4 min Applications

Is Windows on Arm finally getting off the ground?

Is Windows on Arm finally getting off the ground?

Microsoft has launched an Arm Advisory Service on Windows this week. According to CVP Customer Experience Engineering Mike Adams, building apps specifically for Arm is easier than developers think. The first version of Windows on Arm was introduced in 2012; 11 years later, is there finally a light at the end of the tunnel?

In Microsoft’s Developer Blog, Adams talks about Arm’s widely known advantage over x86: efficiency. It’s the main reason that the Arm architecture dominates the smartphone world and is rapidly gaining market share when it comes to PCs. 25 percent of all desktops and laptops will run on Arm by 2027, according to Counterpoint Research.

Adams states that most applications can run on Arm, often via emulation. Yet on a qualitative level, this type of support is not at all comparable to Rosetta 2, the translation layer Apple designed for the M1 and M2 chip to support legacy apps. For that reason, developers would ideally take the trouble to create applications for Arm. Why isn’t this currently a success story? Jason Perlow of ZDNet blamed Microsoft last year for its underwhelming software support for Arm development. The Redmond tech giant was said to essentially assume an iPhone model, meaning developers are expected to deploy specific APIs and compilers for the platform. This while programming languages such as Clang and Python can be easily deployed on macOS and Arm-based Linux systems.

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Help is already available

In the blog post, Adams suggests that developing apps for Arm is essential to their viability. The architecture’s growing market share will eventually be impossible to ignore, is the implication. Microsoft says it has been actively supporting Arm developers for three years.

Specifically, the Advisory Services Program includes a technical workshop that identifies best practices, provides tips and can answer questions about implementation. Microsoft is also open to suggestions for improving the Arm platform. Any problems encountered while porting to Arm can be resolved with Microsoft’s help.

The so-called App Assure team has already helped several major tech companies optimize for Arm, including Zscaler, Broadcom, Cisco, Arm, Dropbox and HP.


It should be noted that quite a few users won’t be affected very much at all even by a substandard emulation layer. If a program works at all, many applications don’t present a high enough demand on the hardware to give it any trouble. Consider an app such as the Chrome browser, where the load times of the program itself are so short and hardware requirements so small that its operation is virtually unaffected by the Arm translation layer.

An increasing amount of applications have popped up in recent years that now natively support Windows on Arm. Spotify is now one of these, even if, like in other instances, it’s long overdue. For the battery life of portable devices alone, this is a significant advantage.

For now, Windows on Arm remains a somewhat inconsistent experience, as even quite recent daily-driver tests show. As a result, there’s certainly still work to be done for Microsoft and third-party developers. Plans for a possible transition to Arm on Microsoft’s own Xbox game console could significantly speed up the speed of transition to Arm, though. As cloud-based 365 solutions and the Microsoft Store increasingly form an ecosystem separate from any single device, the move to Arm may not be as painful as previously thought. With enterprises already making the move to cloud services instead of on-prem, consumers could be making this migration as well. They already do so with services such as Google Cloud and Office 365. Should that migration to the cloud become more concrete, native app support becomes a lot less relevant than it is now. In that case, an Arm-based Windows device that is mostly just a means to access the cloud, can be much more efficient and therefore more attractive than an x86 counterpart. Either way, Apple has shown that the move from x86 to Arm can be made in a relatively short time, as long as developers can be convinced -and supported- as well.

Also read: Arm sets record at IPO, stock market value gains nearly 25 percent