One of the best reasons to consider a Windows smartphone like the Lumia 950 or HP Elite x3 is the Continuum for Phone feature, which allows you to connect a keyboard, mouse, and display and use your phone like a desktop PC.
But right now there’s one major problem: you can’t run Windows programs developed for x86 processors… which is the vast majority of Windows software.
Microsoft may be working to change that though.
According to ZDNet, Microsoft is working on a version of Windows 10 for 64-bit ARM processors that would include x86 emulation. In other words, you might be able to run desktop software ranging from Photoshop to Steam on a phone, tablet, or other device with an ARM processor… even if the developers of those programs never port them to run on ARM chips.
ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, who has a pretty good track record with this kind of thing, says her sources say x86 emulation could roll out with the Windows 10 Redstone 3 update in the fall of 2017.
The feature is allegedly code-named “Cobalt,” and it could eventually replace workarounds like the virtual desktop software that HP offers for Elite x3 customers (which allows you to connect to a remote desktop over the internet to interact with x86 apps running on a server rather than the phone itself).
It’s not clear if any existing smartphones or tablets will be able to support the upcoming x86 emulation. But more powerful mobile chips are coming in 2017.
While Foley is usually a reliable source of leaks and rumors, there’s always the possibility that Cobalt is under development now… but may be delayed or scrapped before fall, 2017 comes around.