Microsoft is giving it another shot.
The last time the software giant attempted to commercialize Windows devices powered by mobile ARM chips, not including its phone hardware, it resulted in a nearly-billion-dollar loss for the company. Unlike the company’s current crop of fairly successful Surface devices, the original Surface RT flopped when potential buyers discovered the systems could not run the vast x86 software library that is the hallmark of the Windows platform.
Now there is word that Microsoft will test the waters again late this year.
On an April 19 earnings call, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf revealed that mobile PCs featuring this company’s ARM-based Snapdragon 835 processor will hit the market in the fourth quarter of 2017. The chip can currently be found in the Samsung Galaxy S8, the South Korean electronic maker’s just-released flagship smartphone.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor uses a 10-nanometer microarchitecture that runs at up to 2.45 GHz. Physically, the chip is 35 percent smaller than its predecessors and uses 25 percent less energy, helping to boost battery life.
Mollenkopf also said that Qualcomm has the distinction of producing the first 10-nanometer server chip, which was used for a demonstration of Windows Server running on the company’s Centriq processors. By comparison, Intel “Kaby Lake” server-class Xeon processors are built using a 14-nanometer manufacturing process.
Following rumors that Microsoft was working on x86-on-ARM64 emulation technology for Windows 10, Microsoft and Qualcomm officially announced during the WinHEC 2016 conference in Shenzhen, China December 2016 that they were working to bring Windows x86 computing to ARM devices, Last month at the Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit, the companies showed off Windows Server running on ARM-based hardware powered by a 48-core Qualcomm Centriq 2400 server chip.
“Our collaboration with Microsoft and contribution to the OCP community enables innovations such as Qualcomm Centriq 2400 to be designed … and deployed into the data centers rapidly,” said Ram Peddibhotla, vice president of product management at Qualcomm Data Center Technologies, in a statement at the time.
Meanwhile, businesses expect to see a version of Windows Server that runs on the energy-efficient processors. A Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK on March 10 that the company “has no current plans to commercially release Windows Server for ARM64.”
Just ahead of an education themed May 2 media event from Microsoft, a leaked document added a little more intrigue to the Windows-on-ARM saga. At the event, the company is expected to unveil Windows 10 Cloud, a lightweight version of the operating system that is poised to compete with Chromebooks in classrooms.
Earlier leaks suggest that Windows 10 Cloud will run on both x86- and ARM-based chips. The latest document shows that the OS requires at quad-core chip such as an Intel Celeron or better with at least 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage or 64 GB for the 64-bit version. Windows 10 Cloud devices are expected to last 10 hours or more between charges, roughly the same benchmark that Chromebook makers aim for.