Windows on ARM – The future?

The modern era has provides many tech opportunities and new products, one of those being Windows on ARM or WOA for short. Whilst it’s not exactly new having been introduced in late 2017, many people havn’t heard of it, and the tech industry has remained relatively quiet about it. That’s potentially set to change however, with current market shifts and technology leaps set to push WOA to the front of the laptop/desktop market.

The combination of x86 software and ARM SoC offers enormous benefits that both travelers and people in business would surely take advantage of. Thanks to the system’s always-on data connection, long battery life, quick resume capabilities, and instantaneous sleep.

Today, let’s talk about Windows on ARM further, how it could shape the laptop market and other important related topics.

What is Windows on Arm?

Windows on ARM is a new Windows operating system seamlessly built and designed to be installed and utilized on ARM-based processor devices, like smartphones, tablets and the new generation of laptop hardware coming to market. Whilst only supporting app installations that are Window-certified, the key concept behind it was to offer access to the tremendous Windows software back catalog through converting x86 Intel code to ARM/RISC code. In simple real world terms, this means that many of the existing applications already running on Windows 7, 8 and 10 will be able to run on WOA. No buying new versions, no downloading different versions, just install your program as normal and it should run. At the same time, it can obtain all the connectivity and battery life extras that come from ARM mobile hardware.

Lenovo’s Yoga C630 was the first commercial introduced system that uses WOA, sporting a Snapdragon 850 processor. It was a pretty luring device with 1.2 kg weight, 13.3-inch FHD screen, two-in-one form factor, 61 Wh battery for up to 25 hours battery life, always-connected LTE, and pen support. Whilst a good device, it still lacked a little in the performance department and had a soft entry into the market.

And now, Qualcomm is set to introduce the newest generator processor soon, which they named the Snapdragon 8cx processor. It sets the bar high, especially when it comes to top-notch performance and long battery life. Graphics, security, and other excellent features are just a bonus. 8cx is set to be the big push by Qualcomm to provide Intel & AMD some real competition in the laptop/tablet markets, with WOA promising to deliver the Windows desktop experience many of us are familiar with.

Microsoft’s previous foray into the ARM market – Windows RT

Previously Microsoft attempted to enter into the ARM marketplace, though not all inventions tend to achieve success, which is always a tough challenge for creators or manufacturers. Sadly, Microsoft Windows RT was not able to meet the expectations of the market, which considered it a failure. What could wrong?

First, for those who are not yet familiar, known as the lite version of Windows 8, Windows RT functioned on ARM processors. You can launch RT and utilize Microsoft desktop apps such as the Windows Explorer, Microsoft Office, and Internet Explorer developed solely for the ARM architecture. This need to re-write applications meant development by 3rd parties was lacking and the catalog of available software could just not compete with those available on existing Android OS, Apple iOS or the current Desktop platforms.

Additional Windows features such as Bitlocker encryption, domain support or Group Policy management excluded RT from becoming viable as a product for the business/enterprise space.

Many users have complained about the system being intricate to manage and being prone to viruses. Positioning as well as branding was an issue as well, with most consumers only having a vague idea of what Windows RT was.

All this led to what was a very lackluster product with little market appeal and mostly bad consumer reviews, which resulted with Microsoft dropping investment and deciding to no longer spend any resources launching new models.

Benefits of Windows on ARM

Windows on ARM is more than just benefiting from the LTE connection and better battery life. Many other gorgeous benefits lie ahead.

ARM processors have significantly improved in terms of performance. Plus, it is not stripped down by legacy infrastructure. With WOA devices, you no longer need to charge your system every so often, which has always been such an inconvenience for those who travel often either for personal or business purposes.

For instance, Qualcomm (the manufacturer of Snapdragon processors or chips) boasts that Windows on ARM devices get up to thirty days of standby time and twenty plus hours of battery life, making the future sounds promising for both the 8cx and WOA.

Another real benefit is that the systems are resistant to malicious Win32 apps. This is just one thing that makes them very attractive than AMD or Intel-powered hardware. The Win32 emulation layer security benefits are not yet fully explained but would be a massive benefit, especially for the enterprise. It will allow Windows to include any virus forms (e.g., ransomware) to a local sandbox and then prevent it from taking possession of the laptop or the whole environment.

Why may WOA succeed?

Here, I’ll give five good reasons why Windows on ARM could be a successful endeavor.

1. Most of, if not all of your existing applications will work.

If Microsoft get this right and deliver what they promise, end users will receive a near seamless transition between x86 and ARM, with no need to fork out for new applications moving between software ecosystems. This has always been a huge stumbling block for users in the past on the mobile phone platforms (think moving from Apple iOS to Android OS), but with that kind of issue out the way, moving from Windows on x86 to Windows on ARM, will be a huge boost for consumers and business alike.

2. ARM processors can be quick enough to rival Intel chips

These days, you could be surprised how far mobile processors have come. In a single benchmark, the ARM chip placed within the iPhone 7 of Apple knocks the Intel ones that are put inside the MacBook Air of Apple. On the other hand, you may be in astonishment upon knowing the 8-core Snapdragon 835 of Qualcomm is in a further powerful state. Another is the Windows 10 device operating on Adobe Photoshop on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core which is quite faster than the eight-core of Snapdragon 835.

3. Augment Reality & Virtual Reality

Windows allow you to experience VR and AR live, though the systems for doing this have not been predominantly portable. Plus, they are all either have a low battery life or tethered to Windows laptops or desktops. This is where ARM chips come to the rescue. Now, you can enjoy venturing into the outside world with the always-connected-to-the-internet and lightweight processors capable of delivering a VR/AR experience, without any added components being required.

4. Windows tablets might trounce the iPad, while Windows phones might turn the heat up

The chips created by Qualcomm feature low power built-in wireless connectivity that could likely bring the always-on internet connection and battery life that Intel has not been totally succeeding to deliver thus far. In another case, Windows on ARM make it possible both for phone and PC makers to pursue real alternatives. For instance, you can switch your mobile device into a full Window laptop or desktop once you plug it in a dock.

5. Software Developers will love it

Thanks to the the feature set, performance new ARM processors can deliver and the lack of requirement to re-code software for a new platform (or at least, only requiring a few tweaks at worst), you can expect much wider industry uptake, with developers being happy to slap an “Windows on ARM” in their software requirements, resulting in wide adoption across business and consumer market places.

Why will the 8CX processor be the leap for Windows?

The latest offer from Qualcomm is the Snapdragon 8cx, with systems expected to arrive in Q4 of 2019. The 8cx is a flagship “Extreme” chipset designed for WOA tablets, notebooks, and 2-in-1s that promises more power and connectivity as well as better battery life that could exceed up to 25 hours. Aside from being the first 7nm PC platform, 8cx also boasts faster GPU and CPU, capable of driving two 4K HDR external displays with the system’s high-efficiency video encoder. Not to mention, there is twice the memory bandwidth. So far the 8cx has already been receiving good feedback from consumers and generally positive noises from reviewers.

As for connectivity, 8cx will make use of the X24 modem of Qualcomm. This means up to 2 Gbps Gigabit LTE. Other features include support for 20 streams and LAA. It can even hold up to 16GB of LPDDR4x 2133MHz memory. Expect for high-definition audio and videos on any video sites you prefer watching. Well, there’s more to discover from this newest, biggest generation processor!

With Qualcomm and device manufacturers set to ramp up their marketing efforts for the 8cx, you can be certain Microsoft will also push WOA and not make the same marketing mistakes with consumers that RT suffered from. And Qualcomm are keen to show off just how well the 8CX and Windows performs.

Microsoft’s future plans for Windows on ARM.

Window RT’s failure didn’t end everything for Microsoft. Despite the previous failure of RT on the ARM architecture, Microsoft continuously shapes up and innovates. We can expect more hardware creations coming to market, with a clear set of strengths and what could be a viable alternative architecture for people who need a lightweight ultra-portable machine with always-on LTE data and extended battery life.

For now, WOA is not yet available to purchase by consumers or end-users. You can only get WOA from proprietary Microsoft Windows tablet/laptop creators or device manufacturers, with it being unclear if/when Microsoft will perform a general release for all ARM hardware.

Time will tell if Microsoft can deliver their promises with WOA and there’s every possibility it will stutter a little like the release of Windows XP or Windows 7, which many users later loved after the 1st service packs were released and all the majority of niggles and issues ironed out. Though its fair to say, Microsoft appears committed to bringing a true Windows 10 experience to the ARM platform and they’ve steered the ship in the right direction and learned many lessons from the failure of Windows RT. The future at least looks bright at this time.

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