Microsoft is preparing Windows mini for ARM

In 2023, Microsoft will launch its first desktop computer from Project Volterra.

Seven years ago, when it launched its first Surface Book laptop, Microsoft surprised everyone, including its hardware partners. It was a flop. But, unlike Microsoft’s other hardware efforts – the Surface tablet, the Surface RT, and the infamous Kin phone – Microsoft continues to work on the Surface Book. Now, hardware like the Surface Laptop Studio, which comes directly from that experience, are great laptops. This time, with the Volterra project, Microsoft will try something new again: launch its first desktop computer.

And even if it seems strange, the future machine will not work with an AMD processor or an Intel chip, but with an ARM processor. Obviously, we can say at the outset that Microsoft is exposing itself to another failure, as is the case with Windows RT or the Surface Pro X, which is very limited in performance. But I don’t believe that will happen. I think Microsoft will be successful in ARM, and I’m not what you’d call a Microsoft fan. Why do I believe in it more? Because, instead of emulating x86 with ARM, with a definite program slowness, Microsoft this time provides developers with end-to-end software development kits (SDKs) and programming tools that will be ARM native .

The Volterra Project includes:

Visual Studio 2022

Visual StudioCode

Visual C ++

.NET 6 (Modern) and Java

.NET Framework (Classic)

windows-terminal

Windows Subsystem for Linux

Windows Subsystem for Android

The latest machine equipped with advanced technologies

In other words, Microsoft will give programmers everything they need to create ARM programs that can really take advantage of its architectural virtues. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that WinARM will replace Wintel. But it was a serious hardware breakthrough for Microsoft. The Project Volterra PC is supposed to work on a Snapdragon processor whose name is not yet known. It will feature four such processors and a neural processing unit (NPU) for artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) programming. Qualcomm Technologies will also provide the Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK for this new Windows toolkit. There is a rumor that a Surface team will develop this system with Qualcomm and ship it using a Snapdragon system-on-chip (SoC). If this is confirmed, Windows on ARM can benefit from it. Until now, Microsoft has not been interested in modern ARM technology. The new machine also includes what Computerworld’s Rob Enderle calls the ACU or Azure Compute Unit. This chip should make it easier for Windows PCs to transfer workloads between PC and cloud, if necessary.

If I understand correctly, we are talking about a Windows desktop computer that relies on the cloud. I’ve heard that somewhere before … The desktop PC itself should be the size of a Mac mini. Although Microsoft has not yet provided specs, we already know that it includes a Gigabit Ethernet port, WiFi 6 support, and an HDMI port for video. Perhaps, because of this link to Azure, it won’t require a lot of storage – a 512MB SSD? – or multiple USB-C ports. Microsoft will not attempt to sell this product to the general public. The desktop mini PC is intended to help AI/ML developers and programmers. That said, I thought ARM fans would be keen to get their hands on this type of hardware. I personally think that, from Azure, this is probably Microsoft’s most important advancement in hardware development. I will follow this project with great interest and its results. Not too long to wait as Microsoft will release its first desktop computer from Project Volterra in 2023.

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