypervisor is written poorly. The fact that Windows 10 on ARM runs on an emulator cause application performance greatly dependent on how the hypervisor translate the X86 application to the ARM instruction set. So, in the end, it very much dependent on how MS decide to update or design the hypervisor running the emulation.
  • Hypervisor has nothing to do with this.  That is all about running VMs and the emulation is not VM based.  The emulation layer is essentially a translator for apps designed to make calls to x86.  It calls to pre-generated binaries to translate the DLLs etc for ARM use and does it on the fly.  In real world application, it doesn't take a lot of time to do this. Apple did something similar with their 68k emulator that existed at a low level in the OS allowing for old Mac programs to work on PowerPC designs.  Rosetta is somewhat similar, expect it was less deeply integrated and more prone to compatibility issues because it was user level.   I expect it will be pretty seamless and I'll be interested to see benchmarking against modern i3 and i5 machines.  I suspect it may run on par with many mobile i5s, especially because the GPU is likely superior to the Intel integrated, even now.  At 10nm and with the ability to execute out of order instructions, there are some advantages.
  • Intel x86 emulation does not use a hypervisor in any form or shape.
  • If ew 7th gen iCore is $250 runing at 4 volts and a snapdragon is $75 running at 2 volts, I would expect QualComm has more room to run with its chips - bigger, maybe even higher voltages.   I use my Surface 3 for pen taking notes.  Using Onenote to take pictures and record property inspections.  Works for what I need it to do.  Do I want a SurfacePro?  Yes.  Why?  only if the pen/inking experience is far superior than the surface 3.
  • As you use the term "Windows 10 on ARM" it sounds like it is another SKU that is different from the other Windows versions. But there is no difference between Windows 10 and Windows 10 on ARM. Please don't use that term too often.
  • TBF that is how Microsoft refers to it. Not sure how else to talk about this thing without naming it.
  • So, Daniel, Has there been any talk how applications are going to interact with the new system?  The ONLY reason I bailed on w10m was lack of apps,  well that and they bailed on the 1020 moving forward.   But using the iphone now,  my apps cash cheques, take electronic payments, unlock hotel rooms, start and find my rental car,  purchase resturant food etc.  NONE of which I could do on windows 10 mobile.  This opened up a whole new way I use my phone.  From just putting my watch in front of the scanner at the airport gate to board, to tracking my luggage via apps.   Are they saying anything about this moving forward?  
  • Out of the gate, I think the initial benefits with these new devices will be for the people that make those apps, pay your checks, run those hotels and fly those planes. :)
  • Ok,  so not going to be any different than windows 10 moible then!  thanks.
  • I'm confused about the relationship between windows on arm, and your iphone. Windows on arm, is just windows 10, using an emulation layer for win32 apps. It's just a laptop or tablet with always on connectivity, and better batter life (and not as much ompf). If you plan on using your laptop to open your hotel door, I think you might be waiting awhile, because I don't think anyone else wants that. Of course, you could always strap your hotel cardkey to your laptop's screen, and attach your car keys to your tablet. 
  • Well considering that windows on arm is supposed to be the MOBILE WAY FORWARD for Microsoft and windows 10  there is a very HUGE relationship.  Did you miss all the fanboy chest pounding about a certian unicorn called the sruface phone running windows 10 on arm?
  • I thought it was clear from the way Dan talked about it. Article mentions how this stuff will be irrelevant to the consumer. Also clear WoA is not a SKU
  • There *is* the difference between Windows on x86 and Windows on ARM as well as there is the difference between 32-bit Windows for x86 and 64-bit Windows for the same. If you don't believe me, try running 64-bit application on 32-bit Windows. I am too lazy to check whether Microsoft uses different SKU for 32-bit and 64-bit, they certainly should. Please, do not go around confusing people.  
  • Same for Windows RT as it was just a Windows 8 home SKU.
  • No difference? One uses an emulation layer to run win32, and can't run win64, has LTE always connected capability, telephony and GPS, and the other runs win32 and win64 natively (has better performance eg), runs on more powerful hardware with thunderbolt 3 support. In fact, while they may appear similar functionally, they are pretty darn different, even at an experiential level - you can play say, rise of the tomb raider on your windows on x86, but it won't have a hope on your windows on arm (what games an arm chip can handle will perform vastly better in native, via UWP) - you can run text messaging on your windows on arm , but it doesn't have the capability on your windows on x86. You can put an external egpu on your x86 tablet, or use your arm laptop to auto-update your notifications even in sleep mode, but not vice versa.   Windows on arm is a 'more mobile like' pc, at the hardware level, and a more basic player of win32 programs. People will not be buying windows on arm gaming laptops. And windows on arm devices will be superior for mobility applications.  It probably should be a different SKU, because it provides a different experience and is significantly different at the software layer level.       
  • Just wonder... where did you get the notion that Windows on ARM will have LTE and GPS any more than Windows on Intel does?
  • One thing that keeps getting overlooked in Windows 10 on ARM discussions is Microsoft's commitment to Progressive Web Apps at Build. Microsoft is going to be crawling the web and adding PWAs to the store automatically. Since they're web-based, they're going to work on x86 & ARM automatically, giving this new platform a big selection of apps right out of the gate, and making it nothing like the limited world of Windows RT.
  • david,  these progressive web apps have interactivity for things like NFC etc available to them?
  • Edge will support PWAs starting with the Fall Creator's Update, and PWAs will have access to all the features Edge supports. The Web NFC API is currently a draft proposal and Chrome is the only browser with an experimental implementation of it.
  • Ok,  so no extra functionality out of the gate,  Just another impementation of windows 10 moible. 
  • Truth downvotes!  love em....!
  • Definitely an interesting point. I need to dig deeper into PWA.
  • What new platform? 
  • Thurrot says W10 on ARM will be boring (which isn't a bad thing). IMO my desktop sitting in my house by itself while I'm away is boring. Bringing it with me will be exciting ;)
  • I see it boring as'll look/feel like Windows 10. Literally won't be any different. It's the hardware where things can get interesting, imo.
  • I don't really think anybody thought it was. I can see Windows !0 S having that comparison drawn because its an actual SKU. And as much as we appreciate the effort I'm sure the majority of people who opened this article already knew this.
  • You'd be shocked. During our podcast and even on Twitter after I posted this people asked "So, it's just Windows 10 S?".
  • If people are that dumb, I don't think any amount of explaining will fix it. 
  • I would love to have a 7" to 8" Windows ARM tablet with phone capabilities. I could use a wireless headset for calls, but have a large screen. I guess that could technically be done now with VoIP.  
  • Windows 10 Home users can at any time upgrade to Windows 10 Pro through the Store for a $99 fee. Windows 10 S — Mostly an education version that limits installation of apps to the Windows Store. However, it will also be featured on the new Surface Laptop. Like Windows 10 Home, it can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro for free through 2017 and for $49 after that.   Why is it 99 to upgrade from home to pro but 49 from S to Pro?? How much is it from S to Home or is that not possible?
  • There is no upgrade path from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Home. According to Microsoft's FAQ's about Windows 10 S:
    How does Windows 10 S compare to Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro? Windows 10 S is a specific configuration of Windows 10 Pro and has many of its features, but for security and performance it exclusively runs apps from the Windows Store and uses Microsoft Edge as its default browser. For more details on the differences, see the feature comparison chart.   
  • Oh that's good. Hope it has BitLocker out of the box.
  • I think that S updates to home....not pro for 49.   then it's another 99 to go from home to I have that right?
  • nice downvote fanboy.
  • That is not correct. You go from 10 S to Pro for $49. If you need accessibility features then you can get that for free. I believe it is also free if you have an Office 365 subscription.
  • So,  it's cheaper for 10s to move to pro than windows home to move to pro.   hmmmm interesting.  
  • Because, Windows 10 S is a variant of Pro. It has all the features that Pro has except restrictions to the Store and only Azure AD
  • See my reply to the previous comment. In Microsoft's words, "Windows 10 S is a specific configuration of Windows 10 Pro..."  The upgrade path for the $49 charge is to Windows 10 Pro as many news outlets have reported since Windows 10 S was first announced.
  • Ok so result is - wait at least to next year. As usual.
  • Great piece. However, it is sad that it's necessary that this is written thanks to how Microsoft has handled customers in the past.
  • My guess is that W10 on ARM will be somilar to RT to the extent that the OS will be compiled to run on ARM natively (so is optimised for performance and battery life) and emulation will be limited to old Win 32 and Centennial apps which were compiled to run on x86. New UWP apps will also work natively via ARM-compiled .NET libraries etc.
  • Everything that I throw at it will work like Windows of the old. I don't care if it carries ARM or x86/64 or anything else !
  • I agree, this is the most likely senario. 
  • Indeed this is the case.
  • Yep, I think it's a great opportunity for MS to get UWP going, by keeping native ARM applications compiling binaries UWP only.
  • You used the word 'techie' for Droid users
  • Since I am old-timer, let me remind Dan Rubino and others that MS has NOT been married to X86. When you say, "Windows has run on Intel x86 (32-bit) and more recently x64 (64-bit) Intel and AMD processors," you are forgetting that Windows (and DOS before it) were actually multi-platform. You could also run on DEC Alpha processers, on IBM PowerPC proccessors and on Motorolla 6800 and 68000 series processors, in addition to, originally, 16-bit Intel Architecture processors then 32-bit then 64-bit and the variations and capabilities of each of the generations. My point is that MS has always been rather platform agnostic. They have run their software on different processor architectures, and they write the code in such a way that it can take advantage of much of each processor's native capabilities. So, adding supporting a new processor, namely Qualcomm now, is nothing at all revolutionary; it is mostly a matter of writing only the low-level routines and telephony.
  • Generally agree, but to be specfic, that was Windows NT (3.5 and 4.0), but applications needed to be compiled for the other CPUs, which is different here -- standard Win32 apps compiled for x86 will run on ARM. I don't believe DOS ever ran on anything other than x86 architecture. And it would be weird if it did. DOS didn't provide a significant API support, it was just a disk operating system. Applications provided almost everything but the disk access routines. That's why there were mulitple DOS provides for PCs -- the OS mattered a lot less than the CPU and BIOS in those days.
  • DOS is merely another iteration of the UNIX CLI (command line interface) It was just a simplification of AT&T's UNIX CLI that stripped out all of the server-based/network based commands and instead streamlined for a single terminal with only local hardware. Simply another flavor, much like CP/M was before it the forefront operating system through the Commodore +4, 64, 128 line of home computers.  For many of us in our late 30s/early 40s, commodores were the first computer that was in our homes.  frnlh is correct: there were versions of DOS rewritten to work on non x86 hardware, and for the most part it was relatively easy because of DOS' lineage. It was only once we started adding GUIs and peripherals that interface became much more fragmented.  That and you had a LOT of legal arguments between IBM/Microsoft/Motorola/Intel/Apple over intellectual property rights in the mid-late 80s.  These suits and rivalries defined many of the software/hardware limitations that we see now.  When I was growing up, a popular meme was "Windows isn't done until Lotus 1-2-3 can't run."   
  • @StudentoflifeUSMC, we may be saying approxmiately the same thing. There were many things called "DOS" on various systems. DOS was descriptive, not a brand, even though on each platform, the brand part was generally not used. My beloved Apple ][+ ran "Apple DOS 3.3," which was only referred to DOS 3.3. That was completely unrelated to Microsoft's DOS, totally different commands, etc. And yes, MS-DOS was largely inspired by the UNIX systems avaliable on DEC PDPs and other systems, but also had key differences due both the architectural differences (server supporting many dumb terminals, like VT-100 and up) and the commands (e.g., 'dir' vs 'ls' to get a list of files in the current directory). But MS-DOS (or PC-DOS as licensed to IBM, and competitors with similar code roots like DR-DOS) specifically was just the interaface for the 8086 and then the cheaper 8088 chips and their disk drives with a simple command prompt. It was built specifically for IBM to work with the IBM PC.  The API for Windows and the need for an API to support the GUI is really what changed the importance of the OS. Before that, programs were compiled for the CPU (x86, 68000, 6502, etc.) and the OS was mostly irrelevant. But with Windows and its API, Microsoft was able to provide a very similar environment on other systems like the MIPS, Alpha, PowerPC, etc. Unlike what Microsoft is promising here with Windows on ARM, where Win32 programs will run unmodified on ARM architecture, back with Windows NT programs still needed to be compiled specifically for the CPU, but because the API was the same, as long as the programs relied mostly on the Windows API for their system functions, recompiling for the different destinations was straightforward. Note that the non-NT Windows before Windows 95 were not really operating systems. Through Windows 3.1.1 (aka Windows for Workgroups), Windows was really just a program with an API layer that ran on top of MS-DOS. Windows NT and then Windows 95 were true operating systems, but only NT and then Windows 2000 (which finally united NT OS technology with the more consumer-friendly UI of the Windows 95/98/Me line), were fully preemptive multitasking systems that had full control over system resources like the UNIX operating systems had provided for years. Windows 95, 98, and ME (and Apple's Mac OS before version 10, or X, which is really just UNIX BSD) used "cooperative multitasking," which relied on the individual programs to be polite to each other and return control to the OS when not busy. Not a very good system. I completely agree with you on the Lotus issues. Microsoft notoriously included functions in Windows starting at least with version 3.0 that only Microsoft knew about, so that Word and Excel worked well in the new GUI environment, while WordPerfect and Lotus struggled. It was that set of business practices and the associated anti-competitive lawsuits that dog them today. I would argue that MS is now the most customer and partner friendly of the big tech companies, but the history of really harsh business tactics from their distant past is partly responsible for the perception that MS is the bad guy. There's a good business strategy lesson in there for entrepreneurs. That behavior even led me to shift from Windows to OS/2 until even IBM gave up on it shortly after MS released Windows 95.
  • I think of it as regular Windows 10 on lightweight hardware. For most regular users, this should be fine. I already do a lot of computing and shopping on my 950xl.
  • will it hibernate? RT didn't and only went to sleep. Battery dies after 3 days :(
  • Windows RT was going into connected standby, which lasts about a week (On both my Surface RT and Surface 2)
  • Fun fact: Windows RT was originally called Windows on ARM.
  • Thats because the new "Windows on ARM" is also just Windows RT + x86 emulation technically speaking.
  • I forgot all about that!!!!!  haha.  That is a FUN FACT.   My RT tablet says for about a week on stand by as well.
  • Excellent article. Can't wait for version 2 (you never buy version 1)
  • Why do tech journalists have to confuse everyone when there is no confusion to begin with? Just to add one more article with their byline?  As far as the average non-techie buyer is concerned, he will just be buying a Windows PC with better battery life and always-on connectivity (and probably voice calling too). Thats what the salesman will tell him. He might make it sound like a huge upgrade on the other PCs, but at a cheaper price (hopefully) and credit it to R&D by Microsoft. For the informed buyer, he is aware that Windows on ARM is just Windows and Microsoft has succeeded in running it on ARM processors - so HURRAH. Where does Windows RT come into the discussion? Most people have even forgotten about Windows RT . Even Microsoft has forgotten all about it. But tech journalists are creating unnecessary FUD by bringing it up again and again. Give it a break guys.  
  • I haven't forgotten about RT and I've never owned an RT machine. I think this article was necessary for those of us confused regarding Windows on ARM and Windows 10 S<---Basically RT all over again but this time with the ability to upgrade to full Windows.
  • An emulation layer to allow x86 apps on ARM is interesting, but what about the opposite?
    If developers create ARM-only apps for Windows on ARM, are those apps able to run on x86/x64 computers?
  • New Windows on ARM apps will most likely be UWP, so they'll run everywhere.
  • Windows apps designed for ARM have ran on x86 devices since Windows 8.
  • I would like to see Windows put on some of the high end Chromebooks. For instance Samsung has come out with the gorgeous Chromebook Plus and Pro. Both have nearly identical designs , but have different processors. The Plus uses an ARM processor while the Pro has an Intel processor. Both come with a pen. Both can run Android apps.
  • Bring windows 10 on arm to my surface rt now please :)
  • Not happening zeroplanetz.
  • Oh i know. Would be cool to see how it would run though.
  • Im not sure.  I was hoping when they announced as well,  as my asus vivotab RT LTE would have new life,  but I think the processing power is not there.   I do use my RT device daily.  It still chugs along for what I use it for.
  • I use my rt daily as well. Works great for its purpose
  • I don't see why anyone would think it is. Unless he's trolling.
  • Andromeda is a ceullular device, with 2 sets of gyros and a hinge angle variable, as well as a composable shell of its own, and an OS variant of its own. 
  • It was only a matter of time before hardware becomes powerful and efficient enough to run Windows on a handheld form factor. I was expecting this day a long time ago.
  • Am I to be labeled as a deserter for switching to android while we await Microsoft's "Surface" Phone?
  • are labeled SMART fiveiron.
  • Its ok man, we still love you. Just come back for the next Flagship.  Try and stay in the Microsoft ecosystem while you are gone.
  • Why not just use an intel Y seeies processor? It's almost as power efficant and can support thunferbolt 3 and NVMe. I feel like ARM lack a lot of essential features.
  • I never thought RT was complicated because Microsoft explained RT. What really made it a failure especially for me was the high price for an ARM processor which was never comparable in performance to an X86 chip and the applications are far more limited than can run smoothly which in itself my be a stretch for me to say.  I think what really convinced Microsoft to go whole hog with this is when they found they could modify and optimize Office suite to run on an ARMs processor which is a heavy application and needed the power of an X86 chip. Because of this success the decision was then made to go all in.  This is a monumental achievement by any company and with the power of such a large and powerful partner base both here and abroad now with the ability to target all sectors with one OS I see sustainable success practically long term.
  • I have not heard anyone mention how peripherals like printers and scanners will work and connect in the ARM world. It was difficult enough to get an existing printer in Windows XP to function in Windows 7 64 bit. How do we take a printer in Windows 10 x64 to an ARM based computer? One of the things that hampers Android is the lack of hardware support from the socal vendor when devices get old. The main reason it is difficult to upgrade my 2013 LG G3 phone from Kit Kat to Nugget is lack of drivers. My main complaint with Android all along has been the difficulty of software upgrades on older devices that still have decent hardware. Will HP provide drivers and software so I can upgrade to a new Windows 10 ARM PC from my old Core 2 Duo PC? Will my old x86 sound application that requires a connection to the Windows sound driver work on Windows 10 ARM? So until I know that these things will be resolved I am going to continue with the uneasy feeling that this new Windows 10 on ARM might be at least partially a rerun of Windows RT.
  • No one should be using older devices, ever. Donate them to the third world. A 2013 LG G3 should be just as dead as my beloved Lumia 1520 is. The second a new flagship comes out from Microsoft, I will sell my 950 XL. I'm saving already.    
  • In terms of usability I agree WoA is absolutely not Windows RT. When a consumer decides to install desktop applications they won't run into the immediate record scratching roadblock that RT users faced. That being said I do think there are some similar obstacles to RT in that it is not clear yet what the immediate benefit to consumers will be. Will the battery life, cost, and design of these WoA devices be significantly better than a low-mid range Intel device? Will Qualcomm be able to improve the performance of Snapdragon fast enough so that they continue to surpass the value of all of Intel's low-end processors (Pentium, Celeron, Atom, Core M, etc.)? Only because Qualcomm can leverage their smartphone business do I even believe there is a possibility for them to be competitive with Intel on PCs. Will Intel strong arm OEMs to keep them from adopting Qualcomm chips? It is doubtful that Intel will sit idle while Qualcomm invades the PC market.
  • I don't think Intel can compete against ARM. As ARM is a company that licenses to other companies like NVidia, Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm etc. Even then strong arming OEMs is antitrust, so Microsoft will likely just add more CPU companies into the mix. I do hope NVidia comes into the mix.
  • About being emulate x86 apps: I think complex software, like engineering and manufacturing software, will test this claim heavily. Particularly depending on licensing models that differ from standard models that Microsoft is used to. The software the company I work for has a very complicated architecture (think database backend with production line and reporting windows based GUI, that can connect to PLCs) written in a relatively obscure language, and can be difficult to install even when customers follow instructions (external IT related permissions, firewalls, etc.) I would be shocked if it were installable on ARM based Windows 10 systems as this article suggests. I'd be pleasantly shocked, but shocked...
  • Curious to see these things flesh out a little and compare them to the intel based products. 
  • My only question is, how about making an upgrade path for devices like the Surface 2
  • Dated hardware and no LTE. Just accept it, it's stuck on Windows RT 8.x 
  • It's such a reliable device, but it's losing app support. What do you do worth the hardware then