This year the first Windows 10 computers with ARM processors started shipping. They tend to be thin and light 2-in-1 tablets and convertible laptops with long battery life, fanless designs, and built-in support for 4G LTE.
But they also have some limitations. They can run 32-bit or 64-bit apps compiled for ARM architecture, and they can run some Win32 applications compiled for x86 chips thanks to emulation. But they cannot run 64-bit Win32 apps, and emulation means that 32-bit x86 programs tends to run more slowly than software compiled to run natively on ARM.
Microsoft has been building tools that will let developers port existing apps to ARM64 architecture though, and now the company has released that SDK. Microsoft is also now accepting submissions from developers who want to distribute ARM64 apps in the Microsoft Store.
The good news is that this likely means we’ll start to see more apps available for Windows 10 on ARM on the future. And while the big news here is support for 64-bit apps that run natively on ARM, if developers use the SDK to port 32-bit x86 apps to run natively on ARM as well, they’ll probably see a performance boost since they won’t require emulation to run properly.
But this is also a sort of if-you-build-it, will-they-come situation.
Just because Microsoft offers tools for developing ARM64 apps and/or porting existing apps doesn’t mean developers will use them.
Part of the appeal of Windows 10 on ARM was that it does let you run some Win32 apps whether developers originally targeted ARM or not. Windows has been around a very long time and there are millions of apps that were designed for older versions of the operating system. Many have been abandoned by their developers and will probably never be updated. Others may be actively maintained by developers who are uninterested in supporting ARM at the moment.
So it’s unclear just how much will change. But at least there’s a better chance that Windows 10 on ARM users will be able to find some native ARM64 apps in the Microsoft Store in the future.