Windows 10 Mobile could get full x86 app emulation for 'Redstone 3' by late 2017
A new report suggest 'Project Cobalt' may be the path forward for x86 apps on Windows 10 Mobile
Microsoft still has big plans for Windows 10 Mobile Continuum despite the near abandonment of the consumer market for the last 18 months. As to how Microsoft plans to evolve and make Mobile viable remained a mystery, but a new report today begins to highlight the path.
A new report from Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet claims that Microsoft is aiming to build in x86 emulation into an ARM64 device. That means that a Continuum phone could run actual desktop apps when docked to a monitor or laptop completing the 'PC in your pocket' metaphor.
Project Cobalt is a name we have heard ourselves internally as "something to be excited about," but until now details about what it is was unclear. In a tweet from @h0x0d ('WalkingCat') reference for "CHPE" was found regarding "Windows's hybrid x86-on-ARM64". Foley cites her sources that "C" stands for "Cobalt" while the "HP" is literally for the company HP and possibly about the Elite x3 (that device reportedly will be supported and produced for at least two years). The "E" in "CHPE" could be a direct reference to "Emulation."
Reports for ARM64 support (64-bit Windows 10 Mobile) go back to January 2016. That support is needed to get past the 3.5 GB RAM limit currently being hit by devices like the Elite x3 and Idol 4S.
Currently, devices like the HP Elite x3 rely on cloud-based emulation through HP Workspace. While the solution works well enough having native emulation would be much more ideal.
Additionally, we have heard from our sources that three reference boards are in development by Microsoft for Mobile with one running MSM8998 (aka Snapdragon 830). That chipset is rumored to support 8GB of RAM with a 10nm process down from the current 14nm.
Interestingly, the Snapdragon 830 (now called Snapdragon 835) is not expected for release until later in 2017 around the same time as Windows 10 'Redstone 3', which follows the Creator's Update due in the Spring. Per Foley, Redstone 3 is where we will see Cobalt take form lining up with some new hardware possibly from partners like HP.
While we won't reveal the codenames for the other two Microsoft Mobile engineering designs, we can hint that they are astrological in nature. That clue will come back later for another astrological codename that revolves around further significant shell developments within Continuum.
The three engineering designs are not necessarily indicators that Microsoft will release those as consumer or enterprise products. Rather, they are testing units meant for OS evaluation and development of new features for Mobile.
Windows 10 Mobile on x86 too?
We also hear from a reliable source that Windows 10 Mobile could also be positioned on actual x86 hardware. We have been told that Microsoft has a "Windows 10 Mobile x86 dev kit", but it is unclear what they are doing with it.
Building in x86 emulation ("Cobalt") into Windows 10 Mobile could open the door for Chromebook competitors. While these 'lite' laptops would run Windows 10 Mobile for improved battery life and faster performance they could also run real desktop apps via x86 emulation.
Google is limited to running only phone apps on its laptops neutering their power for "real" work by companies.
Mobile is still the future
One thing should be clear from all the recent leaks: Windows 10 Mobile is not only alive and kicking, but Microsoft has some big plans for it.
Being able to emulate x86 apps in particular environments while keeping the benefits of ARM is the dream scenario for enterprise and prosumers. While x86 may be on the way out for consumers, it is legacy users who need support for the next 5 to 10 years while the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) evolves and replaces that architecture.
Phones that can emulate desktop apps in Continuum and laptops that run a Mobile OS with Cobalt makes the Windows 10 Mobile gambit suddenly a strategic win for Microsoft. Nonetheless, the company has a lot of engineering ahead to get from where we are today to that point.
Recent demonstrations of what's coming next to Continuum demonstrate that the blurring of what is Mobile and what is Desktop will only increase until the distinction fades in 2018.
As to any Surface Phone (or Mobile) rumors, there is no new information to add. It should be clear that if and when Microsoft releases a mobile Surface device it will showcase these and other abilities (see 'Why Microsoft keeps working on Windows 10 Mobile: ARM, cellular, and the next big thing'), but there is no indication that such a device will be out in the next few months. Indeed, Zac Bowden and I have heard that things could be pushed back until 2018.
All we know at this time is Windows 10 Mobile looks to become a lot stronger in the next 12 months.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.
Hope MS will manage to deliver.
Missing out on mobile, for literally a decade, might be a blessing in disguise for MS. It has forced MS to think outside the box, get a head start on new mobile technology for 2020, and could position MS as the mobile innovator going forward..
If MS actually pulls this off I got a lot of "I told you so's" to hand out to a lot of haters.
I would be able to say "I told you so" if W10M does survive in It's current form just for the fact that the start screen along is practically an evolution from WP7... Either way, the world will see it as WP survived, and flourished.. Yep.
Does Lumia 950 support usb-otg in ntfs format?
THAT WILL KILL UWP IDEA OVERNIGHT.
Bad guys are always one step ahead :)
It's obviously not for hard work.
Besides that BT fulfills 90% of what is needed. And Windows 10 Mobile is the same as with other phones.
I think of the CAD tools I use everyday that typically take hours to run on 20-core machines with over a hundred gigs or ram, and I wonder when ARM would ever get to this level (if ever). I guess this x86 emulation would probably be limited to simpler programs, not heavy productivity level ones, which makes me question the utility of the whole venture. Why not just build native UWP apps? And when we say mobile is the future, I guess we should qualify it by saying the future of consumer products? I'm still finding it hard to conceive running aircraft design simulation tools for example on these ARM chips :-(
Or does MS/HP need real full x86 emulation? Eltechs ExaGear seems to have had that covered for a couple of years.
Aren't people were saying late 2016? Where are you?
"All we know at this time is Windows 10 Mobile looks to become a lot stronger in the next 12 months."
Considering MS is the one that got me hook on this in the first place with Snap windows on RT.
But what will Lumia/winMobile (have upto 2gb devices) developers(/users) do ?
Will they have to buy new Win Mobile having at least 4gb ram??
-- and until When we take more benefit from Project Islandwood?
You install a new version of Visual Studio, just to find out that your previous app will not build anymore without lot of re-coding. 1
The HP's Citrix client comes to the OS.
6-8GB is needed and a 64bit OS
You need to buy the new Surface Phone or similar.
SD 835...? could run a mini-laptop/tablet.
Microsoft is doing great on creating a migration path this time.