Firefox for Windows 10 ARM is Ready for Testing

Posted on April 11, 2019 by Brad Sams in Mozilla Firefox, Web browsers, Windows 10 with 40 Comments

Make no mistake, the days of everyone using an ARM-powered laptop or desktop is still several years, or longer, away. But it’s not hard to see how one day, the idea of using a SnapDragon chip instead of something from Intel or AMD for your laptop will become a wide-spread reality.

The last generation chips from Qualcomm, the 835, never haven’t caught on in a big way but as both Microsoft and Qualcomm continue to push forward, there is no doubt that they are making serious progress in terms of performance at the chip and OS level.

So much so that Microsoft has prototype Surface Pro devices floating around that use Qualcomm chips instead of Intel’s hardware. The company has considered replacing the low-end Pro devices with Snapdragon chips but so far, has yet to ship any products that do so for various reasons.

When it comes to supporting Windows 10 on ARM, developing applications is easier today than it was back in the Surface RT era and if you want a different browser than Edge, you can now download FireFox. Firefox and Qualcomm showed this browser off back in December but now it’s ready for testing.

If you have a Windows 10 device powered by an ARM chip, you can grab the browser from here.

While this may not be an Earth-shattering announcement, the more companies who start natively supporting Windows devices running on ARM hardware, the easier the transition will be from classic setups that use x86, to an ARM-based future.

Couple this news with Windows Lite and a laptop running an 8cx becomes a lot more lucrative of a proposition. Only time will tell if ARM and Windows have a long-tailed future but with each new application, chip, and OS update, the possibility becomes a little bit more appealing.

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Comments (40)

40 responses to “Firefox for Windows 10 ARM is Ready for Testing”

  1. Avatar

    brisonharvey

    I’m holding out for that Surface device. Surface + ARM=iPad Pro killer. All the lightness and battery life and LTE connectivity without the productivity-killing workflows.

  2. Avatar

    glenn8878

    ARM on Windows died when Microsoft pulled Windows Mobile prematurely. It'll just take much longer to get back to ARM and push forward even though Windows development as a tablet retrenched. ARM is inherently a mobile platform. Every user will expect a Windows ARM tablet and desktop to be good as a mobile device while also performing well as legacy equipment.

    I doubt Microsoft is so strategically equipped to understand the rut it brought upon itself. They might just give up in any case.


    This will take a decade or longer to get back on track especially since ARM needs another 10 years to catch up in speed to match Core i5 and i7 speeds. Only Apple's A chip series match Core i5 speeds.


    I'm not even sure we need the current Windows model on ARM. A browser is all we mainly need with some productivity apps. The UI needs mouse and keyboard support with windows. Yet it's still too difficult for Microsoft to solve so it needs to abandon Edge for Chromium. The Internet was never Microsoft's friend. Internet is it's Achilles's heel.

    • Avatar

      skane2600

      In reply to glenn8878:

      I don't think pulling Windows mobile was premature, I think it was late. Had they started earlier and more aggressively promoted Windows Mobile, it might have made a difference in the mobile market, but even if it succeeded it wouldn't have lead inevitably to ARM based Windows across the board.


      Hopefully Microsoft will consider value to their users and not blindly pursue a strategy based on whatever the current tech infatuation happens to be.

      • Avatar

        Oreo

        In reply to skane2600:

        As long as Microsoft wants to continue with its Windows product line, it is smart at this point to hedge its bets and include ARM support. Intel is having severe problems at the moment, they haven't updated their microarchitecture in years because their 10 nm process node got delayed. On the other hand, less and less software depends on the underlying architecture, Microsoft has made it easier to port applications.

        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to Oreo:

          If we were talking about MS using multiple vendors of equivalent CPUs, that would be one thing, but it's not likely that MS is going to be able to support parallel Windows platforms in the long term.


          I'm not sure what you mean about MS making it easier to port applications now. Previously there was no ARM Windows to port to.

  3. Avatar

    Watney

    Anyone have hands on experience using this?

  4. Avatar

    digiguy

    Brad, I am surprised to hear something like this from you! "The latest chips from Qualcomm, the 8cx, haven’t caught on in a big way" Seriously? Did you know that 8cx was not planned to ship before this summer? How can they have caught if they are not out yet?

  5. Avatar

    paulwp187

    8cx and native browsers might be the killer combo when they're available. It'll be interesting to see what emulation performance is on that chip.

  6. Avatar

    Chris Payne

    Why is there a comma in the teaser for this article?


    "Firefox has a new beta that runs on Windows 10 ARM laptops and it will help make the transition to ARM-based devices, a little bit easier."

  7. Avatar

    bill_russell

    As someone who needs to use a _computer_ (an engineer, programmer) I would *never* use ARM for such work and don't expect to in my lifetime. There's absolutely no reason, and a million reasons not to even attempt.

    At home, I use/have used ARM chromebook, iPad and of course smartphones. There, ARM clearly finds its place in a way that x86 can't.

    As for Windows (aka win32) on ARM, I guess more CPU competition is good, but seems no point as I only use windows for a couple of programs that are 100% win32/.NET (Visual Studio Shell based) but never, ever run on ARM in any acceptable way, not to mention they probably have custom drivers for external debugging. They feel somewhat heavy on a full blown desktop computer, never mind ARM based.

    For the occasional "grandma" that might be ok with a Windows on ARM laptop for just using notepad or something, in my opinion the ARM Chromebook would be superior.

  8. Avatar

    longhorn

    Windows Phone was a huge success compared to WoA and it's dead...

    I don't think Firefox will change anything, because it's already available everywhere where users are.


    Maybe a new form factor can keep WoA alive. I'm thinking a modern low-cost netbook with a 10" 3:2 screen without emulation support and long battery life. Maybe a fancy version with a 360 hinge. Microsoft needs some mass market traction with WoA. That would benefit the Store too. So far we have only seen expensive Qualcomm devices and no one bought those (except tech reviewers).


    I don't think emulation is a solution, because Intel/AMD offer better performance/price/battery life for Win32. ARM must be simple and low-cost and then it can compete against Chromebooks. Chrome OS is a mess so it needs a kick in the butt and maybe WoA could do that.


    • Avatar

      skane2600

      In reply to longhorn:

      I partially agree, but unless or until Chromebooks can escape their orbit around the education market, there's nothing significant enough for Microsoft to worry about competing with.

      • Avatar

        longhorn

        In reply to skane2600:

        I think WoA is a way to promote Windows Store more than competing with Chromebooks. I would be OK not running Win32 applications on WoA, because that doesn't make much sense anyway. I wouldn't be OK with Windows "S" on x86, because then it's just artificially locked down.


        I don't think WoA devices should be marketed as Windows 10. They should be labeled Windows on ARM. WoA could make more sense on a netbook than Chrome OS.


        If Microsoft manages to get low-cost devices out there, it's a good thing that Firefox is also available. Chrome is less important now that Edge fulfills that role. Chromium can also be easily ported to WoA.


        Windows "S" never made sense on x86, but WoA can make sense if you accept it for what it is and target casual users with low-cost devices.


        Microsoft made a big mistake to market ARM as high-end, because there is no application ecosystem to support that notion. If you buy something for $1000 you expect to be able to run everything without emulation at full speed. WoA will never be able to do that.


        There can still be a future for WoA as a low-cost alternative. Microsoft can also market it as more secure. If it gains traction it can attract more developers to the Store.


        You have to laugh at Microsoft. They tried to restrict Win32 on x86 and then they tried Win32 emulation on ARM. Why do things backwards instead of just accepting that there is a natural order?


        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to longhorn:

          I'm dubious about the future success of WoA, but the strategy from Windows 8 onward was wrong IMO. They should have built the best mobile OS they could without any ties to Windows and without the Windows name. Their leveraging strategy for Windows 8 failed to promote their mobile efforts and damaged their desktop reputation at the same time. It was fail-fail.


          Then they doubled-down and wasted time with UWP that wasn't even compatible with their compromised Windows 8 or many of their mobile devices.

  9. Avatar

    skane2600

    If efficient Win32 compatibility is not important to you and you spend most of your time using a browser, you might just as well use a Chromebook.


    ARM hype is still alive and well, but there's still no compelling reason that has been identified for favoring it over Intel CPUs for mainstream Windows use. IMO, Win32 compatibility is the only differentiator Windows offers over other platforms.

    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to skane2600:


      “Win32 compatibility is the only differentiator Windows offers over other platforms.”


      It kind of sucks when the core value a tech company has to offer is legacy support and an uninspiring future.


      Lies such as ARM is closed or that it’s a hype with nothing to offer, will not stop progress. It has not stopped at least in the last 10 years in spite of Microsoft systematic failures, paint jobs and fluff in this space.

    • Avatar

      sevenacids

      In reply to skane2600:

      Well, like you said, ARM is a hype. It's just another closed platform, and most arguments today sound like it's a change only for the sake of change and not because it's particular better. Certainly, the lower energy consumption (and therefore longer battery life of the device) of these processors is a pro, but I wonder if Qualcomm & Co. can really keep that up once an ARM processor becomes as powerful as a AMD64 one.

      • Avatar

        rosyna

        In reply to sevenacids:


        I’m not sure I understand. ARM is an openly licensed architecture with many vendors making licensed ARM SoCs (Samsung, MediaTek, Huawei, Apple, Qualcomm, AMD, et cetera). x86-64 has three licensed vendors, Intel, VIA, and AMD.


        It’s just that Windows currently only supports ARM SoCs from one specific vendor, Qualcomm.

    • Avatar

      Tony Barrett

      In reply to skane2600:

      Agreed. If you absolutely need win32, Windows x86 is your only choice (ARM x86 emulation is still very poor), but those requirements are getting less and less. If you just use a web browser, or PWA apps, you do not really need Windows anymore, and a Chromebook for example, will meet all requirements.

    • Avatar

      codymesh

      In reply to skane2600:

      "If efficient Win32 compatibility is not important to you and you spend most of your time using a browser, you might just as well use a Chromebook."


      yes, but also makes it more important for Microsoft to offer an alternative to the scenarios where people would want a Chromebook. Microsoft is in this to compete, not throw their hands up in the air.

      • Avatar

        skane2600

        In reply to codymesh:

        So far Chromebooks haven't proven much of a competitor to Windows in terms of market share, but in terms of features Windows already surpasses them, so it's not clear that they need to do anything new to compete. It also worth noting that most Chromebooks don't use ARM processors which suggests that don't fulfill any critical role.

        • Avatar

          codymesh

          In reply to skane2600:

          I think regardless of marketshare, the question that needs to be asked is: are Chromebooks a winning formula? Most people seem to think so, and I believe that is what Microsoft is addressing.


          Of course it doesn't need to be Windows on ARM, but they are also working on Windows Lite which will also be WoA just with a different shell. So, the work being done here by Microsoft/Mozilla/other developers is still relevant.

          • Avatar

            skane2600

            In reply to codymesh:

            Which people think it's a "winning formula"? In a business sense, it's only the opinion of the people who actually buy the product that counts.

            • Avatar

              Oreo

              In reply to skane2600:

              Chrome books are extremely popular in the US education market — not least because of the student management application suite and all of Google's other apps.

              • Avatar

                Daishi

                In reply to Oreo:

                Chrome books are extremely popular in the US education market


                That genuinely seems to be the only market where they’re being successful. For the first 3 months of this year NetMarketShare has them at 0.38% of desktop/laptop OS usage.

            • Avatar

              codymesh

              In reply to skane2600:

              Business is not only dollars and marketshare. For large companies like Microsoft who are printing money, dollars are just a means for the next thing: innovation, leadership, and customer satisfaction.

              • Avatar

                skane2600

                In reply to codymesh:

                Measurable performance is always going to the key factor in any business, but there is some truth in what you say. However, it's not clear that those attributes favor Windows on ARM vs Windows on Intel.


                Before Windows on ARM can do much innovating they need to catch up to where Windows on Intel is today. There's nothing about the Win32 platform that disables innovation.

          • Avatar

            fbman

            In reply to codymesh:

            Most americans seem to think chromebooks are a winning formula .. The rest of the world has pretty much ignored them.


            Without good internet, they pretty much useless. In develping world markets, the idea of fast broadband is nothing but a pipe dream. I live in SOuth Africa and the average primary internet connection for a typcial South African is a mobile 3G maybe 4G connection and the data is very exepnsive, so they can only afford to buy 1 or 2 Gig a month.

            • Avatar

              skane2600

              In reply to fbman:

              You do realize that there's a difference between the US being the place where Chromebooks are most successful and Chromebooks being the most successful computer in the US?


              What evidence do you have that "Most americans seem to think chromebooks are a winning formula"

            • Avatar

              Greg Green

              In reply to fbman:

              Chrome books don’t even have 1% of laptop market share according to NetMarketShare. If their marketshare increased tenfold they’d only be beating Linux and would be a third of what MacOS has.

    • Avatar

      Oreo

      In reply to skane2600:

      ARM is not a hype, modern ARM CPUs are besting Intel cpus in all market segments. They are putting the fire to Intel's feet even in the server market now, forcing Intel to bring CPUs to market with TDPs of up to 400 W. For notebooks, they are cheaper and tend to have very good battery life. As long as enough apps run on them natively, who cares about Win32 compatibility. I think plenty of people will be happy if Microsoft Office, Google apps, Chrome and one or two other select apps run on it.

      • Avatar

        Greg Green

        In reply to Oreo:

        “modern ARM CPUs are besting Intel cpus in all market segments


        Intel's server market share predicted to drop below 90% thanks to AMD's EPYC gains - OC3d. They don’t even mention ARM.


        ARM Aims to Take a Bite Out of Intel's PC Market Share

        Its goal is to take at least 10 percent of the PC market by 2022-2023. - PCMag


        So ARM leads only on mobile phones and nowhere else.





      • Avatar

        skane2600

        In reply to Oreo:

        The ARM server market is practically non-existent. Chromebooks aren't cheaper - vendors don't offer a Chromebook discount on computer components. Software companies with Win32 programs need a reason to justify porting to ARM and so far there's not a compelling reason to do so.

        • Avatar

          Oreo

          In reply to skane2600:

          It is true that ARM servers don’t have the market share yet, but all major companies with a cloud presence have at the very least trialed ARM servers. Amazon went one step further, they are pushing ARM servers with their own custom core (they bought Annapurna Labs) that is competitive to faster on a per-core basis than Intel Xeons. And ARM has announced its server cores which are expected to give roughly twice the performance-per-watt (on a per chip basis). Fujitsu has announced that its next supercomputer will be based on ARM cores (rather than the SPARC architecture). Moreover, given the flexibility of the ARM ecosystem, it is clear that it will be easier to have more diversity and it is realistic for larger players to fab their own custom silicon.


          In contrast Intel isn’t competitive (they have recently announced new Xeons with a TDP of up to 400 W — you don’t do that voluntarily). Microsoft would be negligent if it didn’t keep the ARM door open. The vast majority of people would be just fine with an ARM-based Windows machine.

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