Qualcomm and Microsoft bring full Windows 10 to Snapdragon devices

This content originally appeared on PC Perspective.

At the WinHEC developer conference in China today, Qualcomm and Microsoft have announced a partnership to enable a full Windows 10 computing environment on systems based on the next-generation of Snapdragon processors in the second half of 2017. The importance of this announcement can’t be overstated – it marks another attempt for Microsoft to enter the non-x86 market with mobile devices (think tablets and notebooks, less smartphones).

If you remember the first attempt at Windows on ARM, Windows RT, it’s failure was a result of a split software base: some applications could work between Windows RT and Windows 8 while most could not. It likely helped in the demise of that initiative that Windows 8 was overall very poorly received and that the overzealous box-style interface just wasn’t a hit with users. Major players like NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Samsung and many different OEMs were all caught up in the mess, making it very unlikely that Microsoft would undertake this again without a surefire win.

Though details are light today, the success of this depends on software compatibility. Microsoft and Qualcomm claim that Windows 10 on mobile devices will bring “the scale of the mobile ecosystem with an unparalleled pace of innovation to address consumers’ growing need to be always on and always connected.” Modems and high performance SoCs for mobile systems is the realm of Qualcomm and form factors using these components as the base could be a solid source of innovation. The press release states as much, saying this partnership will “enable hardware makers to develop new and improved consumer products including handsets, tablets, PCs, head mounted displays, and more.”

Software is the silver bullet though.

New Windows 10 devices powered by Snapdragon supports all aspects of Microsoft’s latest operating system including Microsoft Office, Microsoft Edge browser, Windows 10 gaming titles like Crysis 2 and World of Tanks, Windows Hello, and touchscreen features like Windows Pen. It also offers support for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps and Win32 apps through emulation, providing users with a wide selection of full featured applications.

Based on what I have learned, the native software experience will come with UWP applications. UWP is Microsoft’s attempt to merge the software base for different platforms, and though it has been slow, adoption by developers and users has been increasing. If it’s true that everything being sold in the Microsoft app store today will be compatible with the ARM architecture processors in the Snapdragon SoC, then I think this leaves the door open for a wider adoption by an otherwise discerning audience.

  Are you ready to hit that start button on your Snapdragon computer?

Are you ready to hit that start button on your Snapdragon computer?

The emulation for ALL other Win32 (and x64) applications is critical as well. Being able to run the code you are used to running on an x86-based notebook will give users flexibility to migrate and the ability to depend on Qualcomm-based Windows 10 machine for work and for play. With emulation comes a performance hit – but how much of one has yet to be seen or discussed. The rumors have been circulating recently that ARM compatibility was coming to Windows 10 with the Redstone 3 update, and the timing of “late 2017” matches up perfectly with the announcement today.

While notebooks and convertibles are likely on the table for this platform, it’s the new form factors that should excite you. Microsoft’s Terry Myserson expects Qualcomm and Windows to bring “a range of thin, light, power-efficient and always-connected devices, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform, is the next step in delivering the innovations our customers love.” Cristiano Amon, President at Qualcomm Technologies thinks they can provide “advanced mobile computing features, including Gigabit LTE connectivity, advanced multimedia support, machine learning and superior hardware security features, all while supporting thin, fan-less designs and long battery life.”

This partnership will lead to more than just new consumer products though, reaching into the enterprise markets with the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform addressing markets ranging from “mobility to cloud computing.”

Full press release below!

Qualcomm Ushers in New Era with Entrance into Windows Mobile Computing Devices

— New Microsoft Windows 10 Devices to be Supported by Next Generation Qualcomm Snapdragon Processors

SHENZHEN, CHINA — December 8, 2016 — At Microsoft’s WinHEC hardware developer conference today, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), and Microsoft announced that they are collaborating to enable the full Windows 10 experience on mobile computing devices powered by next generation Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ processors, enabling a new class of anytime, anywhere connected devices.. As traditional PC computing becomes more mobile, Qualcomm Technologies brings the scale of the mobile ecosystem with an unparalleled pace of innovation to address consumers’ growing need to be always on and always connected. With full Windows 10 compatibility, Snapdragon-based technology will enable hardware makers to develop new and improved consumer products including handsets, tablets, PCs, head mounted displays, and more.

New Windows 10 devices powered by Snapdragon supports all aspects of Microsoft’s latest operating system including Microsoft Office, Microsoft Edge browser, Windows 10 gaming titles like Crysis 2 and World of Tanks, Windows Hello, and touchscreen features like Windows Pen. It also offers support for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps and Win32 apps through emulation, providing users with a wide selection of full featured applications. 

“We are excited to bring Windows 10 to the ARM ecosystem with our partner, Qualcomm Technologies,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft. “We continue to look for ways to empower our customers to create wherever they are. Bringing Windows 10 to life with a range of thin, light, power-efficient and always-connected devices, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform, is the next step in delivering the innovations our customers love - touch, pen, Windows Hello, and more - anytime, anywhere.”

“Qualcomm Snapdragon processors offer one of the world’s most advanced mobile computing features, including Gigabit LTE connectivity, advanced multimedia support, machine learning and superior hardware security features, all while supporting thin, fan-less designs and long battery life,” said Cristiano Amon, executive vice president, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., and president, QCT. “With full compatibility with the Windows 10 ecosystem, the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform is expected to support mobility to cloud computing and redefine how people will use their compute devices.”   

The first devices running the full Windows 10 experience based on Snapdragon processors are expected to be commercially available in the second half of 2017.

About Qualcomm

Qualcomm’s technologies powered the smartphone revolution and connected billions of people.  We pioneered 3G and 4G – and now, we are leading the way to 5G and a new era of intelligent, connected devices. Our products are revolutionizing industries including automotive, computing, IoT and healthcare, and are allowing millions of devices to connect with each other in ways never before imagined. Qualcomm Incorporated includes our licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio. Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, operates, along with its subsidiaries, all of our engineering, research and development functions, and all of our products and services businesses, including our semiconductor business, QCT, and our mobile, automotive, computing, IoT and healthcare businesses.