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Microsoft is bringing Windows 10, with desktop app support, to ARM chipsets (theverge.com)
309 points by Tomte on Dec 8, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 206 comments



Microsoft are telling us this. When they deliver it I'll believe it.

As a Microsoft focused developer for 22 years and a windows phone user, everything still feels like its held together by sticky tape and string at the moment. It works but inconsistency and sometimes show stopping failures just ruin it. As an example, Windows 10 Mail just stopped working for me for 11 hours throwing an update settings notification loop on two devices. No fast ring here; only the stable releases. Edge is all marketing and is slow and clunky as fuck still.

This is daily friction which kills the platform. They need to focus on quality before promising features.


You've been a Microsoft focused developer for 22 years, and you're _still_ surprised by quality issues with their software?


I'm still surprised at how many things they can completely fuck up in one go. That is increasing.


Were the background images always there in Windows 10 mail? It honestly looks like an amateur access app from the 90's.


I enthusiastically started using windows mail when I switched to win8, and then discovered that file attachments were severely broken. They disappear from emails over time, and rather than fix the problem, it was suggested that we move a message from one IMAP folder to another to make them reappear. I wonder if they seriously thought anyone would put themselves through that.

That said, I am still a windows phone user. Yeah, there are no apps (even less these days, amazon and ebay actually pulled theirs from the store) but the UI is so neat, and i like to think having fewer apps makes me more productive.


Whilst bitching heavily about it earlier, I've got to be honest here. If they fix the people, mail and calendar app bugs, which they are doing rapidly, it destroys Apple and Google's offerings. I've only used them with an outlook.com and office 365 account so far but it really has potential. Just please Microsoft, don't screw it all up and feature dump too hard!

For reference I went on a six month long hiatus after using Android for about two years and getting shafted by zero updates, via a Nokia dumb phone and now to WP, which was where I was before the android handset. Android on a mid range handset is a disaster worthy of it's own rant in a more appropriate thread. My wife is always complaining about her iPhone 6s random problems like audio disappearing and suddenly getting random impossible to delete stuff appear in her calendar from emails and the inability to easily move music around. There's an opportunity to kill this friction.

As for app culture, screw it. When I had a dumb Nokia I learned that it pays to use a proper computer for anything serious so I run the phone as a music player, a phone and casual email/calendar device and nothing else.

eBay app was awful. The android one is no better - falls over all the time.


The developer experience is miles ahead of Android, even when looking at the phone/store split they had on 8.x.

The only downside was having accelerated graphics only available as pure COM instead of WinRT components, but even there the situation is improving.


The best thing I love about Windows development after coming from playing with Java and Android is the power and flexibility and saneness (is that a thing?) of XAML and WPF. And even the C# language is very much compared to Java.


absolutely. neither iOS nor Android allow you to build an app in pure javascript/html, or have an app that will run on both the desktop and mobile without a single code change.


People and Calendar have a ways to go with no Carddav or Caldav support.


I agree with you on the apps. I have 6 apps. Email, text, phone, podcasts, maps and browser.


Amazon only pulled theirs from Windows Phone 8.x.

It is there for Windows Phone 10.


Sadly my Lumia 925 doesn't do windows 10. It let me try out the dev previews but not the official release


I was pissed off with the 630 not being supported, but then I remembered that my Windows devices have actually got more updates than the Android ones and got a 650 to keep playing with UWP.


I have a 640 with a smashed screen for testing. I'm liking it enough lately that I'm tempted to drop the €40 for a new screen.

One thing I've noticed is that the voice recognition is not as good as it was on the WP8 SMS app. I love that I can use it anywhere now, don't understand why it's taken a backward step in accuracy though


Yes. First thing I turned off.


I don't understand all the hate here. Either it will work well or it won't, and the market will decide if it gets to live or die. For a company with resources like Microsoft that has its fingers in so many corners of the market, this seems like a workable, if inelegant, business strategy.

I am much more interested in the technical details of such technology. How are they doing this? Is it pure emulation? JIT transpilation? Does .NET CIL have anything to do with making this "emulation" easy?


This announcement provides a bit of credibility to the suspicion that Microsoft has been wanting to make a "Surface Phone" device for some time, but was delaying until the right pieces were in place. It is possible they had been working with Intel's Broxton and that chip's cancellation required returning to the drawing board, so to speak.

But it seems likely, to my mind, that what we see today—x86 emulation on a Snapdragon—materialized because Microsoft wants to deliver full Windows 10 on a phone-sized device and Intel wasn't able to give them the necessary platform.

Emulation may be inelegant, but the video [1] confirms performance that would be "good enough" (oh how I hate that phrase) for many users.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_GlGglbu1U


If it works, how usable would a desktop app run on a phone? I think Microsoft would intend to do this for tablets (which need longer battery life than what Intel provides) rather than a Surface Phone.


A desktop app would probably be tricky to use on a phone screen, but the big idea here is that you can connect the tiny computer in your pocket to a TV or a monitor and have it work just like a laptop, with no OS restrictions.


Maw, the emulation is for binary-only apps.

.NET can already be built to ARM CLR bytecode, or to ARM native/machine code.

This is for apps where you don't, and quite possibly never did, have the source.


Is the ARM CLR bytecode different from the x86 one ? Why ?


I don't think so. Because from my limited tinkering with UWP, I can build a single .appx package and deploy it both to my phone and to my laptop. Am I missing something?


No bytecode binaries run everywhere with a runtime (ms/mono) (and library support for whatever you are running).


This is a terrible strategy for technology early adopters and evaluators though. It's once burned, twice shy for a lot of people and Microsoft have burned a lot of people in the last few years by completely yanking the rug from under "supported" products.


I'm more than a little confused about MS "mobile" strategy. Continuum sounds like a good idea, in theory. For enterprise I can kinda see it be attractive to just give your employees mobile phones and hook the office up with continuum docks. But it seems problematic in more than one aspect. For starters it's based on the fact that people are going to want to use a windows mobile as their primary device to start with.

MS could have been there, in fact they almost were there, but they've let the mobile side drift aimlessly to the point were neither vendors nor third-party developers have any faith left in their mobile efforts. I could never wrap my head around how strategically MS could just let mobile go and not take the fight. It seems so integral to so many other efforts.

Another problem, is continuum really a good idea for anything else than niché scenarios? I have trouble coming up with use-cases. A laptop you can bring with you to meetings, on planes etc. With continuum you need a lap dock for that.. but then you have a sub-par laptop and a phone.

I guess if I were travelling it could be nice to just bring a mobile and connect it to a setup at a co-working space. But is carrying a dell xps 13 around really such a big deal? and what if I want to use a computer outside of the co-working space/office?

Then we have x86 apps on the mobile platform. There's been a lot of people wanting to see "Desktop" apps on mobile... I can understand that from a "continuum as a computer" perspective, if you buy into the continuum premise, but I can't see x86 software ever work well on a mobile form factor with the battery limits and UI challenges that comes with that.

So what is Microsoft's plan, now it seems they're just throwing stuff on the walls and to see what sticks. I'm a bigger UWP and .Net proponent than most, but I wish Microsoft would get their shit together and start executing across the board.

There's a bunch of stuff in UWP that could make the windows platform larger than the sum of its parts if you are in the ecosystem. Roaming settings/files, Notification mirroring and synchronization, universal apps, continuum, continue on another device etc etc. But it requires that there actually is an viable windows mobile that people wants to buy.


"So what is Microsoft's plan, now it seems they're just throwing stuff on the walls and to see what sticks."

Yes, and this is exactly what they should be doing. In some ways, it is what Microsoft has often done in the past.

Remember Windows Tablet circa 2004? It may have been a complete failure, but it shows Microsoft was looking toward and understood the future. Unfortunately it came at a time when Microsoft was not executing quite as well as they are now (in most areas I'd say - up for debate).

Many comments in the parent thread are about how this will lead to 'sub-par' laptops and 'AR isn't good enough', but they aren't building this for today, they are building this for 5-10 years from now.

It may be released next year (I hope so), but it will take a while for interaction and hardware and possibly social norms to catch-up.

Yes, this is what Microsoft should be doing now. Try 1,000,000 things, get 100 out into the market, see what people respond to. This is what we tell start-ups to do all the time, and we suggest that big corporates should imitate start-ups, but then we bludgeon them when they put out an incomplete product.


Absolutely agree. "seeing what sticks" is also called innovation. It's what Amazon and Microsoft are excelling at and what Apple has forgotten how to do


I think the problem at MS is indeed not the lack of innovation, but the lack of synchronizing the different efforts and listening to feedback (i.e. checking if it actually sticks).

In years of using and developing for WP, I've been baffled several times by how unsynchronized some of their actions looked from the outside. One thing always enraging WP users was that Android and iOS counterparts of MS apps received new features earlier than their WP counterparts, if at all. While the other platforms are surely important, it looks like even MS doesn't really believe in its own mobile platform.

I just never could get rid of the impression that one layer of management isn't doing it's job propery.


Definitely. The best example: When WP8 first launched, it was only one of two totally different Microsoft phone platforms. The Microsoft Kin was simultaneously developed and launched by a wholly separate team. It cost $1 Billion to develop and lasted for 2 months before the plug was pulled. Mismanagement doesn't get any more blatant than wasting a billion dollars to build something your company is already building on another campus.

Regarding the WP apps though, I do find the WP OneNote to be better than the Android version.


If it's really for 5-10 years from now, they should release it in 5-10 years when it's fully baked. How can any product that needs at least another 5 years of work be anything other than a poorly implemented beta product that isnt fully thought out and doesn't work properly?

Apart from the total disregard that shows for current customers, the big issue with that attitude is that it's fundamentally incompatible with the discipline and focus needed to actualy get the product right even 5-10 years down the line.

Poorly thought out, badly implemented compromised systems do not transform into great products. None of the parts of those half baked tablet computers from Origami and such exist to this day. The whole lot had to be junked when Apple showed everyone how it ought to be done. The fact that they had a half baked solution to sell actively prevented better solutions being developed within Microsoft because they would compete with the existing system. It's a recipe for mediocrity now and failure in the future.


> If it's really for 5-10 years from now, they should release it in 5-10 years when it's fully baked.

You can't go dark and build a product for 5-10 years and then drop it on the market. While you're "baking" for years the market will change around you and you'll find that you built the wrong thing and someone else launched early and took the whole market with iterative improvements.

> Poorly thought out, badly implemented compromised systems do not transform into great products.

Sure they do. There's a reason people talk about minimum viable products and worse is better. You cannot build the perfect product in isolation. You build something good enough, get to the market, and keep making it better.

Disclosure: MSFT employee


But as so explained the example given - MS tablet computers or 'pen computing' shows the opposite. The modern Windows Phone OS would never have happened if Apple hadn't brought out the iPhone. They still be iterating on Windows Mobile. They had to throw out every bit if mobile tech they had and go back to square one. That's almost impossible to do on your own initiative if you've already got an existing viable product.

Another counter-example. What ever happened to Myspace and Orkut? What did their first mover advantage buy them? A legacy platform that held them back.


What about the products that won because they released "too" early and iterated? YouTube, Twitter, Windows?

Windows phone is an interesting example for you to choose. Do you imagine that the old Windows Mobile team would have produced an iPhone if they'd just kept working quietly? Of course not. No amount of baking would turn Windows CE into an iPhone or even the current Windows Phone. On the other hand, Android released super early when it felt junky, but they iterated repeatedly and eventually beat Apple in market share.


> throw out every bit if mobile tech they had

WP7 run on Windows CE kernel, same as Windows Mobile. It uses embedded version of .NET and Silverlight, both pre-existing. Even the touchscreen friendly UI language (once called Metro) existed before windows phone, the first product was Zune.

The only bits they had to throw out is marketing bits, branding, logos, that kind of BS. The tech however is an evolution, not "back to square one".


Windows Phone 7 was two major versions ago, and its CE base was ditched with WP 10.


That is correct. But you mentioned Windows Mobile, so I presumed by “back to square one” you meant WM 6.5 -> WP 7.0 transition.

They indeed replaced the OS kernel while transitioning from WP7 to WP8.

However, they inherited the rest of tech things from WP7. Both .NET and Silverlight were almost same as in WP7, they released the new non-Silverlight UI platform later with WP 8.1 update. Same applies to GUI design, marketplace and other online services. They even inherited non-tech things as well, i.e. logo and branding.

You see, at no point they were starting things from scratch. Instead, they released new generations of products largely based on the stuff they already had developed and tested.


> If it's really for 5-10 years from now, they should release it in 5-10 years when it's fully baked.

> Poorly thought out, badly implemented compromised systems do not transform into great products.

Microsoft has never needed their first version of a thing to be fully basked in order for the product to eventually be successful. Ever.


My personal take away from your critique is that the problem is not just the computer. We also need a mobile display solution. Whether MS thinks they have that solved with their coming AR devices or they are looking farther down the pipe, I'm not sure.

I think MS's plan right now is to not have a plan. Many of their products point to them thinking that we are at a point where computers are making a fundamental shift in the way we interact with them (Surface, AR, this) but not necessarily being sure where the shift is going.


Miracast is a Windows 10 supported mobile display solution with increasingly surprising ubiquity. You currently can't expect every hotel room TV to support it yet, but a generic Miracast stick (or Amazon Fire stick if you want a branded one) can be obtained pretty cheaply and is small and easy to tote around.

Microsoft has a folding bluetooth keyboard that fits in my pocket and is surprisingly nice to work on despite the size.

Keyboard, stick, phone, phone charger is just about all I need to be productive, and with a bit of arrangement I can fit all of that in carpenter's jeans pockets.

I think MS has several plans in motion but has been slow to get all of the moving parts in place. The Creator's Update and "Redstone 3" to follow sounds like some of those plans are finally starting to converge (now that the basic infrastructure is in place).


Intel also has their Compute Stick devices for people who need a full x86 PC in the same form factor. They're surprisingly inexpensive.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Compute_Stick


I think we've definitely hit a Gibson's Law inflection point here: the future is clearly already here and we can definitely see it; it's just very unevenly distributed right now.


I have a little hard time seeing AR-glasses and minority report like gloves/hand waving (or virtual keyboards) being feasible (at least before a couple of generations of improvements), but perhaps that's lack of imagination on my behalf. It seems like it get's more expensive/more complicated while not solving the same problems.

Sure in the far far future there might be feasible solution but in the meantime it would be nice if Microsoft had an idea of where they were headed instead of shrugging and going "well let's just see" :) They need to keep their ecosystem competitive to be positioned to take advantage of that future, whatever it is.


I have a little hard time seeing AR-glasses and minority report like gloves/hand waving (or virtual keyboards) being feasible (at least before a couple of generations of improvements), but perhaps that's lack of imagination on my behalf

AR-glasses should be given to programmers and traders. What if AR-glasses could somehow be synchronized with what you're looking at in your IDE/editor? How about "diff-vision?" -- You could have a visual overlay that diffs the currently shown method/function with another bit of code from a stack?

I think the gloves are silly. Hand gestures would be a nice supplement to function keys. Heck, I could envision a bunch of good gestures that would mean less finger travel than function keys.


What's the benefit against just visualizing it on the screen? Another problem is how comfortable it is staring through AR glasses hours at and end. I don't want to be the person to only see problems however, there might be some nice scenarios.


What's the benefit against just visualizing it on the screen?

If it was somewhat independent of any particular tool, it's possible that I could diff faster and more conveniently. If I can do it 5x faster than with a desktop tool, then I would probably use diffs a lot more often. It's the kind of change that happened with git vs. svn: certain information became much easier to use, and so the way that information was used fundamentally changed.

I'd also use such a tool differently. Instead of going statement-by-statement or character by character, I'd want to see at a glance the degree of similarity, then transition to a desktop tool to look at details.


That's a pretty good point.... (mobile display)

That means that msft must be working on some way to address this.

Possibly, they see continuum as a way to interconnect many devices made by their vendors?


I could never wrap my head around how strategically MS could just let mobile go and not take the fight.

Senseless Corporate Priority inversions are most often some combination of internal politics and/or money grabs.

I have trouble coming up with use-cases...but then you have a sub-par laptop and a phone.

People who prioritize for ultra light weight already have a "sub-par laptop." So what if you could get rid of the laptop? A large company that standardized around docks would make that possible. All large companies standardizing around, say USB-C connectors and a Windows ubiquitous wireless "dock" standard would make that possible for US corporations in general.

I wish Microsoft would get their shit together and start executing across the board. It's just sad seeing the mix mash of wasted potential.

Despite their huge success, such a statement could apply to Microsoft throughout most of its long history. I suspect that internal politics is behind much of that.


I dunno, take the Dell xps 13, depending on your specs you have pretty powerful laptop in a 11" format. Compare that against the HP Lap dock (https://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/pdp/HP-Elit...). Expensive and it isn't even a full laptop.

I think the problem I'm having with continuum is that it's based on us only using the computer in a few fixed places, whereas the good thing about laptops is that they can be used anywhere..

I agree that internal politics is most definitively the bane of Microsoft's existence :)


> I think the problem I'm having with continuum is that it's based on us only using the computer in a few fixed places

I'm still holding out hope for a "Surface phone" with a laptop dock. The dock would really just be a battery, keyboard, trackpad, display, and probably a few USB ports.


I'd add a GTX 1060 GPU.


Personally, I like the idea of having one compute device that is always with me BUT only if it can be both a good phone and a good PC. Windows Continuum made no sense to me because Windows is a niche platform on mobile so it wasn't a good phone, and it didn't run my favorite Windows apps in PC mode either! With Windows 10 on Snapdragon, however, it could be a decent desktop PC (assuming a good dock with KVM and connectivity) but will it also be a good phone? That remains to be seen but I won't be surprised if some people start buying the new devices as low-end PC replacements (then using them as phones). If enough people do that, then developers might be persuaded to port native apps to Snapdragons, thereby enticing more people to buy these devices (iteratively)...


The continuum stuff is maybe the long term plan. But i think they could have a decent short term plan:

What about an affordable 7"-8" tablet that can offer windows mobile gaming(with an add-on joystick) and media + serve as a computer + serve as a media center ? could be a great fit for a the gamer niche, teens , and frugal consumers.

And a 7" platfrom is a great beachhead to encourage app development for 5" phones.


You mean like this? (8" Windows Tablet, $60.00)

https://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/pdp/NuVisio...

Which has Bluetooth 4.0, and will natively pair with Microsoft's Xbox One Bluetooth Gamepad. It also supports Miracast, so you can send Netflix / Hulu to your TV using Microsoft's Miracast Adapter ($50)

https://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/pdp/Microso...


>frugal consumers

I feel like nobody is attempting to hit that market anymore in the US. As the income gap widens it seems foolish to ignore the majority of the marketplace.


You can buy a 7" Fire tablet for $50. The market is not lacking options for frugal customers.


It's a start, Amazon is smart to move in that market. I say put Linux on it and add a keyboard and we'd be getting somewhere.


The market for people who care about Linux on a 7" tablet is effectively zero.

I'm also pretty sure it supports keyboards. Attaching one permanently and turning it into a 7" laptop would make it unsellable.


Does Android allow you to do any meaningful work? The OS is more of a problem than the form factor. Kindle is for games and Netflix not for homework or doing your taxes.


You can install TurboTax and Microsoft Office on Android (not sure about the Kindle Fire) so you can definitely do homework and taxes on it. Personally I don't want to do either of those on a tablet, but that's due to the small screen moreso than the OS.


I still have a WeTab at home that used to run Plasma Mobile (or whatever it was called back then). Those were the times.


> For starters it's based on the fact that people are going to want to use a windows mobile as their primary device to start with.

WP10 as the main OS, launch Android in a hypervisor, which ARMv8 supports.


i have immediately thought of that. Also Microsoft has Office Apps for Smartphones. I downloaded them once, but never used them. For a quick view a browser based solution would be sufficient, i really don't need full editing capabilities on my smartphone.

Speaking of tablets is entirely different, but microsoft already has the surface computer/tablet mix.


I use Word on Android + the MS fold-able mobile keyboard (pic in the article) to edit documents a lot. It works well for me on my P8 max. I am not the average user but I can't wait to never need a laptop or tablet again and just take my phone (or, better yet, clam shell) and fold able keyboard.


well, use cases might differ. I do most of the stuff on my laptop and only use my smartphone for reading in the train and social messaging.


Why can't there be a smartphone/tablet/desktop mix? With a single device, so that your apps are always running, you're always in the same place, all your data is always there (connectivity or no) etc.

ASUS actually already tried a smartphone/tablet device with PadPhone, but it lacked the productivity angle that full-fledged Win10 would bring to the table. Also, I think the idea of physically docking the phone into the tablet is counter-productive, because it results in a bulky device, and you cannot use the phone.

A simple tablet that is basically just a wireless display with touch makes a lot more sense, and the phone can stay in the pocket. I also wonder how much lighter the tablet could be made if it didn't have to have a powerful chipset, and cooling for it.


> I could never wrap my head around how strategically MS could just let mobile go and not take the fight. It seems so integral to so many other efforts.

Real men have mobile platforms.


As soon as I saw Ubuntu Edge back in 2013, I have been dreaming of the day something like Continuum is a reality and not just for Windows. For Linux and MacOS as well.

Hopefully, it's not to far off now.


Greatly agreed. Being able to dock a phone and turn it into a fully functioning desktop is a phenomenal idea and feels like the natural progression.

I don't think we'll ever see that with the Mac though unfortunately, and I suspect Apple would never introduce a cursor and windowing system into iOS either.


If they bumped the storage options, I see no reason why the phone couldn't run iOS and the plugged-in desktop-phone run macOS. Photos, email accounts, chat logs, etc could easily point to the same data on disk so you have two operating systems working off the same user data. A lot of the UI infrastructure for this is already there in the form of iCloud shared photo libraries and iCloud drive, which lets you access files in each app's container.

Performance-wise, the iPhones are coming into line with the low end macs, and Apple is in a unique position with the Mac App store and past experience with chip changes (Rosetta) that it is a real possibility.

It seems like a task that the Apple of yesteryear could have easily pulled off. I'm not sure the current Apple has the vision or ability to pull this off though.


> It seems like a task that the Apple of yesteryear could have easily pulled off. I'm not sure the current Apple has the vision or ability to pull this off though.

Hitting the nail on the head.

It's entirely doable, but they won't do it.


To build on what you say, once one plugs in their iPhone and MacOS boots and is on display, the iPhone touch screen itself could then be used for the trackpad.

I could see a keyboard/dock combo where one could drop in their iPhone.


This is a very "un-Apple" approach, I'd be surprised to see a configuration like that. Instead I'd only see the potential for Apple to switch the macbook line to a specially designed ARM chip. They wouldn't say it's to make it cheaper to manufacture, instead they'd claim "now that we control the entire hardware stack we can do things we couldn't do before". They'll claim their special ARM chip gives almost 2x battery life, better security, etc. And since most Pro's aren't using macbooks there'd be less fear of incompatible pro software- as long as you have the iLife suite, ms office suite, adobe suite and browser running you'll satisfy 95% of macbook users. Apple would then use this transition to pressure Intel into much lower prices for pro-range cpu's or at least pressure them to do things with their cpu's that a next-gen ARM chip couldn't.

I don't see Apple blurring the lines of mobile/desktop UX simply because the ARM chip now enables the opportunity but I do see them moving their macbook line to ARM for cost reduction and increased leverage over Intel.


It's a neat idea, but I think it's an idea ahead of it's time still. There have been docking laptops forever and even that doesn't seem to have taken the world by storm.

My PC is configured with terabytes of slow storage, gigabytes of fast storage, a fast CPU, a fast GPU, and applications that need lots of storage and a fast video card and big screens. I'm unconstrained on size and power consumption and optimized for performance and my efficiency.

Meanwhile, my phone makes all kinds of compromises in order to be small and run all day on a single charge.

If being able to dock a phone is a good idea, why not go one step further? Make a watch that's your PC. When you sit down at a keyboard and monitor at Starbucks, it pairs with your watch and you get to work. Make the phone be nothing but a remote speaker, microphone, and display for your wrist computer. Your desktop is just a remote keyboard, mouse and display.


> It's a neat idea, but I think it's an idea ahead of it's time still. There have been docking laptops forever and even that doesn't seem to have taken the world by storm.

Probably not the world, but the customers I deal with, surely yes.

Laptops with docking station have been my work tool since 2006.


I'm not saying the market doesn't exist, just that it's probably not going to take off.

I too use a dock (or port expander) but haven't had a lot of luck since I started moving to high-dpi displays a few years ago. Do you have a laptop that can drive a couple of 4k displays?


The latest macbook pro can drive 2 4k displays per USB C port.

https://www.startech.com/AV/Converters/Video/thunderbolt-3-t...

I don't know if apple fixed the incompatibility problem with older thunderbolt 3 devices though.


It might probably, a Thinkpad workstation, W510.

However I am yet to get an employer or customer, having 4k displays, or allowing more than one external display.


Alternatively, make everything a remote keyboard/mouse/display for your home computer. Even another desktop computer.


It doesn't make a lot of sense to me because the software I run on my watch is nothing like the software I run on my desktop.

To use the typical car analogy, it feels like designing a motorcycle that you can attach a second set of wheels and a cabin to turn it into a car. Or a second set of wheels and a bed to turn it into pick up truck. Or wings to become an airplane. Or a hull to become a boat.


But the reason why you run different software on your watch is because it cannot be a desktop. What if it could?

All your examples sound ridiculous, because we know that there's no technological way to make it work well. But suppose there was one. Wouldn't you want a car that could turn into a monster truck, minivan, boat or airplane, if all of these actually worked well? Especially if it was all for a fraction of the combined cost of these things today?


Not really, honestly.

My car is useful. An adaptable car would take more design effort, so likely cost more. I have no use for a monster truck, a boat, I can't pilot an aeroplane, and if I did sink or crash-land my car then I'm out one car that I have use for, and need. (Wheras, if I hire and crash a boat now, my car is still fine).

And I don't want to imagine the insurance, MOT, or servicing cost for a vehicle which has to meet flight safety regulations but which is also waterproof and which has brakes able to stop a full minivan.

Minivan, might have limited use - but where would I keep the minivan part while it isn't on my car? And if I had somewhere to keep it, I may as well get a trailer or a roof-rack right now to get most of the benefit for almost none of the cost, or hire a minivan for a day if I need to carry more people instead of more stuff.


I think you're stretching the analogy beyond the limit of its usefulness :)

A phone is always on you anyway, usually in your pocket. What disadvantage do you see from making it the "universal compute unit", so to speak, driving your tablet, your laptop etc - which then just become combo display/entry devices?

If you don't need a device in a particular form factor, then you just don't buy one, and the question of storage doesn't arise. People can make arrangements depending on their specific use cases - someone might do phone/tablet, another person might do phone/laptop, yet another would span the full gamut with phone/tablet/laptop/desktop etc. And if you think that you don't need something, and then later find out that you actually do, it's easy to add that capability.

Cost is not really an issue here. Phones today are already powerful enough to serve as compute devices for all desktop tasks for the majority of the users, so we're not talking about anything more expensive than usual. And those user for whom it is not the case - developers, 3D designers, hardcore gamers etc - can still have dedicated devices, where it makes sense (i.e. usually for a desktop and/or laptop).


What disadvantage do you see from making it the "universal compute unit", so to speak

The very fact that it's a compromise means it will be worse than each of the individual solutions, but it will enable something new - and I'm not seeing anything very desirable in this space to be worth the compromise.

What exactly the disadvantage is depends on the exact compromises made, but USB-C is a small socket, many more connects/disconnects will lead to failures. Wireless links will struggle to be good enough for display output. Losing your phone on a night out would be much more disruptive and render you digitally-stranded.

If it drives your tablet, you don't get to give your tablet to your kids to play with and retain your phone. If it drives your laptop, you can't lend your laptop to a guest. If it drives your TV to watch a film, you can't be sitting around with other people and receive a text message and glance at your phone like they can. If you're working on a fullscreen spreadsheet, you're not going to want to interrupt it for an incoming text - and now you have no phone to glance at.

In order to make it a universal compute unit you increase the amount of code on it - attack surface goes up, need for patching goes up, complexity goes up, room for bugs goes up.

So you have a phone which is small, personal and convenient, and you have an empty shell of a tablet, an empty shell of a laptop, and an empty shell of a desktop - all of them could have their own smartphone class ARM CPU for say 5-20% more cost, but without it they're all useless and taking up space and you can't use more than one at a time.

But you also have a phone where you have to fiddle with the software all the time when you switch roles - disable notifications, connect USB-C things, connect bluetooth device so you can carry on using it as a phone, plug mains power in, redirect audio out to be bluetooth only for phonecalls and system audio to go to speakers, deal with 'ok google/hey siri' listening so it won't fullscreen over your work...

And for what benefit? Where's the call for "I wish I was in a hotel carrying my smartphone and the husk of a laptop, that would be so much better than having an actual laptop". Where's the call for "I wish my iPad couldn't do anything unless I had a thunderbolt cable connecting it to my iPhone, that would be really conveninent". Where's the call for "I wish my main keyboard was a portable bluetooth foldup one" or "I wish I could take my employees' $400 laptop and instead give them a screen, a keyboard, a mouse, a mains cable, a port adapter, and a big sheet of instructions, and some more training".

I guess the disadvantage I see is that companies are awful at integration, awful at UI, and the experience on the user (me) is that many things related to connectivity and integration between systems don't work, much of the time.


I disagree. Most people can get what they need done on something like a Chromebook which have comparable specs to the devices in their pockets. It's more so that the interface of the app, which is based on the screen size of the device is inconvenient. For instance, you wouldn't want to type a paper or do spreadsheets on your phone.


Most people don't write papers or create spreadsheets. Their phone is their computer.

The market that Microsoft seems to be after seems small to me. You already can do Chromebook like stuff with a phone and bluetooth keyboard and I do see people using that combination, just not very often.

What are the applications that have an interface that will scale well between a 4" handheld display and three 28" desktop 4k displays?


They don't: there are different UIs for different screen sizes.

Your data is in the cloud (eg a Word Document in OneDrive on on Azure) and you can access it from a full desktop program on a PC or Mac, from an app on iOS or Android, or via a web browser on any device that has one.

This is a cross-platform vision that works both online and offline (unlike Google) and that ultimately doesn't care which device you use (unlike Apple).


But that's not the vision from the article ("Microsoft is about to turn a phone into a real PC") or this thread.

Take a phone and plug in a bigger display and keyboard and mouse and suddenly it's a desktop computer. So a single application is going to need to cope with a 4" touchscreen display with no keyboard or mouse as well as a multi-monitor setup without touch, but with a keyboard and mouse.


> So a single application is going to need to cope with a 4" touchscreen display with no keyboard or mouse as well as a multi-monitor setup without touch, but with a keyboard and mouse.

Yes, it reflows. You use the app when it's in phone mode, and you get the full desktop-style UI when in Continuum mode. There are several demos online. See for example, from April 2015 (so it's surprising you haven't seen it before):

Windows 10 Continuum for Phones LIVE DEMO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc1efHpPIVo

More recently:

Enhanced Continuum For Phones demo (Build 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv5Y9vNOSMc


Sounds good in theory, but so far the real world results I've seen from the windows app store haven't worked out in practice.


> So a single application is going to need to cope with a 4" touchscreen display with no keyboard or mouse as well as a multi-monitor setup without touch, but with a keyboard and mouse.

Only if it makes sense for that application. It doesn't mean that every desktop app would be usable on the phone. Or vice versa, for that matter; although it is much more rare for a phone app to not be useful on the desktop.


Admittedly, it is getting better on the desktop.

As a desktop user, Windows 8 seemed ludicrous to me. Fire up a 4-function calculator or start the weather app and it gave me a full-screen view. Windows 10 is far better although they still show UI elements sized for touch even though I don't have a touchscreen.

> It doesn't mean that every desktop app would be usable on the phone.

The base computer should probably be a watch, not the phone.


I think the baseline depends on the type of app. For something like an alarm clock or calculator, yeah, it should probably be a watch. For something like maps, a phone makes more sense. For an office suite, I would expect the phone to have full viewing functionality, but editing should probably require at least a tablet (not to say disable it on the phone... just that it doesn't matter much if UI is awkward). Something like an IDE? Laptop/desktop, with mouse-centric UI.


personal compute mesh.


Can't you already do that today with any phone with an hdmi out and a Remote Desktop client?


This is something I've wanted for a few years now (even before the Edge). But the more I think about it, the less sense it makes. To explain, let's examine a couple variations.

First, you have your phone which connects to a dock, which lets your keyboard and monitor connect to the phone. Now, replace the dock with a full computer, but uses the phone for storage. If you had these two systems side-by-side, could you tell which one you were using?

I guess that there is something to having your state be saved, so you can take your phone off the cradle, connect it to another device, and resume all your open apps. But the same could be done if the cradle is a full computer, and undocking the phone does a suspend-to-disk (remember the phone is the storage device). You'd just have to have that action integrated into the undock button. But overall, I think I would be better served by having the phone be the storage device for my desktop computing environment, instead of also being the CPU, GPU, storage, RAM, network, usb, and everything else.


The end goal isn't whether state is ubiquitous or not. It is still that you don't need to buy a computer anymore, you can just buy a phone which does everything a computer does. Everything until that point is a compromise because the technology isn't there yet, but Microsoft also can't afford to not be ready the moment the technology is there, so they're iterating on it now to make sure they will be.


Don't think of just the American markets, think of developing markets.

India is mobile first. Most people don't have a PC, and may never have a PC.


Would they need it?


I'd say the more important question is: Can microsoft afford to not target it?

As for the answer to your question: Sure, why not? theres many limitations to a small screen. If all you need is a screen and keyboard dock, then why not?

You'll get cheap "phone docks" at home, and it would be like carrying your brief case to and from work.

If it works of course. Big if.


> Microsoft’s dominance in PCs means it’s the only company likely to pull it off at scale.

Try they might, but it's not going to work of you don't have another piece of the puzzle i.e. Mobile.

Microsoft is so much out of the mobile game, no matter what it's gonna do on PC, it'll not work. The windows phone is dead as a dodo, and they've nothing to show on mobile.

It'll take extraordinary efforts to get their continuum working on Apple/Google walled gardens.

This will fizzle out soon, not because of the technical merits, but due to App Store politics.


I don't think you can count Microsoft out of entering a market. They have the capital to startup and launch in probably any industry, including big pharma. I also think it'd be dangerous for Apple or google to count Microsoft out. Furthermore the economist in me wants to see many more options in the IT industry than just 2-3 so adding one more is welcome.


> They have the capital to startup and launch in probably any industry,

They tried that more than a few times and failed. X-box worked, but portable music players, mobile and search would be things they pumped massive amounts of money into and didn't get very far with.

But yes, I would like choice above all. I am not a big Windows fan, but Android is really starting to annoy me and iOS (or at least the rules around iOS) is too limited for what I do with computers/phones/tablets.


Bing has 30-40% of the market for search. Remember lots of search engines are just rebranded bing.


This https://www.searchenginejournal.com/august-2016-search-marke... says Google is 80% on desktop, higher if you count mobile too (for which it is 95%).

Oh, if you mean US only then these other people https://www.statista.com/statistics/267161/market-share-of-s... say Google is 64%, yeah.


40% in the US seems way too high. And a large part of that percentage probably comes from Yahoo - whose future seems uncertain. Also, a lot of those rebranding efforts aren't exactly free so any money they do make is usually shared.


That's a pretty big claim.. Hate to be that person but do you have any sources on that?


They pumped massive amounts of money into mobile and won it. Windows Mobile destroyed the previous incumbent Palm. Sure, they subsequently lost it, but let's not be too quick to forget.


Fairly sure Bing makes them heaps of money now.


Apple/Google aren't discounting MS, they just need to control their walled garden and contunuum will be DOA.

MS had time and again failed miserably to gain foothold in mobile, and failed miserably.

MS is like IBM in the 90s, it's past its prime.


What market are they entering? Mobile? Didn't they just quietly step away from it from it after losing more than 10 Billion and achieving a less than 1% market share?


Leaving a market doesn't mean Microsoft can't re enter.


Microsoft is in mobile: it already has dozens of apps on both iOS and Android. It really doesn't care whose phone you use, it just wants you to use its apps to access your data on Azure.

If your data is in OneDrive, you can access it using anything that has a browser, including a Chromebook.


I think they need to focus more on encouraging developers to get into making Apps for their platform.

In my opinion, we don't need another platform to learn - you can see how many people agree with me when you look at how prevalent web > native technologies are right now. PhoneGap, ReactNative, NativeScript.

If Microsoft decided to focus on Edge, not as a token "we still make browsers" gesture, but with a genuine interest to innovate.

They focused on web technologies, providing native support for web within their operating systems. Support in ways other manufacturers haven't.

Imagine if their app store was a place where you could publish a progressive web app (along side their current apps).

How low would the barrier of entry be then?


> Imagine if their app store was a place where you could publish a progressive web app (along side their current apps). How low would the barrier of entry be then?

Win10 (UWP) apps can be written entirely in HTML5/JS:

https://msdn.microsoft.com/windows/uwp/get-started/create-a-...

Insofar as the HTML and JS standards specify APIs, it uses them - e.g. you get IndexedDB, websockets, canvas, WebGL etc. For OS-specific things that aren't covered by the standards, you invoke WinRT APIs directly, but they're exposed as JS objects (and in a way that maps naturally to idiomatic JS - e.g. callbacks for async).

All this has been there since Win8. What more, Microsoft is also investing into PhoneGap, e.g. by adding direct support for it in its tooling:

https://www.visualstudio.com/vs/cordova/

so as to encourage people developing HTML-based apps for other platforms, which would, coincidentally, then be easier to port to UWP.

So if you're right, then this is already actively being pursued. But so far it doesn't seem to be having a big effect.


yeah their total lack of market share in mobile is going to be much more of a limiting factor than their dominance in PC OS will help them


Wow. It just clicked:

We could have a future where your personal computer fits easily in your pocket, you can carry it everywhere you go, and you just plug it into whatever monitor & keyboard & mouse you happen to be near by, whether it's in a coffee shop, at work, at home, on an aeroplane, anywhere!

It's almost kind of the return of the mainframe & terminal. Your OS & apps would be installed on your device, and your data would primarily be on your device but also backed up in the cloud.

This is one of the first computer-based innovations I'm actually excited about in like 15 years. Count me hopeful.


It's almost kind of the return of the mainframe & terminal.

Man, I hate to be Mr. Pedantic here, but with mainframes/terminals all of the processing and data storage took place on a machine you couldn't see and (probably) didn't control. Which is the exact opposite of having the machine in your pocket.

When really what we're asking for is better OS and device support for peripherals. If an iPad had mouse support, I'd have little need for a MBP save running Xcode.


> Man, I hate to be Mr. Pedantic here, but with mainframes/terminals all of the processing and data storage took place on a machine you couldn't see and (probably) didn't control. Which is the exact opposite of having the machine in your pocket.

To be fair, much of the processing and data storage is going on in the cloud.


Yeah that's why I said "almost." I was just drawing parallels.


Just think of the security nightmare of plugging your computer into hardware on a data bus like USB. And that is not even taking into consideration that using a publicly available screen and keyboard which on their own can easily be used for logging screen and key data.


I think you would need to be careful to not put sensitive information into those terminals but that's not too hard to avoid in general. Generally I'm not doing anything that sensitive on my computer and with how my computer is configured I almost never have to actually type passwords.


Except for most people (the kind who don't read Hacker News) their phone is their primary computing device and likely the only one they own. There already is loads of sensitive data on these peoples' devices. The only difference is they aren't yet plugging it into random hardware.


I doubt you would give it access to arbitrary memory so to actually get the data they would need an exploit of the USB connections and while it increases the attack surface I don't think it increases it unreasonably. The larger concern to me would be someone could be capturing the keyboard and monitor you connect to and could get most of your information through that.


USB3 alternate modes happily allow DMA with host devices. If the device supports Thunderbolt as an alternate mode, that gets...tricky. And given that it's pretty likely that this posited setup would encourage the use of external graphics processing hardware...red flags, Batman.


it could be wireless display and wireless keyboard, mouse


That does not prevent the display/keyboard from capturing everything you look at or everything you enter though. Using untrusted I/O devices, wireless or wired, is a privacy and security risk.


Just to build on this: I heard tell of a USB hard drive, back in the day, that would install its driver when plugged in. It did this by claiming to the attached device that it was a keyboard instead of a hard drive, and then sending keystroke data imitating opening a command prompt with hotkeys and typing in the installation commands. It's not difficult to imagine what "the bad guys" could have done instead (as if that wasn't bad enough).

An I/O device is inherently a security risk because it sits in-between the user and the system, and effectively acts the intermediary between the two. That's a ton of trust.

This isn't a completely unsolvable problem. One could imagine a security system where an app using external I/O is opt-in, and even then given restricted access (e.g. not in the Settings area). But it's something that has to be created and put in place first, and there will probably be some associated user friction.


I notice you didn't have any phone interactions. You could do this with a compute stick today, although there aren't that many kvm stations hanging out right now.


I believe I have a right to computing freedom, and actively try to use free software on my personal computer and on servers I develop on and deploy to. I have EOMA68 laptop and desktop housings[0] coming, hopefully in the spring. I am also about to build a server with a motherboard that is supported by Libreboot[1] and processors that work fine without microcode updates.

I use Android phones and tablets, but as long as they have non-free components, I will never accept the "convergence" paradigm. If I can't have freedom all of the time, at least I won't surrender it all of the time.

[0] https://www.crowdsupply.com/eoma68/micro-desktop

[1]https://libreboot.org


Just curious, did you support the Ubuntu Edge effort a couple years back? Why or why not?

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ubuntu-edge#/

I ask because my perspective is that the convergence effort started a long time ago...perhaps as early as Canonical's original controversial release of the Unity desktop...and these efforts by larger players are more or less followers (albeit higher powered followers with larger market reach).

This being the case, I actually support the "convergence" paradigm...particularly Ubuntu's efforts but even from players like Microsoft...since I see convergence as a way of cracking open (to some extent) the walled gardens mobile devices have become.

But I wonder if there is some part of the Ubuntu Edge that was "closed" and I didn't notice.


I think the opposite.

Microsoft has a "legacy" on x86 that its open and standardized. Once it moves to ARM, all bets are off (see surface).

I wonder if I'm going to be able to install Linux on a "PC" in ten years


They standardized ARM with UEFI and ACPI. All bets are not off, Secure Boot was defeated :)


Even if the OS itself is free, using the modem requires a non-free blob.

That's why I prefer to keep my phone and PC separate.


Do you have access to the firmware code in your keyboard? Your monitor?

I'm not criticizing your decision, and it's certainly yours to make, but people (and also Stallman) draw such very strange lines of demarcation about this stuff.


The distinction is very simple. Either it's hardware or it's software.

If the firmware is written to flash once and then can no longer be updated by the vendor or the user then the firmware is treated as hardware, even by RMS.

https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-hardware-designs.html

>What is the boundary, in digital devices, between hardware and software? It follows from the definitions. Software is the operational part of a device that can be copied and changed in a computer; hardware is the operational part that can't be. This is the right way to make the distinction because it relates to the practical consequences.

>There is a gray area between hardware and software that contains firmware that can be upgraded or replaced, but is not meant ever to be upgraded or replaced once the product is sold. In conceptual terms, the gray area is rather narrow. In practice, it is important because many products fall in it. We can treat that firmware as hardware with a small stretch.


You raise a good point, which prompts a genuine question: does having a free OS and BIOS help safeguard against "rogue" peripherals (since the system knows what they're supposed to do)?


The system doesn't, though, not really. I mean, consider something running over Thunderbolt. A device that doesn't even tell you it supports Thunderbolt (and triggers it via USB3 alternate modes) then has direct, unimpeded access to the physical memory space of the computer. PCMCIA cards, PCI cards, FireWire...USB, itself is more intermediated--but that's also why latency is higher. You can disable DMA in the BIOS, but then lots of devices won't work at all.

If you're doing free-all-the-stuff for principle, I think it gets un-comfy drawing the line at stuff that runs on x86 and ARM ('specially as your monitor probably has an ARM in it anyway). If you're doing it for security, I think you must strive for peripheral openness too, or you're mostly wasting your time.


Thanks for your insights.

I believe computing freedom is a right people should assert, and I should inform them why they should assert it, but I don't go as far as saying it's unethical to use non-free devices and/or software. At least not when non-free is more readily available and, from the perspective of the average user, more "convenient" than free.

Personally, I like Debian because it removes non-free blobs from the kernel (and I check the license on a package before I install it). But let's say Ubuntu was the only available GNU+Linux distribution. I would still choose it over Windows or MacOS because mostly free is better than completely non-free, and I would rather support Ubuntu (or Android, for that matter) than enable and give money to Microsoft or Apple.

As for peripherals, from a practical point of view, doesn't the type of peripheral matter? A monitor or printer (output devices) going rogue seem far less dangerous than a rogue webcam, for example.


If the monitor speaks Thunderbolt, then it can DMA your system memory and going rogue is a game-over situation.

Personally, I don't really care at all about RMS's weird definition of freedom and I use what's best for accomplishing my goals. But drawing arbitrary lines of "freedom" has always made even less sense to me.


>A device that doesn't even tell you it supports Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt devices have to be approved before they can be used.

http://dxg49ziwjgkgt.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/...

http://dxg49ziwjgkgt.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/...


They don't have to; some operating systems allow you to make that call. And they can lie to you, so that approval means very little.


Some devices give access to that stuff, I believe. See the upcoming Pyra for a fully-open hardware Linux PC that's about the size of a Nintendo DS. And see Keyboard.IO for a fully-open keyboard, including source code, hardware design, etc.

Though it is a good question that raises a lot of questions of what things we're using have source in them that we can't touch that we don't normally think about. I don't think I'd ever thought about firmware in a monitor or keyboard.


Crowd Supply has a page up for an upcoming mini-PC/phone project called Minotaur One: https://www.crowdsupply.com/qutecha/minotaur-one


Complete change from just a few years ago when they seemed hellbent on turning my computer into a smartphone!


I know I'm in the minority but I tried out Windows Phone for a couple years and loved the interface and the experience. But the app store/vendor lock-in is its achilles heel and ultimately its undoing. When I bought my phone I was betting that more app developers would go HTML5 web apps (and break up the, but the opposite happened, and I felt like I was on the outside looking in with my iOS/Android friends.

I do feel a phone/PC convergence is inevitable, x86 emulation on ARM is the future, and web-based mobile apps will make a comeback, but that day seems far off.


Why bother with emulation? The only app I use with any amount of regularity that doesn't run well on arm is spotify.

EDIT: I forgot you where talking about windows, still, if you stick to open source *nix stuff then you really don't have this problem.


Hmm, x86 emulation on ARM is the most interesting nugget. No one here thinks Windows Phone will be back in any serious capacity and that brand is pretty much finished.

Looks like this will run similar to how Apple got PowerPC apps running on early Intel Macs. Emulated just enough to cross the bridge to the Intel bits so that performance wasn't completely unusable. You could really run Adobe Photoshop, which would have been unthinkable if it was full emulation.

Question for this effort, is this Microsoft revisiting Surface Books that are running on ARM chips?


My hunch is a Surface Phone that can hook up to a larger screen and become a full computer, but I'm not sure how that would work if you ever need data that's in a win32 app while you're mobile. Guess it could run a desktop like you can use VNC/RDP apps on phones, let you pan and zoom around?

Not a great experience, but then again, touch input on the Windows desktop on the whole Surface line is occasionally janky when you have poorly compatible software, so that's nothing new.


> ever need data that's in a win32 app while you're mobile

Your data is assumed to be in the cloud, or on your SD card. If not, you do what we did roughly 20 years ago from (pre-smartphone) PocketPC handhelds: used RDP.

This was so much fun, you remembered to stick it on a ComnpactFlash card for next time ;-)


Pour a little out for the Friendster of this concept:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OQO


So, Microsoft finally solved the Windows on ARM puzzle.

Did it take them more than five years to write an x86 emulator, or did they only decide to try this after Windows RT had failed?


I don't consider RT a failure itself... I think the failure was in ignoring legacy application environments and not having dev platforms available for testing/targeting windows rt ahead of time as a .Net build target.

If they'd supported a dev box (something like a beefy rpi3 with 2-4gb of ram, and ssd support) and sold that early for developers with windows rt a year ahead of the tablet/convertibles it would have gone much smoother.

They also should have pushed the .Net Core much sooner, and it should still be a bit further along than it is at this point. I do think it will get there though. The real question is will someone beat them to the punch.

I think ChromeOS and the Chromebooks are proof that this level of device is good enough for a lot of people and being able to dock a phone for a platform OS for most people is probably good enough hardware wise at this point. It's just that MS has always fallen short when it comes to quality control and polish.


RT has a considerable recompiled software collection right now, it's a bit too late now though, and it requires SecureBoot unlocking to be used.


On a Microsoft scale, it's always been trivial to write, I think it has a lot more to do with the gap in phone vs laptop performance shrinking significantly. Mainly because laptops have been stagnant.

Using any kind of desktop software on a 2011 mobile phone would have been horrible, even if the ARM translation were free.


Doing it well while either obtaining patent licenses or avoiding patents, however, could make it non-trivial.


That's true, but Windows RT was for tablets. Could a 2012 Windows RT tablet have run x86 software passably?

I think maybe it could have, but the problem was that Microsoft believed the Windows Store and Metro was the future.


The x86 emulator idea was first tried in 2010 with Drawbridge on Experiment 19.


Does it really make sense to reuse hardware, optimized for low power usage, when ample power is available? Why not use a real PC in the office, when all the data is in the cloud anyway? I think this is a neat trick, but I don't see the purpose.


What else can Microsoft do? Without this, there's really no mobile strategy except to support users and developers on Android and iOS (which isn't a terrible strategy).


Wow I just did a quick search here and found zero references to the word "Internet"! Nobody mentions the IoT.

Internet of Things is and will be running on ARM CPUs, ARM GPUs, ARM Display, ARM Video, etc. Not having your major OS on ARM means you are behind Android, behind iOS, behind Linux, behind IoT and basically behind the world...

Have you seen Windows 10 IoT Core? https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/iot

Some companies have already been making ARM microprocessors for Windows 10 IoT core for a while now.

This one for example runs it: https://www.pine64.org/?page_id=3707


Yup, I run IoT Core in my Raspberry Pi 2, and run a C# UWP app on it to dynamically update my DNS settings. The UI is lovely, and the UWP API in general, too.

Both JIT and native modes of operation work. Hell, I can also build it for my desktop PC, and it's literally only changing the build target. It's phenomenally easy, so easy that I was actually a little in disbelief at first. .


I am waiting to see the MacBook Pro run on ARM with 10x more battery life :)


Or my preference with 32 cores; some for power efficiency and some for battery life.


I can't wait:

C:\Program Files\

C:\Program Files (x86)\

C:\Program Files (ARM)\


Not knowing how this works internally, I think "Program Files (ARM)" would be unnecessary - the native platform is ARM, so it gets "Program Files", x86 is emulated (how different is x86-on-ARM than x86-on-x64?), so it gets "Program Files (x86)".


I can't wait:

  C:\Program Files\
  C:\Program Files (x86)\
  C:\Program Files (ARM)\
  C:\Program Files (ARM64)\


On ARM64, C:\Program Files\ is used for native. and the normal (x86) path for WoW.


Although for my use cases a phone will most likely never be fast enough I can see this working for a large majority of end users.

As someone in my office just said: "This is like saying 'of course shoes need laces'".


As a developer, I think I'm damn close to being able to work on a phone's processing power. The biggest problem is driving large enough monitors at this point, but most of my work can be handled via SSH when speed is an issue.


On my windows desktop, at least half the time, I am using an SMB share in my Linux VM to use a gui editor in windows (love VS Code), and have a few SSH terms in conemu connected to the same VM for running stuff. On mac, I managed to do fine locally against iTerm2. I tend to deploy against linux so this is the least friction for me.

I was actually fine with a chromebook a couple years ago, but couldn't get it to work with the VPN at work... So went back to an mbp. A lot of people do fine with this level of device (hence the chromebooks). I think the real shift will be in terms of integration without friction, which MS has a poor track record of, and most developers in general do poorly with.

Who knows though.


If the email and calendar apps of Win 10 Mobile aren't are seamless and simple as the iOS apps, it's a non-starter. The current apps look like they're from 1999 and are horrible when you have multiple accounts.

There are probably about 1000 apps that MS would need to make sure are in their own app store for any new Surface Phone to survive, plus continuum, plus "something else".

I personally think they need to dump the tiles and mimic the UX of iOS/Android and just admit that's what people like and are comfortable with.


I wish them the best of luck. This could be big if it works well.


I wonder what their end user is here. Android is clearly the winner which Windows Phone has lost to.

Perhaps they are aiming for productivity based use that requires windows toolsets? Sort of like a Bring Your Own Work Device to work that will inherently tie the worker beyond the office?


If they released a windows phone that connects to monitors and has the basic word processing and web browsing capabilities I would definitely consider buying one. Also as long as monitors and everything aren't very expensive I could see them eating part of the market for chromebooks and tablets


I think Surface Pro + ARM Processor + Cellular Connectivity will be the ultimate portable development environment.

I think bouncing off on your idea of the windows phone, it'd be a crazy win if you at the end of the day, you didn't have to carry a big laptop bag, but you could carry it in your back pocket.

maybe we don' even need monitors or keyboards. it could be VR or AR even....!


If they are emulating Win32 x86, surely they can end up emulating Android, complete with a Google Play Services replacement?

Windows Phone was always smoother, just suffered from absolute shit app store and no clear commitment to devices.


Ironic that instead of working on establishing a proper mobile software platform, Microsoft is spending enormous resources on escaping the Intel ecosystem just as Intel is finally getting a handle on pushing its x86 line into smartphone power consumption territory.


>Intel is finally getting a handle on pushing its x86 line into smartphone power consumption territory.

Intel cancelled their smartphone x86 chip in April.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/10288/intel-broxton-sofia-smar...

Perhaps they'll re-enter the smartphone market but it's unlikely to be anytime soon.


Make this platform "extendable" - a la Motorola and Moto Z Droid - and MS might be on to something. It's silly how much redundant hardware each of us own.

It's then just a matter of apps. If that's dev once for all Win 10, then the future looks bright.


You know what I don't get is why on Earth do game publishers and console manufacturers like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo get in the way of people's creativity. This arcane idea of make a big huge console and filter the hell out of content on it is like prehistoric now. Ok, yo don't want spam, virus or stuff like that but I don't get why these companies don't just let go. Why make yourself a bottleneck!? Look at Google's ranking method. The more a page is liked the higher it appears when doing a search. Wouldn't it be funny if Google said, no "submit" your pages to us and we will review which ones should be listed on our search engine!? That's what these old school console ecosystems are doing. Make a 100% open ecosystem, make it not depend on a particular hardware or operating system and let people create. It's like you know depending on hardware is a limiting factor, you know depending on a particular OS is a limiting factor, you know manual filtering of content is a limiting factor. What do people want!? As a player I want a game streaming service, as a developer I want a multiplayer networking service to build my game on. The rest is history... Why not just build the infrastructure, relief yourself from all that stuff like H/W, O/S, etc. (make it someone else's pain). Why!?


It's kinda a twist on razors v razor blades. There's profit in power. And as much as VCs and such rave about disruption, there are just some fights they're afraid to pick.


Good news. I never imagined to buy a "Windows Phone", but if they do that, and provide a good "restore" system (i.e. easy recover of a non-booting phone via USB), I would be glad of using one, so I can avoid traveling with a laptop (e.g. using the phone on hotel TVs with Bluetooth keyboard would be very convenient).

I hope Android provide an equivalent thing. For me a simple dual boot of e.g. an Ubuntu read-only image stored in the SD card or similar would be enough for my needs, if MHL/HDMI-Out, USB OTG, and Bluetooth work properly.


It could get very interesting... most of the profits from phones seem to be the "storage" differentiation on overpricing the extra storage... I don't think I could get by with a desktop with less than 128gb of open space... though RDP and SSH access could offset this a lot. Wonder if I can manage to get cifs sharing over ssh tunnel.


Though there are many negative comments here,I think this is going to be huge for win for many if they deliver the mobile part decently. At least if they port windows phones basic apps as it is (caller,messages,email etc),I will give it a try -You have a decent working portable machine with amazing battery life - You can domain join your phone and you will be able to access your internal apps -Continuum will be anyway present so you can attach to other devices


Licensingwise where is the difference between x86 software emulation, x86 hardware assisted emulation and new x86 processor? What I get from this is that they will do user mode emulation like qemu-user. Either way they will emulate it in software. If they would add a co-processor that would assist the emulation, would it need a license from Intel? I understand if it would run as a normal x86 core it would require it.


I really gotta wonder if this was a long term plan or in response to Intel leaving MS in the lurch with the changes to x86 strategy on mobile or a bit of both.


Clearly a long-term plan because Microsoft wouldn't have been able to do it so quickly.

Also, Intel did not leave Microsoft in the lurch: Intel left Intel in the lurch.

It made no difference at all to Microsoft, which already had Windows on ARM smartphones and tablets. It didn't even lose any revenue, because Windows is free on small screen devices.


I think it screwed up Microsoft's original Surface Phone strategy if the tech press is to be believed.


You're worrying about ill-informed speculation about a hypothetical product? ;-)


No, I'm worrying about a strategy that would have been a bit easier to implement. I have about as much belief in the hypothetical nature of a Surface Phone as people had about an Apple Phone. An intel chip would have made much more sense for Microsoft.


No, it wouldn't. Microsoft's long term preference is to move to sandboxed apps downloaded from the Windows Store.

If you're running Windows 10 on a smartphone with an Intel chip then you're potentially leaving yourself open to badly-written Win32 programs that can have devastating effects on performance, security and battery life.

If you're only going to allow UWP apps then it doesn't matter whether it's a ARM chip or an Intel chip.

In passing, OEMs can already make and sell Intel-based smartphones and tablets with free Windows 10. However, Intel-based phones like the Asus ZenPhone weren't successful, which is why Intel dropped the new Atom SoCs for phones and tablets....


I have been expecting a single central computing unit which serves as a phone, docked to a living room computer serves as a media player and gaming console for about two decades now (I believe my first article in Hungary's biggest computer monthly outlining this vision was published in 1998). Eventually it will happen. It's too logical not to.


Does this mean I can install Windows 10 on my 820 chip android phone as a custom ROM. someone from XDA should take a look into it and build a windows 10 ROM for my Axon 7 which have 820 chip


From the article it sounds like this will only work with the next gen CPU , 835 not current 820/1


Did they mention battery life? I can only wonder how much battery life will take a hit with emulation especially when you're trying to make the emulated app as performant as possible.


Probably not great but I'd envisage running 'legacy' x86 desktop programs on a phone typically when 'docked' on mains power with external screen(s), a mouse and external keyboard.


I would love for a linux distro to target exactly this use case.


Did you hear about the Ubuntu Edge fundraiser?


This is the future but even better if it were without wires...


Current Continuum can broadcast wirelessly over Miracast or to a Win10 PC; doesn't need wires


I'm starting to lose hope about losing wires. I use them whenever I can because wireless solutions tend to be spotty and eat lots of battery power. Are people optimistic that we'll ever truly get rid of wires?


I think latency-sensitive or quality-sensitive applications are pretty much always going to require wires at some level of tolerance. I'm barely willing to put up with my Bluetooth headphones when I'm exercising; h.264-blocky and lagging displays is no bueno. And maybe there's a technological solution we haven't yet explored, but a lot of this strikes me as kind of core to "these aren't just wires that light up, we're decoding radio waves and have to do a bunch of logic to make them comprehensible".


That's a pretty smart move.


Whether you like it or not...


Sorry Microsoft... No one cares




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