Microsoft has been working with Qualcomm and PC makers to develop Windows 10 software that will run on low-power computers with Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processors.

Unlike the now-defunct Windows RT, Windows 10 on ARM will be able to run just about any Windows application including those designed to run on x86 chips. That’s because ARM-based processors have gotten a lot more powerful in recent years, allowing devices with chips like the Snapdragon 835 to emulate x86 architecture when running apps that don’t run natively on ARM.

While the first Windows 10 on ARM devices will likely have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip, it’s possible that future devices could have processors from other chip makers.

For example, Fudzilla reports that Microsoft approached NVIDIA to talk about optimizing Windows 10 for the company’s Tegra chips. But NVIDIA allegedly took a pass… for now.

While NVIDIA’s Tegra X1 processor powers the company’s Shield TV device, it’s been a few years since a NVIDIA released a new Tegra chip aimed at mobile devices such as phones or tablets. The company has been focusing on the automotive space instead.

But the fact that Microsoft is said to have approached NVIDIA indicates that there’s nothing special about Qualcomm other than the fact that the company said yes. If the first Windows on ARM devices prove popular with consumers, it’s possible that NVIDIA and other chip makers could partner with Microsoft in the future.

So don’t be surprised if a year or two from now we start to see Windows 10 devices with Samsung Exynos, NVIDIA Tegra, Huawei Kirin, or MediaTek processors.

But if the first Windows 10 on ARM devices flop, then don’t be surprised if we don’t see any of those chip makers jump on board.

On the one hand it’s easy to see the appeal of Windows 10 on ARM: you get the same kind of low power consumption and always-connected features available on today’s smartphones… but with support for full-fledged Windows applications. That could mean laptops, tablets, and convertibles with all-day battery life, support for push notifications even when the display is off, and thin-and-light designs.

On the other hand, there have been some indications that Windows computers with Snapdragon 835 chips won’t be as fast as Android devices with the same processors, suggesting that Windows 10 isn’t really optimized for ARM just yet. If these new always-connected computers aren’t competitive with existing Intel or AMD-powered options when it comes to price, performance, or both, then it’s unclear how much demand there will really be.

Meanwhile, Google has already shown that it’s possible to build a desktop operating system that’s CPU architecture agnostic. You can already find Chromebooks with ARM-based processors from Rockchip or MediaTek, or x86 chips from Intel. Theoretically the former could enable longer battery life and/or more compact designs, but in practice the biggest difference seems to be in price: models with ARM chips tend to be cheaper than equivalent systems with Intel processors.

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12 replies on “Will Windows 10 run on NVIDIA Tegra, Samsung Exynos, or MediaTek chips”

  1. There is no reason to believe that a CPU runs Windows magically slower than Android, but It is well-known that emulation slows down the execution of a program compared to a program running native.
    And Android is in no way CPU architecture agnostic: Chrome on an ARM chromebook is compiled for ARM, on x86 it’s compiled for x86. If Chrome would run in a x86 emulation or vice versa, it would also show disappointing performance.

    UWP apps will run in native speed, everything web based will run in native speed, expect most Microsoft products will run in native speed sooner or later. If this platform thrives, emulation will be the better-than-nothing solution for old software, while modern software will become available in ARM versions or will run on top of a runtime environment that is available for ARM.

    It really puzzles me why people judge a platform by its performance emulating a different platform.

  2. I was expecting Nvidia to be the company that Windows on ARM interests them the most, but I guess they still want to persuade Intel that they are good partners. Maybe hoping Intel not to go full speed with Kaby Lake G, or future Kabe Lake G series to use an Nvidia GPU. But they definitely have an interest on Windows on ARM. I doubt they don’t like the idea to start selling 100% Nvidia powered systems, instead of just GPUs.

  3. if snapdragon 835 is much cheap, then put 2 or 4 of them. think about it, 4 parallel CPU and GPU, it will kill intel i5

    1. dont forget that this cpu will be cooler then intel cpu, so fanless computers here they come with less battery consumption and more room inside the computer/laptop/tablet 2 in 1.
      life can be better

  4. In looking at the chromebook market, Intel has just lowered its margins on the entry-level SOCs to achieve whatever marketshare it wanted. With linux support on x86 SOC being very good, I would rather have a x86 chromebook than an arm one.
    Snapdragon 835 will have awesome battery life, but all the existing chromebook ARM SOCs also have awesome battery life. I don’t see any competitive advantage.

  5. I’m hoping their 2nd attempt with Windows on ARM is successful this time. The potential benefits of being able to run full desktop Windows on ARM are high priorities for me (built-in LTE, very long battery life, low power always on state, fanless, likely smaller devices, etc.).

    I guess it all depends on MS’ execution and if ARM SoCs are now able to run desktop applications adequately now. At least for the 2nd part, I’m not personally looking for high performance but at least similar to the experience when running on the later Atom SoCs.

    Anyway, good luck to MS and Qualcomm. Of course, they won’t get my money if this ends up like crap.

  6. The problem is not M$, it’s that it costs quite a bit to support an new OS, that’s why even today so few chips support Chrome OS officially. That and ofc Google being stupid and putting Intel before its own interest,over and over again.

    The problem with Qualcomm based machines is that Qualcomm is focused on LTE to get payed insanely high license fees and that drives up costs quite a lot. To make it even worse, it’s SD835 only so a high end SoC that costs way too much as it is.

  7. Of course there is nothing “special” about the Snapdragon 835 in terms of its ability to run Windows. In terms of the CPU, all Arm processors are compatible, however there is more to an SoC than just the CPU. There is also GPU for example. It basically comes down to drivers and optimization. Microsoft is working with Qualcomm, in the future it could work with other SoC vendors who also use Arm CPUs. That is obvious.

    Also your post about the speed of Windows on Arm, and the bit about “Windows computers with Snapdragon 835 chips won’t be as fast as Android devices with the same processors” is a load of nonsense. The benchmark you reported on was almost likely running under Intel emulation, i.e. it was the x86 version of Geekbench. If that is the case then the laptops are doing very well performance wise!

    1. I’m pretty sure Qualcomm did build a CPU-level x86 emulation for the 835. It’s a hardware level emulation not software. So it is special compared to other ARM chips.

      Also, since windows is using the emulation and Android is not, there will be a speed discrepancy when comparing raw processing speeds

      1. Hardware level x86 emulation? That’s news to me. Do have any links for me to read? That seems like it’d be an interesting read since it sounds pretty difficult to pull off.

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