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Microsoft arms Windows – Qualcomm 835 a go!

Microsoft and Qualcomm have announced ASUS, HP and Lenovo will be the first OEMs to offer Qualcomm 835 based, Windows 10, in ultra-thin, fanless, X16 LTE eSIM, Wi-Fi AC 2x2 MU-MIMO, fast charge equipped PCs and notebooks.

Each company will produce sleek and fanless PCs and notebooks running a “Windows 10 experience” with X16 LTE connectivity for an always-connected, on the go experience. The 10nm power efficiency of the Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform means all-day battery life.

The Snapdragon 835 SoC built into the Mobile PC Platform features the Qualcomm Kryo 280 CPU, Qualcomm Adreno 540 GPU, Qualcomm Hexagon 682 DSP (digital signal processor), to manage separate heterogeneous workloads. It is fast!

Matt Barlow, corporate vice-president, Windows marketing, Microsoft, said, “We are thrilled that OEMs are sharing our vision to bring the Windows 10 experience to the ARM ecosystem, powered by Qualcomm Technologies. This collaboration offers consumers something new and that they have been craving – the best of a mobile computing experience with the best of Windows 10, all in one thin, light, connected device.”

Cristiano Amon, executive vice-president, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., and President, QCT, said, “Today's consumers experience mobility in nearly every aspect of their lives and they've come to expect more from their PCs than legacy computing models are able to provide. With “compatibility for the Windows 10 ecosystem”, the Snapdragon Mobile PC Platform will enable hardware makers to develop next-generation modern device form factors and deliver unparalleled anything, anywhere creation experiences with up to Gigabit-Class LTE connectivity."

But how does x86 based Windows run on ARM-based Qualcomm? What is the “Windows 10 Experience”? What is “compatibility with the Windows 10 ecosystem”?

According to the Windows video below it is as simple as loading any new version of Windows 10 (including Enterprise) onto the 835 SoC (earlier demos were on an 820) to support x86, 64-bit Windows, and Win32 API support. The key seems to be the emulator built into the silicon on the SoC.

Performance wise there must be some questions – emulation is never as fast as native but on the other hand the 835 SoC is almost fully integrated with CPU (central processor), GPU (graphics processor), ISP (Image signal processors), DSP (digital signal processor), Memory, Storage, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/LTE – an 835 SoC should be faster than a series of discrete chips communicating over bridge chips and a bus. It also natively supports Vulkan and OpenGL as well as VR/AR/MR standards.

But the emulation appears to be only of the operating system functions as Microsoft goes to great lengths to state that there were no changes to the apps – Windows 10 ecosystem - running in the demos. Once an OS loads, it should occupy a very small portion of the CPU/memory tasks - a kind of hardware based virtual OS.

My gut feel is that the 835 performance would be better than Intel Atom/Celeron and Mobile processors - pretty well every benchmark confirms this.

This is a game changer – it will affect things like HoloLens (and all the OEM varieties coming), future Windows Phones (that may simply be part of the Windows 10 OS and goodbye to Continuum) and of course we are yet to hear if the devices will run Android [or Linux] either concurrently or in dual boot mode.

Interestingly this will leave Apple’s Mac as the last bastion of x86 and one cannot help wondering if the rumours that touch-enabled MacBooks would see it move to a MacOS emulation on iOS on ARM have more than a little truth behind them.

Here is Qualcomm’s take on it.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!