Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon Developer Kit for Windows 10 on ARM

Posted on May 24, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, Hardware, Windows 10 with 54 Comments

One day before Build 2021, Qualcomm has announced a low-cost Snapdragon Developer Kit for those seeking to write native Windows 10 on ARM apps.

“We have a proud history of creating helpful developer tools in coordination with Microsoft, and the Snapdragon Developer Kit is the latest outcome of that collaboration,” Qualcomm’s Miguel Nunes says. “This developer kit provides an affordable alternative to other consumer and commercial devices. With the smaller desktop configuration, this kit gives developers more flexibility than notebook options, and at a lower price point. We remain committed to helping developers address requests from customers, while reducing the overall cost of deployment.”

Given the incredibly high price of all Windows 10 on ARM-based PCs, this is a good idea, though Qualcomm doesn’t explain what the price is, only that the small, Intel NUC-like PC will be “cost-efficient” and “affordable.” It’s expected to debut in the Microsoft Store online this summer and it will be powered by the Snapdragon 7c compute platform, a mid-range chipset.

The goal here is to help developers more easily and inexpensively develop apps for Windows 10 on ARM, but if it’s cheap enough, I could imagine some enthusiasts purchasing the kit as well.

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Comments (54)

54 responses to “Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon Developer Kit for Windows 10 on ARM”

  1. remc86007

    How was this not a thing 2 years ago?

  2. basic sandbox

    ARM battery life is reason enough ARM processors will be the future of most laptops. 

    Creating a developer platform will be a worthy investment for Qualcomm and Microsoft.

    • wright_is

      Most Intel processors can get a working days battery life, so you really need more than 10 - 12 hours?

      • bkkcanuck

        When I look at the stats - the highest end laptops (except for maybe the odd longer one) last at most typically 14 hours (there are maybe a couple that go up to 16 and one 18) based on a testing of continuous web browsing and a screen brightness of 150 nits (that really sucks at 150 nits). If I am regularly working on a laptop I want at least 300nits brightness (maybe dropping down during user idle time)... The real world usage would then be significantly less than that... [I don't just browse the web daily - for some reason people are not willing to pay me for that] Personally, I want my devices to aim for at least a full day on battery power (without making big compromises like that) -- and preferrably 2. I would like to be able to rely on the laptop without worrying about transporting the power brick etc. with me etc. Ideally I would like to be able to stretch it to 2 days at reduced nits etc... for the odd time for some reason it did not fully recharge overnight. Really, mobile devices should require a changing in your behaviour to make it last a full day (and at the end of the day watching that battery hoping it won't die prematurely)... the device should make your life better without really forcing daily discipline around squeezing it to a full day.

        • wright_is

          I need, maybe about 30 minutes a month of battery life on average. In the pandemic, a lot less than that. My laptop is docked at work or docked at home. To be honest, I could get away with a compact desktop in my pocket (NUC or the small Dell Optiplex or Lenovo Thinkcenter devices).

          • angusmatheson

            I spend 8 hours a day going from room to room, so cannot dock in 1 place, most of that with Teams running. My MacBook Air and surface pro 7 both get super hot, the fans run after about 11am, and I constantly have to charge when I can or it cannot list all 8 hours in a day. I got one of the other doctors an M1 MacBook Air and I am so jealous that she just doesn’t have to worry about battery life. And no fan. And it says cool to the touch. I hope AMD, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung can make chips that work like that in laptops.

      • bkkcanuck

        The other thing with Intel processors is they tend to IMHO misstate (actually omit some info) the actual power power consumption (i.e. stating that it is a 15Watt part but in actuality it varies between 10 watt and 25 watt, with peak consumption closer to 75+Watts for short duration. If you are running it at peak of 25 watts (instead of the 15 watt part) that is an extra 67% additional power draw down (with more for the short duration peaks), which means when you are using the laptop for real tasks ... I can only guess that the actual battery usage will fall below a full day.

  3. sykeward

    I get less optimistic about this device the more I read about the chipset. The Qualcomm 7c earns single core/multicore Geekbench scores of 524/1559 vs 724/2808 for the 8cx, which is Qualcomm's highest-performing (ahem) WoA chip family (includes the SQ1/2 chip used in Surface). And WoA on the 8cx ain't fast. Benchmarks have issues, obv, but this gives an idea of how these chips stack up against each other. Add the fact that the 7c can only use eMMC storage vs NVME for the 8cx and you have a device that is going to be intolerably slow in actual use. This does seem to be strictly for dev and testing, but I don't see how they're going to catch too many developer flies with this pot of vinegar.

    • Truffles

      <a href="https://semiaccurate.com/2021/05/24/qualcomm-launches-the-snapdragon-7c2-compute-platform/">SemiAccurate is scathing</a>:


      Either way the 7c2’s clock appears to be up from the 7c’s 2.4GHz but both are grossly inadequate for the task at hand. It is built on an 8nm process which is a 10nm variant, almost assuredly Samsung’s, so it is two full nodes behind Qualcomm’s modern phone SoC’s and Apple’s M1. Even if Qualcomm didn’t saddle the 7c2 with ancient cores, the process node it is made on means it has no hope of competing much less winning at anything.


      If that isn’t bad enough, we come to memory and storage. Memory is eMMC for cost reasons, something SemiAccurate understands on an entry level SoC, but tops out at 128GB. Remember this is supposed to be a full fat Windows box, think you can fit a usable install and education apps in that? With patches? OEMs are playing the ‘cloud’ game here meaning the platform is badly broken and there is no way to spin it as usable without distraction and hand waving. In another nod to it’s mobile heritage, DRAM tops out at 8GB. Since the 7c2 comes as a pre-built platform without PCIe lanes off the package, don’t look for expansion, there is only a single USB3.1 Gen 1 lane out.



  4. andreas_bitt

    and which IDE should run on this kit? Visual Studio isn’t native ARM. VSCode does not have c# tools!

    • paradyne

      Typically you'd use Visual Studio on your existing x64 dev system and just remote target to this device. The debugger just works remotely. But you can also use VS Code (it's native) and .net 5 or later which is also ARM64 native.


      What's needed to move things to ARM64 is for all the libraries that apps depend on to be available in native versions. What's needed for that is their developers to actually have a way to test (compiling for ARM64 is no problem, it's just those dependencies that block it), so a cheap device that's widely available is a good step. Performance would be secondary for this task, making it cheap enough for people supporting open source libraries that other apps depend on, to just get one for fun, would be more important.


      Perhaps for the key libraries that are blocking apps being released natively compiled they should just send these out to them for free, just to unblock the transition.

  5. bschnatt

    ARM chips only make sense if they can keep ahead of Intel's and Apple's advancements, and that's a tall order. Adding built-in x86 translation would definitely sweeten the deal, though. In that case, you'd get the best of both worlds: Great battery life and good performance for native ARM apps, and compatibility for older apps. (Of course, IANAE, so consider this "talking out of my a**" talk... ;) )

  6. vladimir

    Apple releases the M1 developer kit 6 months before the first M1 mac is available to the public. Qualcomm/Microsoft does this 3 years AFTER windows on arm was released. I guess that is a sign of the attitudes towards developers. No wonder everybody develops for MacOS and almost no one for WOA. Even microsoft developed their office apps for MacOS first

  7. peterc

    Better late than never - but my word, they're late!

    • jdawgnoonan

      I agree, with the trajectory that things appear to be on Microsoft is farther behind on transitioning to ARM than they were in mobile in 20010. If investments aren't made to equal Apple's performance on ARM and app compatibility now there will never be a reason for this to succeed.

  8. LuxuryTravelled

    What do we think on cost - $300?

  9. greghudson

    Specification of the device:

    https://www.ecs.com.tw/en/Product/System/QC710/specification

    • greghudson

      PLATFORM

      SC 7180 (QSIP 7180)


      MEMORY

      4GB LPDDR4 (QSIP 7180)


      STORAGE DEVICES

      Support 64GB eMMC


      IO PORTS

      1 x USB 2.0 Type-C (PD-Charging)

      1 x USB 2.0 Type-A

      1 x MicroSD

      1 x Micro-SIM card slot type

      1 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A

      1 x HDMI

      1 x LAN(10/100)


      CONNECTIVITY

      Optional: 802.11ax (PCIe Interface Only)

      eSIM


      WEIGHT

      0.23 kg


      DIMENSIONS (MM)

      119 mm (W) x 116.6 mm (D) x 35 mm (H)

  10. Scsekaran

    WOA could be the alternative to Windows 10X as they can be light weight, long battery life, instant on, but with full windows as long as there is developer support and native application development. If they become cheap enough in the price range of Chromebooks along with Chromium based edge, PWAs and x86/x64 emulation as a backup option, they could compete with them directly.

  11. crunchyfrog

    Dear Microsoft: The cart goes behind the horse.


    I am actually excited for this. A step in the right direction for sure letting devs get to plan on building for WOA.

  12. jimchamplin

    Will it be available for general purchase or will it be mired in some developer program?


    Could work as a dirt cheap replacement for someone with modest needs wanting to replace an aging desktop who has no desire or need for a notebook.


    • jchampeau

      Those people probably aren't going to know what to do when their apps won't run and printer drivers won't install, though.

    • glenn8878

      Like Xbox camera attachment. What it's name?

    • curtisspendlove

      I don’t think it is a coincidence it was revealed this close to Build. I’m sure there will be a developer tie-in.

      • Paul Thurrott

        Well, the kit itself is the developer tie-in.
        • curtisspendlove

          I think the question many have is will it be tied to some sort of developer subscription (like MSDN, which I guess is Visual Studio something nowadays).


          Or will anyone that is an enthusiast be able to buy one from the Microsoft store or whatever.

          • curtisspendlove

            I’m hoping you “it’s expected to …” portion turns out true. If so, I wonder if any IT departments might pick one up, for instance, to test compatibility with future software.


            Maybe it is still too early for that in WOA. I’m not sure.

    • SvenJ

      You're assuming it will be dirt cheap. High end Qualcomm chips aren't cheap to begin with, and this being for a limited audience, will likely drive up the price. You can get the same thing today with Intel NUCs or numerous similar boxes, without having to live with the current WOA limitations. If you don't care about form factor and have modest requirements you can get a Dell i3 tower for $400. Bet this will be more.

  13. lvthunder

    The last line of the press release is key here.


    "More information will be shared during Microsoft’s Build 2021 session, “What’s new for Windows desktop application developers”."

  14. SvenJ

    Making it look like a Mac Mini, won't make it run like a Mac Mini.

    • bettyblue

      Especially a M1 based Mac Mini.


      This is the real question.....will Windows on ARM run as good a MacOS on M1??? By the time you can buy this the M1 will be the slowest App ARM chip for Mac's.

      • Greg Green

        That’s still the amazing part to me. On their first laptop try apple made an i6 chip. Better than i5 and 3 and behind 7 and 9 on performance. Better than all on power.

      • wright_is

        Except the ARM in WoA is Snapdragon and not Apple.


        That means Apple needs to provide drivers for all the hardware on the apple silicon. Without that, it won't work. At the moment it only works in Parallels, because it uses generic hypervisor drivers or emulates Snapdragon hardware.

    • captain_proton

      What I don't understand is Apple showed Microsoft the way, Apple for their M1 took the intel memory layout, and place the same layout in their chips. That way when they do an emulation of intel they do not emulate memory layout that why emulation is so fast on the M1.

  15. Mikael Koskinen

    Oh, excellent news. Was actually asking for this couple months ago in the "Ask Paul", good to see this happening.


    It's actually starting to look surprisingly promising for Windows 10 on ARM with both the Qualcomm and Samsung spending their money building better CPUs for the platform and now this.

  16. jwpear

    This seems uninteresting at this stage. A viable Windows on ARM feels like the mythical unicorn. I wouldn't pay good money for this. I would consider tinkering with it if it were free.


    I was trying to think if Microsoft has ever given out any ARM-based hardware at Build. Did they ever give out the original Surface or Surface 2 at Build? I can't think of any other hardware that would have been affordable for devs to explore native WOA apps.

    • bettyblue

      I do not see the return on investment for a Windows developer. Right now 99.999999% of Windows computers are x86/64. In two years that will be 99.99999% of Windows computers.


      Over on the Apple side, in two years they will ONLY sell "M" based Mac's which is a pretty good reason to port your apps. Also with Apples mountains of money I am sure they are helping many developers port over.

    • jwpear

      Of course, there were Windows Phones hardware, but I was thinking more about the desktop.

    • bkkcanuck

      I disagree, I doubt Qualcomm did this in a vacuum and I suspect they got enough assurances from Microsoft before this project to create a developer kit. I finally expect a more substantial announcement from Microsoft going forward.

      • rbgaynor

        Maybe, but it is in Qualcomm's interest to see more demand for these processors and they may simply be responding to a perceived lack of effort on Microsoft's part to push that interest/demand.

        • hrlngrv

          | responding to a perceived lack of effort on Microsoft's part


          Until MSFT gets Win32 64-bit emulation working, I figure MSFT knows full well there isn't going to be much interest in WOA. That this may be happening in the next quarter may mean MSFT believes it's close to getting that emulation working adequately.

    • lvthunder

      Why do you say that? Adobe ported Photoshop to WOA. Why wouldn't other companies that make products for both Windows and Mac do the same. I'm guessing it wasn't a lot of extra work for Adobe to get it done since they had to do it for Apple Silicone anyways.

      • wright_is

        Except that it would be in Swift using Xcode on the Mac and C# or C++ in Visual Studio on Windows.

        • basic sandbox

          Power consumption and thermal loads do matter for desktops and servers.

          I like my current Windows mid-range laptop but I don't like hearing the fan hiss. My current power brick isn't too big but i would still like a smaller/lighter power plug. Enterprises with hundreds of desktops/servers would like to lower their power consumption.

          • bkkcanuck

            The laptop you bought, the manufacturer probably cheaped out on the power charger... (you don't see those on display - usually hidden beneath). If they went with a GaN based charger, it would have been much much more compact. (50%+ smaller among other benefits).

          • wright_is

            Did you reply to the wrong post?


            But, yes, power consumption is also a factor, but, c't magazine shows off their own desktop reference build every year and they have a low end desktop that uses under 7W when idling... Given most desktop and laptops spend most of their time idling, that isn't bad. I think, under full load they consume less than 40W.


            ARM can probably do better, but it doesn't have the massive software at the moment, which means higher power consumption and lower performance than is optimal.


            It is chicken and egg. Until there is decent hardware, developers won't provide software and, until the software is there, the hardware manufacturers won't invest the bookings needed to make competitive chips for Notebooks, let alone desktops.


            At the moment the investment is in mobile devices (Smartphones on down) or servers on up to supercomputers. The desktop market is just to small to warrant the investment, unless it goes 100% ARM and everybody buys a new computer. Even then, it would still be a fraction of the number of chips sold as for mobile. That is why we are seeing, with the exception of Apple, lightly modified mobile chips, which are totally unsuitable to rubbing a full desktop OS.


            For example, I love my Raspberry Pis, but when the 400 is overwhelmed when running a full desktop environment at 4K.

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