An ARM-powered version of the Surface Pro could be on the cards.
The revelation came in a post by longtime Microsoft watcher Brad Sams, discussing that Firefox is now available for testing on Windows on ARM devices. Sams dropped the revelation that Microsoft has “prototype Surface Pro devices floating around that use Qualcomm chips instead of Intel’s hardware”.
Surface Go might seem like more of an obvious fit for Snapdragon – and if rumours are true, Intel had to intervene to stop Microsoft seriously considering it for the first generation - but as that is more of a consumer-orientated device it might make more sense if it came to one version of the next-gen Surface Pro, which we should get later in 2019.
That Microsoft has ARM-based hardly a complete surprise, considering that Windows on ARM-based systems are expected to grow significantly over the coming years. ARM-based chips like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon will become even more adept at traditional PC strengths such as multitasking and all-out performance. And it looks like the sheer power efficiency of ARM-based platforms could give it an edge for ultramobile devices.
Qualcomm is currently in the driving seat for ARM-based PCs, and is on the second generation of its WoS (Windows on Snapdragon) systems, the latest featuring Snapdragon 850 with always-on mobile connectivity.
Windows has released its own ARM-based Windows PC before of course – the ill-fated Surface RT. But then, as now, Microsoft and its partners are poor at explaining to consumers that ARM-based Windows devices are different to Intel-based ones.
The biggest barrier to wider Windows on ARM support is the mess around app support – unless available in the Windows Store or specially prepared as a 64-bit ARM app, traditional Win32 apps have to be emulated – this hits performance.
And you can only install your own apps outside of the Windows Store if you switch Windows 10 out of S Mode. If you stick in S Mode, you need to stick with Store apps. For browsers, for example, that has meant you’re required to use Microsoft Edge, so the advent of Firefox support is most welcome as an alternative (providing it will be available in the Store).