Microsoft's earlier attempts at running Windows or a version of the operating system on ARM's mobile-friendly micro-architecture didn't go very well. This time Microsoft is changing course.
Lending credence to rumors that the company is working on x86-on-ARM64 emulation technology, the company announced during WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Community) 2016 conference in Shenzhen, China that it has partnered with mobile chip provider Qualcomm to bring Windows 10 to ARM.
"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," said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, in a Dec. 7 announcement.
"Hardware partners will be able to build a range of new Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered Windows 10 PCs that run x86 Win32 and universal Windows apps, including Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office and popular Windows games," continued Myerson.
Those devices may appear by the time Microsoft releases its Creator's Update for Windows 10 (codename Redstone 3), expected in the spring of 2017. Evidence of the new emulation technology was spotted by participants of the company's Windows Insider early access program, which is currently gathering feedback on features set to be included in the next major OS update.
As tantalizing as the prospect of running full-featured Windows software on ARM-based devices may be, Microsoft isn't neglecting its longtime partner Intel.
Microsoft took the wraps off a new collaboration with the x86 processor maker called Project Evo, which the companies hope will usher in an era of more intelligent Windows-powered experiences.
The companies are working together on far-field speech communications technology—like that used in Amazon's Echo product line for the Alexa voice-enabled virtual assistant—to extend Cortana's speech recognition capability beyond the range of a typical PCs microphone, Myerson explained.
Microsoft and Intel are also working together to commercialize more affordable PC hardware and head-mounted virtual-reality displays. They also plan to toughen Windows security by enlisting the security intelligence and analytics capabilities of both companies. Intel operates a large data security business formerly under McAfee security brand that's now called simply Intel Security.
In China, Microsoft has submitted its HoloLens augmented-reality headset for government approval. The company expects to supply the nation's developers and corporate customers with the self-contained, Windows 10-powered device sometime in the first half of 2017.
For gamers, Microsoft will make available head-mounted display developer kits during the forthcoming Game Developers Conference in San Francisco March 14–18. As part of Project Evo, the company is cooperating with Intel to help bring next-generation visuals, including 4K, High Dynamic Range and Wide Color Gamut support, to games.
Advances in spatial audio will help immerse gamers, and competitive types can delve into the latest eSports and game broadcasting innovations from the companies.