The Apple M1 processor powering the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini is getting rave reviews for performance and power efficiency. Since the chances of Apple selling its chips to other PC makers are close to zero, you might think that this is only good news for Mac users. But there are a few reasons Apple building its own chips could be good for PC market more generally.

First, it could spur other chip makers including Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, and MediaTek to up their game. Second, it could give companies like Google and Microsoft a reason to try developing their own chips in-house to tightly integrate hardware and software.

And third? It gives developers of popular applications a reason to port their software to run natively on devices with ARM-based processors. Those first two items are hypothetical at this point. But the third? It’s already happening.

Now that Macs with M1 chips have arrived, Adobe has released a beta of Photoshop for Apple Silicon. But the company has also released Photoshop Beta for Windows ARM.

The first Windows 10 laptops and tablets with ARM-based processors began shipping in 2018, but when did Adobe release the first beta of its popular image editing app built to run natively on Windows ARM? The same day Apple’s new ARM-powered Macs hit the streets.

At this point Photoshop for both platforms is still very much in beta. It’s not officially supported by Adobe yet, there are a bunch of missing features, and the Windows ARM version is only designed to work on Microsoft Surface Pro X tablets with at least 8GB of RAM. But it sure looks like someone at Adobe figured that if the company was going to go through the trouble of supporting Apple’s ARM-based processors, it might as well support Windows PCs with ARM chips as well.

And that might be more important for Windows on ARM than it is for macOS, because one of the biggest complaints reviewers have had about Windows tablets with ARM processors is that while native apps run at acceptable speeds, x86_64 apps are often sluggish, if they run at all, since emulation is required. In fact, Adobe officially “does not support or recommend that you run Photoshop 22.x under x64 emulation mode on Windows devices with ARM processors.”

That doesn’t appear to be as much of an issue for Apple’s new computers – initial reviews suggest that Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation technology allows x86_64 software to run at least as well on a Mac with an M1 chip as it does on a previous-gen model with an Intel processor.

But by beginning to offer native support for both Macs and PCs with ARM chips on the way, Adobe is demonstrating that Apple’s move to ARM could have also have benefits for Windows on ARM.

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16 replies on “Apple’s new chips could be good news for Windows on ARM (Adobe release Photoshop Beta for both platforms)”

  1. This is good to hear, and I hope the trend continues. However, I’m still reminded of the fact that Windows on Arm still today does not have a native ARM version of Google Chrome, and their ARM app platform (Universal Apps) has been around since 2014. The problem is that Microsoft hasn’t let Google release it on their app store, despite attempts from Google. There is recent news that it is possibly coming now, but only after years of users pleading, and Microsoft being stubborn.

    It’s a little unclear to me if the future of these applications on Windows on ARM is going to be under the umbrella of the Microsoft app store, or if these are going to be side loaded applications that will be independently distributed.

    I’d really prefer if the future of Windows on ARM was not centred around an app store. I’d rather see complete freedom of developers to release executables on their own.

    1. Agreed. I suspect the fact that Chrome and Firefox for Macs with M1 chips are already on the way could put a bit of pressure on Microsoft to ease off.

      Now if only MS could replicate Rosetta’s translation technology and/or Qualcomm could come closer to matching Apple with high-performance/low-power chips.

      I think those are big ifs. A key to Apple’s success here is that the company now has complete control over both the hardware and software, so it can optimize them to work together in a way that’s difficult for the Windows, Android, or Chrome OS ecosystems to match unless MS or Google start making their own chips (rather than just rebranding Rockchip or Qualcomm processors, as they’ve done from time to time).

      1. There is little point replicating work just for Surface where ARM is concerned.

        The Qualcomm SQx processors are fine even if they are basically just rebranded high end Snapdragon models.

      2. What I’d really like to hear from Microsoft on the subject is that they are moving Windows on ARM towards a future that allows and encourages both an app store environment, AND the ability for software developers to release software to be installed manually by users (through installation methods like MSI packages, other installers, or just old fashioned standalone executable files).

        It seems like both avenues might be available, but I’d just like Microsoft to tell users what to expect. If the app-store-only model of Windows on ARM is behind them, I want them to say so.

  2. The reason Rosetta2 is so fast is it performs a prelaunch translation of the entire executable. At runtime emulation is always a losing battle because you tie up resources in the translation. The downside to retranslation with Rosetta2 is it requires additional disk space (likely as much if not more than the original executable) to store the new native translation. Microsoft, if they were smart and are worried about disk space, should offer the option to pick between the two if they are worried about previous disk space getting consumed.

  3. Slightly off topic, but I’d really like to see Microsoft double down on its ARM support, and allow users to install full-fat official Windows on their own ARM devices, like Raspberry Pi. I’d love to have on of my Pi 4s running as a small, lightweight Windows PC!

    1. Windows on ARM already has support for Windows Subsystem for Linux.

    2. OK, but which one of these will run Linux?

      What I’ve meant by this question (of course) is which of these systems run a full fledged Linux distribution natively.

      1. That has nothing to do with the operating system, and it only relates to the hardware itself. It depends on how easily hacked the device’s bootloader is.

        Brad wrote an article about several Windows on ARM laptops running native installs of Linux:

        I think Mac on ARM will take a while longer, because their SOCs are much more proprietary so there aren’t any linux drivers out there for any of their components.

        The community was quick to get Linux on Windows on ARM devices because Qualcomm’s hardware isn’t a stranger to linux.

        1. That has nothing to do with the operating system, and it only relates to the hardware itself.

          And that’s exactly what I was asking about. Maybe I could have phrased my question more clearly if you misunderstood it the exact opposite way, I’m sorry about that. But thanks for your info.

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