Watching Surface Pro X video reviews.

One of the pandemic quarantine effects has been to watch more online video reviews. I watched a couple of Surface Pro X reviews and then YouTube, via its algorithm, decided to offer up a further selection.

Windows on Arm isn’t really Windows on Arm. Its Windows on Qualcomm, albeit with a Microsoft twist of a customised chip. There appears to be little interest beyond Microsoft to produce Arm based PCs. From a pricing perspective there seems little reason for me to consider an Arm based PC. 

Generally, the build quality and look of the Surface Pro X is praised. Almost no one has a bad word to say. The pen charging position seems excellent. Comment is made about the key Microsoft productivity apps running well. Where it starts getting murky is the application situation in general. The Surface Pro X, because it is Windows, is expected to run the range of legacy applications. Microsoft’s traditional business customers expect that inventory program that ran 15 years ago on XP to keep on running. Any software built for the 64 bit world won’t run at all or just crawls along.

Some reviewers suggest the Surface Pro X is a great “Chromebook”. In the sense that it is an expensive browser replacement. 

Apps are the problem. It struck me I have heard this before. My Lumia 950, and previous Lumia’s tell me that. This finally led me to adopting Apple’s Iphone as my primary mobile device. Shortly IOS 14 will give me live actionable widgets that look like tiles I can just glance at. I wonder where that idea came from? However, I digress. I wonder how the Surface Pro X is doing? I haven’t seen much written about real life movement from Intel based PCs to Qualcomm based PCs. 

Intel are treading water right now. They seem to know this. The generational performance boost is still there but there seems little evidence of a new modern Windows experience on Qualcomm. There seems little incentive for PC makers to build them. There seems nothing priced in the consumer space. There seems little interest from developers. The false dawn of Windows RT seems to be repeating itself. 

I am not sure if Windows 10 X is the “modern Windows” to get excited about either. 

While my work life is all on traditional PCs and Microsoft Office 365 the same is not true at home. My Microsoft ecosystem consists of Office 365 Family subscription and an Xbox. Ten years ago Microsoft supplied music, movies, mobile phone and much more. With my consumer hat on a consistent modern, consumer-based ecosystem looks more like an Apple PC than Microsoft. 

Surface Pro X seems to tick almost none of the boxes for a future Windows other than being able to compile the OS for a Qualcomm chip. 

Conversation 4 comments

  • bschnatt

    06 September, 2020 - 11:09 am

    <p>I've been using an HP Envy x2 for several months now (bought refurbished for $400), so let me say a few things.</p><p><br></p><p>I think we need to wait for 64-bit emulation from Microsoft before passing final judgement on this platform. Yes, right now it's not on par with your average Intel-based laptop, but to call it a "glorified Chromebook" is ridiculous. I've been doing web development training on this thing with Edge, Chrome and Visual Studio Code. I'm also running dedicated apps for Plex, Kindle, Accuweather, Paint 3D, Audible, Netflix, Nextgen Reader, Irfanview, VLC, Pinterest, HDHomeRun (for watching TV on my network tuner boxes), Kobo, PocketBible, Spotify, Office 365 and many others. I also have the Lazarus (think: Delphi) IDE installed, but haven't done much with it yet (it seems to run fine from what I've seen). And let's not forget all the usual stuff Microsoft includes, like the Mail and Calendar app, terminals for the standard command line shell and PowerShell, and OneNote, etc. (You can also install the Terminal app from the store to get a tabbed multi-hosted terminal environment, including BASH when used in conjunction with the excellent Windows Subsystem for LInux, which also works). I also use FreeFileSync, an indispensable file syncing utility (remind me to donate to all those great open source developers!). And, of course, there are hundreds of other very useful apps in the app store that work on this platform too. Windows 10 on ARM also fully supports their remote desktop protocol and it works flawlessly.</p><p><br></p><p>(I still haven't tried using my USB-based Blu Ray drive with this machine, but it likely works since everything else I've plugged into this thing "just works"…)</p><p><br></p><p>Try doing all that with a Chromebook! Yes, Google has recently added support for VS Code on Chromebooks, but almost everything "extra" you can do with a Chromebook relies on the use of their Linux emulator. So, it's bad for Windows on ARM to use an emulator, but it's ok for a Chromebook to do it?</p><p><br></p><p>My only gripe with this machine (aside from the fact that HP gimped it with too little memory) is that I can't run Signal. Signal isn't available in 32 bit form, and the Windows Subsystem for Linux this machine runs doesn't support graphical Linux applications, so I can't run the Linux version of it. That's one thing the Chromebook has going for it. Hopefully Microsoft will release 64 bit emulation soon. It's not a show-stopper.</p><p><br></p><p>6 months ago, if you had asked me if this platform was worth supporting, I would have said "Yes!" because of the stellar battery life, but now, in light of the recent advances by Intel, I'd have to say "No", unless ARM can beat Intel by coming out with chips that support even longer battery life! So, I agree that there's not enough of a distinction with this platform to make it viable, but who knows what's in store? Microsoft is trying to get more companies to support ARM app development, and ARM isn't sitting still…</p>

  • codymesh

    06 September, 2020 - 1:48 pm

    <p>Windows on ARM is not qualcomm specific because people out there have managed to get it running on a Raspberry Pi. </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      06 September, 2020 - 2:01 pm

      Actually, Windows on ARM is Qualcomm-specific.

      • SWCetacean

        Premium Member
        06 September, 2020 - 2:14 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#570677">In reply to paul-thurrott:</a></em></blockquote><p>Perhaps in branding and advertising, but Microsoft has Windows running on Ampere eMAG and Marvell ThunderX2 systems, neither of which use Qualcomm CPUs. 2 months ago, a team at Microsoft released a preview of OpenJDK for Windows on Arm and one of their test systems was an eMAG running Windows, so a build of Windows exists for that platform. So it's not like Windows 10 cannot run on non-Qualcomm Arm systems.</p>


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