x86 on ARM: Microsoft will allow Windows 10 Mobile devices to run Desktop Apps
With Windows Mobile users jumping ship, Microsoft hinted that in a couple of years, Windows 10 Mobile can be the platform with billions of apps, by allowing classic desktop programs (aka the Win32 apps) on Windows 10 Mobile.
This year, Windows phones have seen a massive decline. Even though the operating system is a fully fledged component, the lack of apps and the lack of developers in this platform has been forcing consumers to switch to Android or iOS. Moreover, Microsoft has acknowledged that they are also treating third party platforms as first class citizens and providing their apps. However, it did not work the other way around. Hence, the company decided to shake things up.
Understanding platforms and emulation
Each computer hardware understands a specific set of instructions and the operating system has to play along that. The most common is the x86 instruction set, devised by Intel. All 32 bit Windows programs use the x86 instruction set. Similarly, AMD64 instruction set, made by AMD, is used to run 64 bit applications. Most versions of Windows on tablets and laptops are 64 bits. There are also other instructions set for multimedia, cryptography and security tasks.
Now, Windows can run 32 bit apps on 64 bit computers using WOW or Windows-On-Windows emulation. Most mobile devices uses ARM and ARM-64 instruction set. Microsoft is now planning to run x86 on ARM64, which will bring all 32 bit classic desktop apps to Windows Mobile devices having 64bit processors.
The process of emulation creates a virtual environment using software that will run the apps. It will be transparent to the user. The user can launch the app and use it just as he or she does with any other phone app. A lot of us use 32 bit programs on 64 bit versions of Windows even without knowing that there is a process of emulation going on in the background.
Continuum and the Cellular PC
Continuum has been a big hit for Microsoft. You can dock a Windows Phone with a screen, keyboard and mouse and use it as a PC. Now, with the full featured Windows 10, you can do a lot more, just by using your phone. Check out the video below that shows Windows 10 Enterprise running on a quad core Qualcomm processor and 4GB RAM. You can see how you can use Office, Photoshop, play videos and even games.
A Clearer path for the Surface Phone
It is rumored that Microsoft is closely working with Qualcomm and also HP to bring Ultra mobile personal computers to the market. The 10mm FinFET processors by Qualcomm will be smaller and more efficient allowing full-fledged Windows to run without hiccups. This update for Windows is coming in Redstone 3, which is scheduled to release in 2017 fall. Chances are that we can see the Surface Phone by then.