Windows x64 emulation for Windows on ARM coming in November, Microsoft Teams too

Surface Pro X
Surface Pro X (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • x64 emulation is coming to Windows on ARM PCs in November (Insider program).
  • Microsoft Teams natively compiled for ARM64 is also coming soon.
  • The news builds on recently announced Snapdragon PCs and support for the App Assure Program.

Microsoft has announced what we have been expecting for some time: x64 app emulation is coming to Windows 10 on ARM PCs. The news came through a blog post from Microsoft's Chief Product Officer, Panos Panay. The plan is to start rolling out the feature in November through the Windows Insider program, with a likely commercial rollout for Spring 2021.

Currently, Windows 10 on ARM laptops can only emulate 32-bit Windows apps in addition to running native apps compiled for ARM64. But many high-end applications and apps for enterprise rely on 64-bit-only editions, which are incompatible with ARM. That now changes and will open the gates for many more apps to run on devices like Surface Pro X, Samsung Galaxy Book S, and Lenovo Flex 5G.

There is no further detail on the limits and performance expectations of x64 emulation, but like 32-bit, it is likely to take a slight performance hit. Newer Windows 10 on ARM PCs with Qualcomm's just-announced Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 should help with that as that chip is faster and more efficient.

Besides the x64 emulation, Microsoft will "soon release a native Microsoft Teams client optimized for Windows 10 on ARM" – an issue we complained about last year. Back in July, Microsoft noted that Microsoft Teams for ARM64 was planned, but no further details were given. Now, at least, it seems we are much closer to that release happening. Microsoft Teams is a crucial app during this work-from-home shift, and devices with Windows 10 on ARM are becoming increasingly important to enterprise and business users. While Microsoft Teams currently runs on ARM PCs, the performance is not nearly as good a natively compiled app.

Microsoft also announced Visual Studio code has also been updated and optimized for Windows 10 on ARM.

The news around Windows on ARM has been building. A week ago, Microsoft announced its App Assure Program was expanding to support Qualcomm Snapdragon PCs. The program helps devs and businesses streamline, optimize, and fix apps brought to the Windows on ARM architecture.

Likewise, new Windows on ARM PCs are expected from Microsoft with a refreshed Surface Pro X, the new Acer Spin 7, and a new convertible from HP

Daniel Rubino

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.

  • Not surprised: We all knew x64 support was coming
    Surprised: It’s rolling out to testers next month The real test is battery life. If there is a significant boost in battery life despite x64 emulation, then this will be a major win. However, considering the current battery life of the Surface Pro X when doing emulation, I’m not getting my hopes up. That said, it’s not like the Pro X is the only expensive tablet with subpar battery life. According to some reviews I’ve read, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 doesn’t have the best battery, and even iPad Pros can drain pretty fast when pushing it.
  • Emulation comes at a price. Don't see how this improves battery life. The Pro X has excellent native battery life. IPad and Samsung would have the same issues if they were emulating apps. Overall x64 emulation is a way to nderful addition
  • Battery life of the SPX is good enough. I easily get through a work day on one charge and I'm good with that. True, I was hoping for 16-20hrs but thats more of a nice to have. Why would adding x64 emulation improve battery life? Emulation is always a battery drain. But thats an easy trade off versus not have it at all. That said, the battery impact is minimal for those of us with an SPX today because we obviously aren't heavy users of x64 as it is. Lol.
  • Why would battery life increase? Doesn't sound like you understand how this works. 64-Bit apps don't offer more batter than 32-Bit apps and emulated ones even less so. The benefit is apps that users can't currently use they'll be able to. You've neve used a Surface Pro X right? Battery is not subpar. The key difference is Wintel laptops offer "up to" 10 hours vs. 10+ hours consistently for WoA devices. Major difference to what laptops running x86 chips can offer. In my experience it's never close to the advertised amount but with the Pro X what is advertised is correct. And comparing a WoA device with either an Android tablet or iPad is totally asinine. Those have heavily optimized for battery mobile operating systems.
  • "Why would battery life increase?" Because software can be optimized meaning Microsoft may have found a way to decrease the amount of battery drain. (again, as stated, I'm not expecting such) "You've neve used a Surface Pro X right? Battery is not subpar." So I should ignore all the reviews simply because I don't own one? Plenty of reviewers have commented that emulation has a significant impact on battery. Even Daniel Rubino has stated as such. "And comparing a WoA device with either an Android tablet or iPad is totally asinine. Those have heavily optimized for battery mobile operating systems." Read complaints about battery life on the Tab S7 then talk about how optimized it is.
  • "Because software can be optimized meaning Microsoft may have found a way to decrease the amount of battery drain" Except we're already have seen any performance gain with 32-Bit apps. "So I should ignore all the reviews simply because I don't own one? Plenty of reviewers have commented that emulation has a significant impact on battery. " You're changing what you wrote. Your original comment was on battery in general. Most of those same reviewers also kept saying performance was poor because their key example was Photoshop 🙄. If you heavily rely on 32-Bit or 64-Bit performance intensive apps like Abobe CC, Chrome etc..., Windows on ARM devices like the Surface Pro X are still poor choices to start with. You should be expecting to heavily be using Edge, Office and other WoA apps. Requiring a particular 64-bit app is one thing but if your needs are Photo Editing, Video Editing or Adobe CC until your required apps are ported to ARM64 you should be sticking with a computer which has a x86 processor anyway. We can safely say Adobe CC 64-Bit won't end up running well on the Pro X because the 32-Bit version of Photoshop doesn't. Can't comment on the upcoming Pro X refresh.
  • "Except we're already have seen any performance gain with 32-Bit apps." Performance gains? Not once have I brought up performance gains. I speculated that maybe Microsoft could find a way to decrease battery drain when emulating. I didn't say a single thing about performance gains. "You're changing what you wrote. Your original comment was on battery in general." Yes, it's in general... if you take out the context of me talking about emulation. My original comment was focused on emulation. This whole darn article is focused on emulation. Jesus... If you want to talk about performance gains or how people "should" use the Pro X, fine. But I'm not going to be a proxy for whatever lingering beef you have own your chest.
  • "Performance gains? Not once have I brought up performance gains." Battery gains, typo: Except we'll already have seen any battery gain with 32-Bit apps. if optimisation was happening.
  • @bradavon You do realise emulation imcreases the number of cpu cycles per instruction? by increasing instructions per cycle, that's how you improve battery life at a hardware level (IPC gains). Additionally 32bit emulation is limited to 4Gigs. As 32bit applications cannot access more than 4 gigs of ram. Thus latency between action and emulation (lag, poor performance etc) thus adds additional cpu cycles per instruction. Which is why emulation hits battery life pretty hard. Therefore 64bit emulation would actually improve battery life over 32bit emulation as it reduces emulation instructions per cycle.
  • For the record, I've not seen ANY reviews, including Rubino's, that quantified the battery drain due to emulation. It has all been conjecture. Have you seen actual tests? I haven't. I can tell you from personal experience, I get all day battery.
  • Rubino's actually does. Although I'd add, you'd be stupid to use Chrome 32-Bit on the Surface Pro X in the first place. I'm sure this was picked as it's what people expect to use, not because Rubino think it's a good idea. Although I happen to agree. Battery drain due to emulation isn't significant for me.
  • I looked up @Rubino's review and I don't see his actual figures. It looks to me like he asserts that Chrome will eat more battery. Probably a good bet but again, I've yet to see an actual data. (I'd also bet that Chrome running on a SP7 would give you the same subpar results so...)
  • Now YouTube will be filled with glowing revisit videos about the SPX, right? We can run ArcGIS now!!!
  • This is awesome! I was disappointed when Zac forecasted that x64 emulation wouldn't be ready for testing until next year, but this is one of the few times I was happy he was wrong!
  • Microsoft Teams should have been a UWP app in the first place. Problem solved.
    Also, make Skype UWP again. Those apps should be optimized for use on Surface devices, which they clearly aren't.
  • No, those apps should be optimized for all platforms. If you don't do that they will not be "universal". That's a thing UWP apps are not. It's much easier to mantain this code on all platforms. Microsoft wants adoption of these tools with no regard for device or OS. Teams runs fine on Linux for instance. Your ideas are 10 years old thoughs.
  • @F Bernado UWP is in reference for universal windows apps. You can't have “universal” apps for all platforms as long each platform uses different software language and architecture (apis, kernel etc).
  • He’s talking about frameworks like Electron and React Native, that are pretty bad, but achieve making apps multiplatform.
  • It does seem easier to maintain, but at what cost? Skype and Teams are pretty bad. And the new Xbox app made with React Native is still slow somehow. I hate these tools to make things work on multiple platforms. I refuse to believe it’s incompetence from Microsoft’s part, though, since Spotify is also Electron and it’s terrible.
  • I am puzzled and concerned why they haven't got the whole O365 app suite running in ARM... They want to claim the device is for productivity - yet all office apps are not run native on ARM, but why? You are making your own products.. And knew what and when the Surface ProX was released... Why is it delayed? Win32 emulation will only take you so far...
  • Office apps are optimized for ARM64, they run as a shim so that 32-bit Office plugins via third-party will recognize the installation. Not sure where this myth about Office not being built around ARM is coming from. Office runs just fine on ARM.
  • Because you install the 32-Bit version and they're displayed as 32-Bit in Task Manager. So sadly people just assume they're not optimized. The fact there's zero performance different is kind of a clue you'd think.
  • Can't delete this.
  • I confirm MSFT 365 runs like an hell on my SPX
  • Do you mean it runs good or runs bad? Like hell can be mean either :D.
  • Good. So smooth.
  • It runs great on my SD850 equipped Lenovo C630
  • I believe only Teams in the Microsoft 365 suite isn't optimized for ARM because this is a bolt-on to 365 that's been added much more recently, using Electron vs. C++ for the major 365 apps.
  • Bloody fantastic. Good to have some good news on WoA after so much bad press from other tech sites and users who've never use a WoA device. Agreed for the most part the 32-Bit performance hit is minor. Any word on Skype for Windows on ARM? Teams will be a major plus for the platform but Skype is needed too.
  • no announcement today of the x2?
  • No word it's being called the Surface Pro X 2. Sounds like more of a refresh to me and even Qualcomm are calling it the 8cX Gen 2.
  • I think they will wait till ARM64 release so they have anything new to say about Apps compatibility. :D
  • This is great news, finally. Granted, it must not be easy to create an efficient emulation layer for x64 apps on ARM and they obviously took their time to get it right. Only problem is that it will not exactly coincide with the expected release of the Surface Pro X refresh this Fall, and I believe that will hurt it in its initial reviews with some none-the-wiser reviewers (mainly hipster techblog reviewers who believe running Photoshop is the end-all, be-all of PC benchmarks) as well as with some consumers, who will likely experience the same issues with last year's Surface Pro X (no x64 app compatibility), but at least it's coming soon enough. It would also be interesting to see how last year's SQ1 (and pr
    evious WOA Snapdragon chips) handle the emulation performance-wise and battery life-wise compared to the newer chip in this year's SPX2.
  • Agreed man. No word it's being called the Surface Pro X 2. Sounds like more of a refresh to me and even Qualcomm are calling it the 8cX Gen 2. I'm not expecting major improvements in emulated performance and native performance is already quick.
  • I own and use an SD850 Lenovo C630 as an insane battery life productivity workhorse that has LTE built into it. As a college professor at a Microsoft school, I use it quite a bit. For all the day to day productivity needs between lecturing, lab work, administration, and now work/teach from home the ARM device works great. It beats my SP7 in terms of battery, heat, and lapability, only failing with a finicky keyboard. Only one app I use has been an issue (because they stopped developing 32-bit versions) an this will allow me to finally upgrade that app. The movement of Teams to ARM-native will be welcome in WFH. Add game streaming and the Surface Pro X2 looks like a nice upgrade for both my SP7 and C630. Unfortunately, most people who write comments on Windows on ARM have never actually used it for any real amount of time.
  • " It beats my SP7 in terms of battery, heat" Absolutely. Surface Pro 4 vs. Surface Pro X. Pro X remains luke warm.
  • I found you comment useful, thanks. Kind of forgot about the old SD850 models.
  • This amazing news, finally 99% of compatability issues are gone and can recommend these devices with much more confidence.
  • It is very good news, but the one thing that will still keep WOA devices from achieving pretty much full parity with their x86 counterparts is driver compatibility. Drivers need to be natively compiled, and there are some devices that do not have WOA versions of those drivers, so without those, and if Microsoft doesn't have a generic one built into Windows for it, these devices won't work. It's another aspect I feel deserves more attention and should be pointed out to a potential consumer who may be none the wiser.
  • I wonder how Apple plan to tackle drivers on their move to ARM.
  • The same way they did it the previous 2 times they switched CPUs. Everything gets ported over. The entire OS - AND ALL INCLUDED APPS - run natively. Developers quickly, willingly follow. Unlike WOA. Years after it's release, MS is still talking about emulation. Why? Because no one is porting anything. The point is, Apple knows how to do this. This is the 3rd CPU change for the Mac. They have already gone from Motorola 68K to IBM Power PC to Intel. All went remarkably smooth AND emulation in each case was a very temporary thing.
  • It's easy to make developers port their stuff to the new platform if you kill the old one. If Microsoft were going to kill Windows on x86 all developers would obviously move to arm. If like it seems x86/x64 and arm are going to coexist and there is x86/x64 emulation in arm there is no need for developers to stop developing x86/x64 applications, because they will work in both platforms.
  • If it were that simple, Microsoft would already have done that. If they kill development on x86 Windows, people and developers would not jump to WoA. Hardware is the biggest problem right now. As there’s no ARM chipset for us to buy, there’s no users, if there’s no users, there’s no reason to jump to ARM. For developers and hardware manufacturers. Microsoft should accelerate the process, but simply killing x86 development won’t help.
  • As someone who has to manage large deployment of Macs it was no way as nice as you make it sound. In all cases many apps where left behind, plus these was also OS 9 to OS X with an emulator to run apps. For me it was an expensive nightmare since you were force to buy new versions of the same apps in most cases if the developers even bothered to do so. The move to Intel was a bit better but it was also done thru emulation and again many apps broke.
  • But does arm support mmx or 3dnow?
  • It doesn't matter if ARM supports those or not because those are x86 extensions and are irrelevant if a program is compiled for ARM.
  • Yes but mmx is required to play pod.
  • I wonder how well emulated games will perform. ARM's GPUs are vastly superior to anything Intel had until they developed their Xe graphics. Even running in an emulation layer this may be better for gaming than some ultra books. Dan, didn't you demo Rocket League running on the Pro X?
  • Yeah, Pro X can game quite well when the games run. The GPU is quite powerful. I have a bunch of titles from Steam on mine.
  • Not exciting at all. ARM devices are still way too expensive. 32bit ARM emulating was very disappointing.
  • I picked my C630 up for $450
  • Sweet, good to see somewhat a rapid progress on this front considering the current situation with covid-19.
  • Can't wait for this! I've been dying to get the Signal private messenger Windows app running on my Surface Pro X since I bought it. I love using my Surface to augment my phone messaging experience. I hate typing on touchscreens.
  • I understand Microsoft 365 presents itself as x86 32-Bit for compatibility but is already ARM64. When x86 64-Bit support comes to Windows 10 will this also be ARM64 ready too? Looking to switch to 64-Bit Microsoft 365 if it won't be emulated. Thanks.
  • Hi. There is already a video showing Surface Pro X runing x64 apps: Surface Pro X running x64 applications | Windows Insider Build 21277 - YouTube