Windows 10 will support ARM processors

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 8, 2016
Updated • May 22, 2018
Windows, Windows 10

Microsoft announced a partnership with Qualcomm today that will bring Windows 10 to devices with ARM processors.

One interesting tidbit of the announcement is that Qualcomm ARM processors will be able to run legacy x86 Windows programs.

This means that this is not another attempt at establishing a special Windows 10 RT version on the market.

Finally, to deliver on our customers’ growing needs to create on the go, we announced today that Windows 10 is coming to ARM through our partnership with Qualcomm. For the first time ever, our customers will be able to experience the Windows they know with all the apps, peripherals, and enterprise capabilities they require, on a truly mobile, power efficient, always-connected cellular PC.

Microsoft notes that hardware partners will be able to build a range of Windows 10 PCs and devices that are powered by Qualcomm processors.

windows 10 qualcomm

These PCs will run x86 32-bit Windows programs, universal Windows applications. Microsoft mentions Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, and popular Windows games in particular.

This is achieved through emulation according to Microsoft.

While that means that 64-bit programs are unsupported for now, it could open up additional markets for Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system.

One reason why Windows RT failed so badly was that you could not run any Win32 programs on the device (other than the few that Microsoft modified so that they would run on RT).

Here is a short video by Microsoft that demonstrates Windows 10 running on a Qualcomm processor.

The desktop and start menu interface looks similar to that on PCs. You get the taskbar at the bottom with links to Edge, File Explorer and other programs, Cortana, and the start menu reveals that programs such as Adobe Photoshop 2014, Word 2016, PowerPoint 2016 and Eclipse Manager are installed on the device.

The device runs Windows 10 Enterprise, and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor.

Features like domain join, Windows Hello support, and full touch and pen functionality.

Closing Words

Windows 10 on Qualcomm processors may result in new devices being manufactured that run Windows 10. This could pave the wave for new Windows phone devices. Think about it: the option to run legacy Windows programs -- 32-bit but still -- on a phone, that is a real game changer for many users.

Obviously, not all programs will run fine on smaller screens as they are not optimized for those, and some may not work because of hardware differences.

Could Microsoft be working on a Windows 10 Phone that runs on a Qualcomm processor? Could  legacy Windows program support be the killer feature that Windows 10 mobile needs to make a dent in Android's market dominance?

Lots of questions remain unanswered for now, but I have to admit that I'd be interested in a phone that runs 32-bit Windows programs such as KeePass, Thunderbird, Firefox or QuiteRSS.

Now You: What's your take on the news? Marketing stunt or will something substantial come out of the partnership?

Windows 10 will support ARM processors
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Windows 10 will support ARM processors
Microsoft announced a partnership with Qualcomm today that will bring Windows 10 to devices with ARM processors.
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  1. Lurking About said on December 9, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    So how this news seems a little to late. I do not think it will expand Windows market share significantly but what it might do is help the OEMs sell new equipment. The ARM chips might help the OEM retail price and margins compared with Intel. To be truthful, most users really do not care what the CPU and other chips are in the device as long as it works. So something that allows a price and improved margins might make the OEMs salivate.

  2. Mike said on December 9, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Does this mean Win10 on rPi or BananaPi is a possibility “soon”?

    1. anon said on December 9, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      Windows 10 IoT (Internet of Things) is already a thing, Mike.

  3. A or B, not C. said on December 9, 2016 at 3:57 am

    Mobile smartphones n tablets need to use fanless, low-freq n power-sipping ARM chips, tiny NAND Flashdrives, low-power LPDDR3 RAM, micro-USB ports, touchscreens(= no keyboard n mouse), etc.
    ……. Larger desktops/laptops do not need to “suffer” such space n design restrictions. So, it is needless n foolish to put ARM chips in PCs. It’s like putting a compact car engine into a 4WD or MPV body = top-speed of 10mph.
    Seems, “evil” M$ hv been struck with the dumb-disease, eg the failed Windows Mobile Lumia smartphones, Windows Store n Win 8. Will Win 10 fail as well.?

    1. Womble said on December 9, 2016 at 4:16 am

      If you RTFA you would realise they’re not putting Arm chips in PCs.

      1. A or B, not C. said on December 9, 2016 at 5:22 am

        @ Womble ……. Not in PCs.? … Are u saying that M$ r putting Win 10 in their Lumia smartphones n getting rid of Win 10 Mobile.? … Or M$ r putting ARM chips in Win 10 tablets.?
        ……. Aren’t the Win 10 Surface Pro 4’s running on Intel chips considered tablets.? Other OEM Win 10 tablets are also running on Intel chips, eg Core M5, Core M3, Atom, etc. Why the need to use ARM chips for Win 10 tablets.?

  4. Yuliya said on December 9, 2016 at 12:24 am

    I think this will be targeted more towards tablets. But, there are already good x86 tablets capable of running Win8.1. I also have this feeling that Win32 programs won’t perform as fast as Microsoft’s video makes people believe. Time will tell..

  5. hirobo said on December 8, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    No thanks. As long as Windows contains spyware and forced updates, I can only see a use for it in a dual OS device with the Windows partition permanently offline.

    1. anon said on December 8, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      It does not fit the definition of spyware even though the privacy concerns you and others (even I) have are reasonable.

      If the only actual issue is lack of update options, then it’s easily worked around by disabling the Windows Update service.

  6. alucardo said on December 8, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    First positive post in a while!

  7. Major said on December 8, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Here’s hope that in a few years ARM will give Intel and AMD run for their money!

    1. Womble said on December 9, 2016 at 4:09 am

      Arm only sells IP so you you can’t compare them fairly to Intel on a revenue basis . However if we compare the number of chips shipped then it would be no exaggeration to say Arm technology outsells Intel and AMD combined by more than 100 to 1.

      Seems Intel and AMD are the ones playing catch-up. :)

  8. Andrew said on December 8, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    This is pretty damn awesome and I feel how WinRT should have been

  9. anon said on December 8, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Windows RT = Windows 8 for ARM CPUs that only officially allows third-party Windows Runtime (WinRT) software to run.

    Windows 10 improved and is improving WinRT as the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), which already existed to an extent on Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 since Microsoft introduced Universal apps that run on both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1.

    Microsoft probably considers UWP ready enough to attempt support for ARM CPUs again but this time without the restrictions that were imposed on Win32 software in Windows RT.

    To me, this is good news as it expands the consumer’s options plus the mistakes made in the past are not being repeated :)

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