Windows 10 on ARM to Get 64-Bit x86 App Support Next Year

Posted on September 30, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 28 Comments

HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) Review Check-In: App Compatibility

We already knew that Microsoft was bringing support for 64-bit x86 (x64) apps to Windows 10 on ARM. But now we have a schedule.

“We will … expand support for running x64 apps, with x64 emulation starting to roll out to the Windows Insider Program in November,” Microsoft’s Panos Panay explained. “We are working closely with Acer, HP, Lenovo, Samsung[,] and Surface to bring these Windows 10 on ARM innovations and products to our shared customers.”

“Windows Insider Program in November” probably means that Insiders in the Dev channel will be able to access x64 emulation at that time and that the code will ship to mainstream users by the end of 2021, probably in Windows 10 version 21H2.

Will this support put Windows 10 on ARM over the top? Not exactly: PCs built with this system will still be unable to use the millions of x86/Intel-type hardware drivers out that those with normal PCs can access. But this is a big step, even if emulated apps are very slow at first. And along with continued improvements to Qualcomm’s PC chipsets and Microsoft’s OS code, it should solve the biggest compatibility issues.

Aside from this x64 emulation news, Panay also shared a few other tidbits about Windows 10 on ARM. Microsoft Edge will be “faster while using less battery,” there’s a new native version of Teams coming soon, and Visual Studio Code is being updated and optimized for the niche platform.

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Comments (30)

30 responses to “Windows 10 on ARM to Get 64-Bit x86 App Support Next Year”

  1. michael_babiuk

    "But this is a big step, even if emulated apps are very slow at first." Well, perhaps 'a baby step' might be more accurate. Grin.

    But you understand that Apple Silicon macOS devices will simply trounce the performance on these machines running x64 apps - even in emulation mode. I can just imagine the benchmarks for Adobe Photoshop or even Microsoft Office Apps running on both Apple Silicon macOS machines and Windows 10 on ARM computers. It won't be a contest.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Michael_Babiuk:

      Nah, x64 app compat is huge. We'll see what perf looks like on both systems soon enough.

    • codymesh

      In reply to Michael_Babiuk:

      yeah Apple's ARM processor might be faster than Qualcomm's, but unlike Microsoft, Apple is going all-in on ARM. If Apple can't deliver the same or better performance than their older Intel/AMD Macbooks then they have a huge problem on their hands. What exactly is being "trounced" here?

      The real question is not about beating the Surface Pro X. The question is: will an ARM macbook pro outperform a roughly equivalent Intel 11th gen machine?

      • michael_babiuk

        In reply to codymesh: That is the Big Question, isn't it. However, I would be rather confident that the first MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon running macOS slated to debut in a few months would answer your question in a very positive manner. In fact, the other rumor going around is that the old MacBook 12" will be revived with Apple Silicon and retail for $799. If that is true, I suspect that its performance envelope will be, at the very least, more than satisfy consumers that purchase it for that price. Just guessing, of course, but really, do you think when Apple "bet the farm" on it's own ARM chip designs, their future update roadmap would not satisfy your question?
        Heck, even the "Developers Transition Kit" mac mini with essentially a two year old A12Z ARM chip set introduced this past June easily outperforms the Surface Pro X today. I'm curious to see what the first generation actual desktop class Apple Silicon will do. It should be fun to find out

  2. mattemt294

    i appreciate that the pro x i bought will have additional functionality brought to it. November of this year in the insider buids?

  3. ndelena

    Imagine releasing two successive Surface Pro X's years before x64 emulation was available.

  4. winner

    It's been what, a decade or so journey from Windows RT to the announced but not yet real x64 on ARM next year?

    Let's wait and see, again, to find out when it might actually work with real legacy apps.

  5. sammyg

    Emulation = no thanks. Native apps are required, and not some simple upgrade to a iOS or Android app, but an actual port of existing x86/64 apps and its features.

    This will be the same for Apple. Getting the developers on board. Microsoft clearly has NOT done this. I think Apple will have more success because they will try harder as it means way more to them.

    I also do not believe all the hype that ARM will be so much better. To get powerful computers that can render 4K video for hours at a time will require bigger, hotter and more power sucking CPU's. A big ARM chip will running at high clock speeds will use a lot of power and generate a lot of heat. People believe ARM is just as powerful at a Intel whatever because of some geekbench test, which is a just a spike of CPU during a small period of time. If the test took 8 hours of crunching CPU, these ARM based devices would melt in their current form factors, or just shut down. Can they get there....for sure just have to build a bigger, hotter CPU.

    Apple wants this more so they can control the whole product and not wait on Intel to deliver. It will also drive up their profit margin when the control all aspects.

  6. robotraccoon

    I'll take odds for December 31, 2021. But really, this pleases me. This is a big step in competing with the coming Apple ARM-based computers.


    I have every confidence that in the times ahead our new ARM64 PC's would be emulating indiscernably and seamlessly and the experience would be almost identical to a Core i7 as ARM64 continues the performance leaps Apple and Qualcomm have coming.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Our experiences so far make that seem a bit fanciful. I hope it happens.
      • michael_babiuk

        In reply to paul-thurrott: Well played with that "redacted comment", Paul, of a day ago. Grin
        I too hope for the best but the new custom ARM SQ2 chipset could not incorporate a 5 nanometer fabrication design - an Apple exclusive - so I doubt that any additional space would be available for increased transistor count - unless the SQ2 chip is considerably larger than the SQ1 design.

  8. igor engelen

    Good news but let's hope this isn't too late.

  9. john_scott

    Have yet to see a production unit in the wild for Apple with its A chip. So wishful thinking the performance will be great. I think the focus will me long battery life and with Rosetta 2 early on running many apps it may face the same troubles Windows had with ARM. Next year does appear to be the year of the ARM devices, but how many will be good is anyone's guess.

    • bkkcanuck

      In reply to John_Scott:

      I have not seen those machines in the wild, but I do have friends that have it (I am 9 timezones away from it). Although he says it will be interesting to see what is delivered, he says that the Rosetta translation is able to handle pretty much all he through at it. However, I do believe that the way that Apple has handled deprecated technology and code - makes this translation layer much simpler to implement than it would be for Microsoft. He has no doubt the hardware that will come out shortly - should be more performant than existing hardware -- though we will still have to wait to find out how this scales up to the top end iMac or the Mac Pro level hardware. I do wish that Microsoft would make a more concerted effort with respect to ARM - as it would lead to affordable DIY hardware motherboards etc.... and that would make it easier for Linux development for deployment to things like AWS Graviton2 (i.e. having same environment as deployment to develop and test on as deployment).

    • michael_babiuk

      In reply to John_Scott: If you were a developer, then you might have been interested in Apple's macOS "Big Sur" based mac mini 'ARM Transition Kit that uses the A12Z chip (essentially a 2.5 year old chip design) that became available in June of 2020.
      Personally, I haven't seen one of those modified mac mini desktop computers in the wild either - but that doesn't mean they don't exist in the wild. Grin.

  10. bdollerup

    I know, OCD, but there's s no such thing as 64-bit x86 apps. X86 apps are always 32-bit. 64-bit Intel/AMD apps are x64 apps..... ?

  11. chrisltd

    I'm kind of surprised MS didn't wait to announce this with new hardware. But if it wont be ready for a while, it's not a good look to use it as a selling point.

  12. babajaga

    The m1 is very fast and can keep up with an Intel i9. Rosetta 2 only loses 22% of its power. I don't understand those who pretend poor is bad.

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