back to article Qualcomm, Microsoft plot ARM Snapdragon-powered Windows 10 PCs, tablets, phones

First, it fired shots at Intel's data center margins. Now Qualcomm is gunning for its rival's notebook processor cash cow. Qualcomm and Microsoft are hooking up to port full-fat Windows 10 to smartphones, tablets, PCs and virtual reality goggles powered by Qualcomm's 64-bit ARMv8-compatible Snapdragon system-on-chips. These …

  1. Mikel


    > And if you choose to do so, you'll be helping to chip away at Intel's domination of desktop CPU world and inject a little more competition and innovation into the market. ®

    Or you could just get a Chromebook and an Android tablet. They work well with your phone, and inject even more competition and innovation into the market.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doom

      I agree with your sentiments but honestly, giving your soul to Slurp-1 and Slurp-2? (Microsoft and Google)

      only Slurp-3 (Amazon) comes close to their thirst for data about your life.

      As for Microsoft's aims. Whilst laudible but you have this dead horse called Windows 10 that will stop your cunning plans dead (At least amongst a good few of the correspondents here).

      My search is via DuckDuckGo

      My desktops are all Linux.

      My servers are all Linux.

      Ok, my phone is an old iPhone 5s so three out of four can't be all bad. I hardly ever use the internet from the phone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Doom

        Why the mask ayl?

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Doom

      "And if you choose to do so, you'll be helping to chip away at Intel's domination of desktop CPU world and inject a little more competition and innovation into the market"

      I'd rather chip away at MICRO-SHAFT'S "dominance" [aka bullying its way onto our computers] in the market, instead. Does Qualcomm know about 'Linux' ?

      WinRT boxen were a *joke* running Windows 'Ape'. I suppose the Win-10-nic versions will be as bad of a joke, particularly with the Win-10-nic part.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given the ultra low voltage nature of SnapDragon... much faster could a "full throttle" (non-ULV) desktop version of their SOC be? Are we talking barely any faster than what runs in your phone (about 2GHz) or are we talking a blistering ~4GHz? Because if I can get a 4GHz SOC with 32GiB of RAM in a full throttle desktop version, I'd love to get it with Linux on it. Not Android but an OS that's secure & stable (which also rules out everything by Microsoft).

  3. Stuart Halliday

    I'll wait until RISC OS is available.... ;)

    1. VinceH

      Well, if you're feeling particularly perverse, the article suggests you can run "classic Win32 programs via x86 emulation" - so you could run something like RPCEmu or VirtualRiscPC. i.e. you could emulate an old ARM platform (to run RISC OS) in an x86 emulator, on an ARM-based device.

      The only slight bugbear in that, of course, is the version of Windows.

  4. Arctic fox

    Very interesting but not entirely surprising.

    Given Intel's apparent abandonment of x86 cpu development for mobile devices (whether phones or smaller form factor tablets) it was clear that the only way forward for MS in this area was ARM-based. That being the case the only “big thing” they could offer the punters was something that in practice* was a full port of their desktop OS such that relatively small form factor devices could genuinely function as a full pc when docked (as apposed to the very limited experience that Continuum currently provides).

    *Please note that I say in practice rather than necessarily in the literal technical sense of a complete recompiling of Win 10 to run on ARM.

    1. Arctic fox

      Re: Very interesting but not entirely surprising.

      It appears that MS are fully recompiling Win 10. At least according to Mary Jo Foley:

      “The coming version of Windows 10 for Qualcomm is not Windows RT. It is a version of Microsoft's full Windows 10 desktop that's compiled natively to run on the Qualcomm CPU. It can run Universal Windows Platform apps. But it also will allow Win32 apps to run via emulation. According to Microsoft, existing peripherals and enterprise features that are currently supported in Windows 10 for Intel PCs will work on Windows 10 on Quolcomm devices.”

      How well such an emulation layer will work remains of course to be seen. It is also interesting that "enterprise features" are mentioned in this quote. One of the things that killed Windows RT stone dead was of course the lack of such enterprise features active directory, setting group policy, remote desktop support and so on and so forth.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Very interesting but not entirely surprising.

        >It appears that MS are fully recompiling Win 10.

        That's not even half the battle. How do you license something with very little utility (software) and with very little power, even if you could get the software? Will you end up with different prices depending on which ARM vendor you use? It would be a bit like having different Windows for celerons, i3s, i5s, i7s, xeons etc. How do you sell something which the vendor knows could easily operate below customer expectations?

        1. Arctic fox

          Re: "How do you license something.............."

          AFAIK Microsoft do not charge a license fee for devices with screens under seven inches. As for performance we will have to see what the combination of the new cpus produced by Qualcomm and the emulation layer deliver in practice. It may indeed be a complete bust but we do not know that yet. I said that I thought that it was interesting - not that I was automatically sold on the idea. We will just have to wait and see what comes out in the wash.

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: "How do you license something.............."

            AFAIK Microsoft do not charge a license fee for devices with screens under seven inches.

            Sounds like a good way to acquire cheap Windows server licenses, for those that want them. After all, it's a server, so a titchy screen should do.

          2. joed

            Re: "How do you license something.............."

            Try installing any o365 app on your iPhone SE. I may be small but it does count against install limit of your subscription.

            The reason MS does not charge for Windows on small tablets is that users are limited to crApps/Metro interface and MS gets a cut of every Store purchase. Nothing is free.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Very interesting but not entirely surprising.

          "Will you end up with different prices depending on which ARM vendor you use? "

          You mean "Qualcomm's 64-bit ARMv8-compatible Snapdragon" or "Qualcomm's 64-bit ARMv8-compatible Snapdragon " or how about "Qualcomm's 64-bit ARMv8-compatible Snapdragon "

          Think they've been pretty specific.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Very interesting but not entirely surprising.

        "It can run Universal Windows Platform "[cr]"apps"

        yeah, that's no surprise here. And now Micro-shaft will be screaming this factoid from every position they occupy.

        And are we REALLY seeing this massive migration by developers to UWP? I sure haven't!

        [of course SOME will drink the coolaid and jump on the bandwagon, like they did for ".Not" and C-pound, neither of which scores well on the TIOBE index, and UWP won't either]

        UWP forces your application to become a CRapplication, with that hideous Win-10-nic look. No thanks. The number of devices EXCLUSIVELY running Win-10-nic is a limited number. You'd be alienating >60% of your market share _NOT_ targeting Windows 7 and Win32 API! So guess where new development will focus? Or *SHOULD* at any rate...

        1. Arctic fox

          Well Bob, given your predeliction for caps lock.................

          ........."Bombastic" was probably a good choice.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Very interesting but not entirely surprising.

          People to ignore in comments.

          Anyone that says the following.

          Microshaft, Micro$oft or variants thereof




          Additionally those that use CAPITALS FOR no reason.

          Those that try to make puns for now reason. such as .Not

          Those that believe <insert name of mobile phone OS vendor> is not stealing a ton of data.

          1. JeffyPoooh

            Re: Very interesting but not entirely surprising.

            'Lost all faith...' is channeling Bertrand Russell and his famous barber.

            I was going to read your comment, but your comment told me to ignore comments like your comment, because your comment of course included those specific items listed in your comment, which I should thus ignore, including your instructions to ignore, so perhaps I shouldn't, except that's self-contradictory, so I shouldn't, but by then I did, which wasn't as you had instructed, except it was, and wasn't.

  5. scrubber

    But can it run ...

    Never mind.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Does anyone know if those new processors will have equivalent of Intel's management engine embedded?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: ME

      If you are worried by the privacy & security concerns of Intel's ME system, why would you buy a Windows 10 device?

      (Think - its going to be secure boot and no other OS like RT was)

  7. Howard Long

    Shoot in foot

    If, like with Windows RT, they delibrately cripple the OS so it can't run recompiled ARM versions of x86 desktop apps, it will fail again.

    My Surface RT ended up being nothing more than a video streamer, after discovering that not even Hello World would work.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Shoot in foot

      I think that MS may well have learned their lesson with Surface-RT.

      If they have not then this will be another dead duck walking.

      If they want this to really fly then they have to do things properly. Full Windows 10 in all its slurping and control glory.

      I agree about the Windows-10 only booting. This will be the key to keeping total control over everything the users do on the mechines that they have paid for but don't really own anything but the hardware which will be as useless a paper bag is for holding water when MS move onto their next big thing.

      MS will also have to scrap their per core licensing system with ARM devices. Already 48 core chips are available. Imagine the cost of SQLServer or Dynamics for that...

      Hardware cost $200

      Software cost $200,000

      Recepie for success? I think not.

    2. JeffyPoooh

      Re: Shoot in foot

      HL noted "My Surface RT ended up being nothing more than a video streamer..."

      It's pretty darn good for Netflix. Not so good for YouTube, since the usual Ad Blockers aren't available. But it's very good for YouTube downloading. Plus a smattering of other uses where it excels. Likely effectively immune from malware, by obscurity.

      My Surface 2 doesn't have to everything, since I've also got Win 10, Win 8, Android, Apple, Blackberry and other tablets. Trying to have just one perfect gadget is a recipe for frustration and disappointment. I much prefer having at least one of each ecosystem.

  8. Updraft102

    We've had enough

    I think I've had just about enough of Microsoft's "innovation." We don't need to innovate new and creative ways to turn a very successful desktop OS franchise into such a disjointed half-PC, half-phone-looking mess that they can hardly give it away, all while taking breathtaking amounts of liberty in usurping control from the owner of the PC while they suck up as much of his data as they feel like, and then they roll out unblockable updates that start patching whenever they damn well feel like it, whether you needed the PC at that moment or not, and when they're done, they bork the system time and time again... and when they do work, they have even more onerous restrictions on what the user can do than it had yesterday, and you might just find that it decided to uninstall some of the programs you wanted on your machine without asking permission and replaced them with Candy Crush Soda Saga and more ads in your lock screen, start menu, and system tray.

    Yeah, I think we could use a little break from Microsoft's innovation. Thinking up new and creative ways to screw over your customers and forcefeed them a product they detest isn't anything to be applauded, "innovative" though it may be.

    Oh, and while we're on the topic of dominating markets and injecting competition... seriously, we are talking about Microsoft here, aren't we? We're not doing the market any favors by submitting to Microsoft and their Windows 10 garbage. As unsavory as Intel has been in terms of noncompetitive behavior, Microsoft is orders of magnitude worse.

    So they think they're going to use emulation to run x86 programs on ARM CPUs? I believe I would love to see that. Unless Qualcomm has got some incredible CPUs that offer twice the IPC that Intels do, I don't see them competing with current x86 offerings, and I doubt MS really thinks that will be viable for much of anything either than a marketing gimmick. And without that, you're left with the crappy UWP app library (which I think is Microsoft's real end game)... just in case you wanted even more "phone" experience on your desktop PC instead of the massive library of x86 software that is already out there.

    So... No. Just no.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: x86 emulation on ARM

      QEMU runs fine on a Raspberry Pi. Legacy software was intended for machines far slower than we have now, so will be perfectly acceptable running via emulation on a fast ARM.

      I am sure Microsoft are not going in this direction out of choice. Intel cannot compete on price with Intel. They can just about make a low power chip, but if they sold it at a competitive price it would use fab time that could more profitably be spent on high margin server chips. This excludes Microsoft from the low end of the market until competition from ARM server chips reduces Intel's margins to the point where they can make phone chips. That is going to be a long wait with plenty of risk while children are learning that a Pi is sufficient for office software at 20% the price, no noisy fan and enough extra desk space for a toaster and a kettle.

      1. Updraft102

        Re: x86 emulation on ARM

        Sandy Bridge hit the market almost six years ago, and I'd be pretty surprised if there was an ARM chip that could match a Sandy i5-2500 running x86 code, given the overhead of emulation.

        Not only that, but why would buyers of the PC in question want to be limited to legacy software on their brand new computers (even budget PCs)?

        In this day and age, the market has bifurcated into PCs and mobiles, and nearly everyone has an Android or iOS smart phone that (with the addition of a mouse, keyboard, and external display) is more than capable of doing the simple stuff that would be comparable to what a legacy PC could do, and for which there is already a huge library of apps.

        Those of us who still stick with PCs often like them for reasons that would also rule out SoC-based ARM PCs running emulated x86... performance, upgradeability, that kind of thing. A fast ARM that wasn't engineered with the compromises necessary for battery-powered operation could be very quick running UWP apps... but there are few of them that are any good (and given the resistance to Windows 10, I doubt that's going to change any time soon), and running x86 incurs the emulation penalty.

        I would also expect that MS will lock the bootloaders down so that it is not possible to install operating systems other than Windows 10 on these machines. If it were Asus or Acer or Lenovo or HP or any other mainly hardware vendor, it would be different, but MS has a vested interest in pushing Windows, and we already know that they're more interested in serving their own needs than those of the customer.

        Rather than trying to expand into hardware, perhaps MS might want to release an OS that they don't have to force people to take.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We've had enough

      As a rabid Linux user, I'm afraid to say I'm quite happy for Microsoft to carry on dominating the market (sorry!) The movement of Windows to ARM hardware does have me worried though.

      The fact is, I don't want Linux to be the perfect user friendly OS, and I believe that's what Windows and OSX/MacOS/iOS are for. (I use windows on a daily basis, and believe it's actually OK to use. I don't have to administer the boxes I use though...)

      My only worry is that locked down ARM based hardware is going to limit linux to servers, high end laptops and workstations and hobby-orientated single board PCs. I quite like being able to spend about £300 on a low end laptop with windows pre-installed, then wipe the hard disk and set up the OS the way I want, and chose my own window manager and applications. (I'm a Gentoo user...) A move to ARM based hardware could make the process of installing an alternative OS a lot more difficult, if not close to impossible. I'm not sure I'm ready to run Gentoo on a raspberry pi.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: We've had enough

        " I don't want Linux to be the perfect user friendly OS"

        why not? *AFRAID* ??? You don't have to use Linux, you know. It's not like what Micro-shaft is bullying everyone with these days [buy a computer, MUST have windows on it, that kinda thing].

        Just don't be a snooty-snob and DENY OTHERS the 'Linux as a perfect user friendly OS' , k-thx. [ok maybe you're not actively trying to STOP Linux from becoming the perfect user friendly OS, but still...]

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft's non-x86 efforts always seem to melt after a bit of exposure to the elements. I'm one of those fools who spent good money on a PowerPC system running NT - only to find limited application support / slow x86 emulation / no OS upgrades from Microsoft.

    Sadly that was also the pattern with RT. I didn't make the same mistake there; but to compensate I bought an x86 Android tablet! More or less the same story, though not so bad.

    AC because I work for one of the companies mentioned.

    1. Graham Cunningham

      Companies mentioned above: Microsoft, Microsoft :)

  10. Len Goddard


    If it runs PC games better than current intel-based windoze I'm for it. Otherwise I don't care as all my serious computing runs on linux.

  11. Nimby


    This reminds me of so many failures. Such as with the DEC Alpha. MS made a version of NT that actually ran the processor quite well. Fat lot of good it did anyone, considering MS couldn't emulate x86 to make any software work on it. Most install programs could not even complete the installation process. Of the few x86 software packages that could be installed, most had weird bugs or constant crashes. And if you asked the 3rd party software vendors when they would fix their software to run on the DEC Alpha CPU, you would get inane responses like, "We will support it when Microsoft does."

    Not much later you had the Windows ME debacle where MS proved they couldn't even handle the move from 16-bit to 32-bit x86 correctly. And so on up to Windows RT, yet another epic fail on MS's part.

    Now we're expected to believe that we can completely ignore the last decade of epic failures on MS's part to handle this kind of experience? That for the first time, ever, MS will actually let us run our same-old software and hardware without flaw? If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you...

    1. Nimby

      When a phone is not a phone...

      On the other hand, on the off chance that Microsoft can finally get that whole emulation thing to work correctly, and one really CAN install and use all of their favorite old software packages, it could finally fill the gap I've personally been waiting for ever since the smartphone killed the PDA: A phone that can actually run real software. Crappy apps just don't cut the cake.

      I expected this gap to be filled years ago with the Intel Atom, but someone always killed off every project that tried.

      Maybe now we'll see the gap filled from the other direction, with emulation.

      I doubt it. But ... maybe.

      1. Mr.Bill

        Re: When a phone is not a phone...

        but then its why would you want to run *real* software on a phone in the first place? And just because it can *run* doesn't mean its anywhere usable. Even if certain select 32-bit win32 emulated programs appear to run OK in a demo is still a far cry from what people would expect to run and perform well in the real world. Even plugged into an HDMI monitor, you still have to contend with relatively wimpy processing, slow eMMC storage and limited RAM, probably loads of weird bugs and problems due to emulation. And even then its "why?". I can get a decent far more powerful PC box for $500 all there an ready to go assuming I have the monitor mouse and keyboard that would be needed for a smartphone computer anyway. No fumbling with docks, etc. The simplicity and increased security of smartphones/ipads/chromebooks is a *benefit* not a limitation, as far as most average people are concerned.

    2. kain preacher

      Re: 1 PRINT "EPIC FAIL"; 2 GOTO 1

      nimby that what windows 2000 was for. ME should of never been made.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Mr.Bill

      Re: Software Updates

      Cyanogenmod always ports in the monthly google patch within a few days after google's release. You'd be in full control that way. The community keeps many devices supported for years and years. I have a 5 year old galaxy nexus running marshmallow, with latest monthly patch, but they are reaching the limits of what can be done in 1GB RAM so we will see if nougat support will come or the end of the line.

      By default cyanogenmod does not install any google apps, so your concerns about mining are alleviated, at least by google anyway. However you put yourself at risk for more malicious behavior because you wouldn't have access to the play store, instead resorting to 3rd party apk stores. Amazon is a safe option but has a more limited selection.

    2. MarkElmes

      Re: Software Updates

      Most x86 Windows Tablets (intel atom) can run Linux... Easy to find a 10" Win8/10 Tablet for less than £100 these days.

  13. Herby


    Maybe intel will make one of the cores in a multi-core ARM chip execute x86 code directly. That might be interesting. Different instruction sets for different cores. You have lots of space so why not??

    You heard it here first, so when the patent trolls come knocking over a year later (it will probably take that long to have something patented, I hope), it won't be. I can only hope.

    Now they need to get rid if that UFEI (or whatever it is called) "secure" (aka lockout) boot stuff.

    1. JeffyPoooh

      Re: Cores??

      Herby had a neat idea.

      Microcode, taken to extreme, could enable your concept. Or as you described it. Or tuck an ARM in the corner of an Intel.

      It's inevitable. Many might disagree, but they're wrong. The trend over the decades is aligned in precisely such a direction.


  14. Stoke the atom furnaces


    All for Windows on ARM if it runs ARM Basic.

  15. karlkarl Silver badge

    Hey, if this means that they arent going to try to sell loads of locked down pieces of crud, then I am sold. Would be a nice way to get rid of Intel. Yes, I doubt they will leave the bootloader unlocked (they *are* Microsoft after all) but if I can get a C compiler running, I suppose I am happy regardless of whatever shite OS I have to run.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021