The dream of a Windows 10 smartphone running desktop apps is apparently alive and well. And perhaps next year, it might arrive at a store near you.
Microsoft today announced a partnership with top mobile chip maker Qualcomm at a hardware developer conference in Shenzhen, China that will basically allow next-generation ARM chips to deliver a full-fledged Windows 10 experience, support for peripherals and mainstream applications included. So, yeah, we’re talking a better execution of Windows RT, which tried but ultimately failed to make ARM devices play nicely with Windows.
Microsoft says it is building an emulator into Windows 10 that will allow forthcoming Snapdragon-powered phones and tablets to run Adobe Photoshop, Google Chrome, Microsoft Office, or any of the million existing desktop apps right now. They should even be able to have a go at Crysis 2 without problems.
It is said the Snapdragon 835 will be the first Qualcomm chipset to offer hardware emulation, but it won’t be the last, and that the first ARM-based PCs aren’t due for release until the second half of next year.
Microsoft isn’t keen on explaining how the technology works, and, unfortunately, the emulator won’t run on today’s hardware, so we’ll have to wait until next year to find out. You can bet, though, that Snapdragon PCs should sell at lower price points and easily outlast their Intel and AMD counterparts, which is what Microsoft is pushing for here.
Think how much more compelling Windows 10 ultraportables would be if they were more affordable and offered all-day battery life without asterisks. It would have been the final nail in the coffin for Intel’s Atom family of processors, except the company had already thrown in the towel not too long ago.
Where does the Surface phone fit into all of this? Your guess is as good as ours; Microsoft is still mum on the fabled Windows 10 device. But it’s likely that — fingers crossed — when it does show up, it will have a Qualcomm chip under its bonnet.