Build 2022: Project Volterra is a New ARM-powered Mini PC for Developers

Posted on May 24, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Hardware, Windows, Windows 11 with 11 Comments

Microsoft unveiled today Project Volterra, a new ARM-based mini PC designed for Windows developers. While the full hardware details are still unknown, Project Volterra will be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon compute platform, and it will feature a powerful neural processing unit allowing developers to build and test ARM-native apps that leverage AI-accelerated workloads.

“Because we expect to see NPUs being built into most, if not all future computing devices, we’re going to make it easy for developers to leverage these new capabilities, by baking support for NPUs into the end-to-end Windows platform,” said Panos Panay, EVP and Chief Product Officer, Windows and Devices today.

What this means is that Microsoft apps including Visual Studio 2022, Visual Studio Code, Windows Terminal, the Windows Subsystem for Linux, and the Windows Subsystem for Android will soon run natively on ARM-based Windows PCs, the exec added. Microsoft is also still working on the 64-bit version of Office for Windows on ARM, which is already available in preview for Office Insiders, and an ARM-native version of Microsoft Teams is also in the works.

While Project Volterra still has no release date, it will follow the release of the first developer-focused Snapdragon mini PC last fall, which has since been joined by the Apcsilmic Dot 1 last month. Windows on ARM still isn’t a very attractive proposition for consumers and businesses, though Microsoft’s upcoming ARM-native developer toolchain is certainly a step in the right direction. “We’re also hard at work helping many open-source projects natively target Arm including Python, node, git, LLVM, and more,” Panay said today.

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Build 2022: Project Volterra is a New ARM-powered Mini PC for Developers”

  1. varuna

    The photograph looks like two Volteras with two separate windows 11 running. However, there is just one keyboard and mouse. Maybe that is what stacking them helps with. Not sure entirely.

    • wright_is

      I think the Microsoft BT mice and keyboards today, like Logitech and others, can connect to multiple devices.

      I currently have my Logitech keyboard and mouse connected to my work laptop and my Mac mini. I just have to press a button on the keyboard and mouse to switch from one to the other.

    • whistlerpro

      A lot of Mac Mini customers do end up buying multiple units, it's nice that this is almost built in from the get go on this new device (whatever it's called... Surface Mini?). Most bluetooth keyboards and mice support multiple devices these days, so there's not really a need for multiple peripherals.

  2. rmlounsbury

    It is nice to see that Microsoft is continuing to make their platforms and apps ARM native. I hope as newer ARM chip's come a long that one can realize the benefits of an ARM architecture especially around battery life and improved performance with more native experiences.

    I'm curious to see if Volterra is an useable development box unlike the garbage they put out originally that was unusable for pretty much anything including testing ARM apps.

  3. thalter

    Nice to see Windows on ARM getting some attention. Right now WOA is still pretty niche, and if I had to guess, I'd say that a significant number of installations of WOA are actually running on Apple hardware.

    I'd love to see WOA become more mainsteam, and native development tools (Visual Studio 2022) will help a lot in that regard.

  4. paradyne

    Well that's odd, out of the software listed here as soon to run natively, they all already do (I had a Surface Pro X and had them all) except full Visual Studio 2022.

    Teams, Office, VS Code, Terminal, Ubuntu on WSL were all ARM64 native and not preview versions either.

    Powertoys was the only one missing, and that's just about done now.

  5. awright18

    I really don't understand the purpose of this device. It's targeting developers? Would you test your mobile apps or laptop arm apps on these devices? Surely people aren't going to be purchasing these for normal computing use cases? Unless this is supposed to compete with M1s or something. I guess the future will tell. I just know most devs want huge desktop PCs with many CPU cores and graphics cards. Honestly I just don't get it.

    • simont

      Dev's still need to test their apps on a ARM based system. While they all want big powerful machines (Intel based), it makes sense to have a little cheap test machine to do the testing of the app on a ARM based system. You don't want to speed thousands on a machine that basically just proves your app works.

    • rob_segal

      This is for developers to test their apps' performance on ARM. They're going to code on a more powerful machine and just performance test it on this. It's not for consumers and shouldn't be compared to Apple Silicon. It's not going to compete at that level.

  6. jimbosf

    Now just let us purchase license keys for the Windows ARM version so we can develop in a Windows 11 ARM VM on Parallels on Mac M1 computers. Seriously, devs would pay for simply having a valid license key. Parallels did the work to make this feasible and MS is the one preventing it from being viable. All the talk about how OPEN they are to multiple development paths but then they don't allow this.

  7. wright_is

    Back: 3 x USB-A, mini Display Port and Ethernet and a power socket.

    Left side 2 x USB-C + either 2 blank plates for USB-C or a power switch, a reset switch and a blanking plate? Front just seems to have the power light, like a Mac mini.