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More Hardware Partners, Mobile Operators Back ARM-Based Windows 10

More original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and mobile service providers are throwing their support behind Snapdragon-based Windows 10 PCs, dubbed "Always Connected PCs."

Lenovo is the latest OEM to support Qualcomm's Snapdragon Mobile PC Platform, the chipmaker announced Wednesday. Lenovo joins HP and Asus, both of which unveiled Windows 10 Always Connected PC devices back in December.

These Always Connected PCs are notable for using chips designed by ARM Holdings, which are more typically associated with mobile devices than with PCs. They can run Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) applications, but are also notable for an ability to run Win32 applications (such as the older Windows 7 apps).

Lenovo is using Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform in its Miix 630, a two-in-one detachable PC-tablet device, which runs the Windows 10 S operating system (also known as "Windows 10 Pro in S mode"). Lenovo's device was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show back in January.

The number of mobile service providers planning to embrace Always Connected PCs for use on 4G and LTE networks has also grown. In addition to China Telecom, TIM (Italy), EE (United Kingdom) and Sprint and Verizon (United States), the following operators plan to support the devices, according to Qualcomm's announcement:

  • AT&T and T-Mobile (United States)
  • China Mobile Communications Corporation
  • Cubic (Ireland)
  • Deutsche Telekom
  • Swisscom
  • Telefónica (Spain)
  • Telstra (Australia)
  • Transatel (France)

For organizations, Always Connected PCs can be joined to a domain, which eases management. The devices also have long battery lifespans. Qualcomm claims the ability to run "up to 20+ hours of continuous video playback" before the battery drains. The devices turn on "instantly" and come with "built-in Gigabit LTE and Wi-Fi," with LTE connection speeds ranging from "about 800 Mbps" to a gigabit.

Windows 10 on ARM has some limitations, according to a report by Paul Thurrott, citing a Microsoft publication that apparently was pulled (but it's archived here). These devices can't run 64-bit applications. They will run x86 apps but the drivers must be ported to support ARM64. Games using OpenGL versions later than 1.1 won't work. Applications that "customize the Windows experience" could fail. Applications assuming mobile versions of Windows won't work right. Lastly, "the Windows hypervisor platform is not supported on ARM," so it doesn't support running virtual machines.

The ability of Always Connected PCs to run older Windows applications is somewhat controversial. It's done through so-called "x86 emulation" technology. Microsoft claims that these devices can run applications such as Adobe Photoshop and an optimized Office suite. However, longtime Microsoft partner Intel suggested last year that it planned to evaluate any products using x86 emulation technologies as possibly infringing its patent holdings.

Since that time, Intel hasn't spoken out, but Always Connected PCs are expected to arrive on the market sometime in early part of this year. Qualcomm's announcement indicated that mobile operator offerings would be seen "in the first half of 2018."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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