We all know that Microsoft has been working on getting full fat Windows 10 on ARM devices for some time now. The only question has been whether or not Microsoft has been working on getting Windows 10 working on its existing ARM based devices. Undoubtedly, this is getting many customers – both potential and current – interested in getting into a new class of mobile devices.
In the midst of all that excitement about a new class of devices, questions have been asked – and fair enough too – about whether or not existing Windows 10 Mobile devices might get upgraded. Sadly, the emphatic answer is no. Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore confirmed in a Windows Insider podcast what was probably a glaringly obvious answer to the question.
In the podcast, Belfiore said that “the Windows 10 on ARM effort is about enabling the PC experience on devices that are built on ARM so that they’re connected all the time and have great battery life. So the experience is a desktop PC experience, it’s not a phone-like experience. For phone-like experiences on ARM, we have Windows 10 Mobile. What Windows 10 on ARM is, is a desktop-like experience so that you get the battery life that ARM processors tend to have.”
He went on to say that “the other thing that’s interesting about this is that in all cases where you build ARM software, it’s not so easy to just put it on another device. The OS intermingles with what’s called the BSP (board support package), and that’s how the software talks to the SoC. There’s special work that has to be done to get the OS talking to the BSP, talking to the SoC, so it’s not like the PC ecosystem where we write an OS in the same binaries that run on lots of different PCs. With ARM devices with SoC, you have to more closely target it. So that is often the case why it’s more challenging for us to get updates to a wide range of ARM devices. They’re all quite different, which adds delay, and as the number of people using those devices gets smaller, it unfortunately makes less sense for us to invest more time and energy in that.”
In essence, the effort to get Windows 10 on ARM isn’t about giving existing devices an upgrade. It’s about improving efficiency and battery life on mobile devices, while retaining as much of the productivity potential as possible. For most users, a Surface with an Intel Core i5 is overkill. This is the customer Microsoft hopes to woo with Windows 10 on ARM.
While the software side is still likely being worked on furiously in the background, we do know that CShell, the company’s next generation user interface, is going to be integral in its efforts to bring Windows 10 to a wider range of devices. CShell will debut with Snapdragon 835 equipped devices later this year. Will you be picking one up?