“Project Volterra,” Microsoft’s device for developers interested in building, testing, and running native Windows apps on Arm, ships starting today, October 24. Microsoft is counting on the new $599 device to attract more developers to build native Windows on Arm apps, especially AI apps that take advantage of the neural processing unit built into the Qualcomm platform.
Windows Dev Kit 2023, as the new mini PC is called, runs the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor and comes with 32GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, Wi-Fi 6, physical Ethernet, three USB-A, two USB – C and a mini-display port. Users can drive up to three external monitors simultaneously (including two at 4K 60Hz). The device is available today in eight countries: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom and United States. (Beyond $599 for the single configuration, prices will vary based on market availability, a spokesperson said.)
To try to encourage more developers to target the Windows on Arm platform, over the past five months Microsoft has released previews of a number of its own Arm-ported tools, including Visual Studio 2022 (preview) , the Windows App SDK (preview), and libraries including VC++ Runtime and .NET 7 (preview). Azure VMs with the Ampere Altra Arm-based processor (which supports various Linux distributions, as well as pre-release versions of Windows 11 Pro and Enterprise). The company has also ported Teams, Arm64 Office, Edge, Defender for Endpoint, and OneDrive Sync to work natively on Arm.
Microsoft also offers developers access to its App Assure app compatibility service as another lure. Developers who experience app compatibility issues or technical blockers while porting their apps using the Windows 2023 SDK will receive help from Microsoft engineers to help resolve the issues.
While there’s nothing stopping non-developers from buying the Windows Dev Kit 2023 device, there’s really no compelling reason for “regular” users to run Windows on Arm at this point – at least IMHO notice. For years, Microsoft worked to make Windows on Arm work comparable to Windows on Intel, with little success. The kind of battery life and performance gains Arm promises haven’t materialized for the most part in the real world, despite OEMs (including Microsoft itself) citing some pretty impressive numbers.
Rich Turner, senior product manager at Microsoft, took to Twitter last week to try to defend Windows on Arm. He said he believed that Windows on Arm and Windows on Intel are “pretty comparable now”.
“Arm devices can run x86, x64 and Arm64 applications simultaneously! Devices currently on the market like the X13S and Lenovo’s Surface Pro 9, and upcoming devices like ‘Project Volterra’ are amazingly fast, and will get faster as other applications are ported.” Turner tweeted.
When asked why Windows on Arm PCs still don’t match Apple hardware in terms of battery life, he tweeted, “There’s a ton of work being done to analyze and improve power consumption. energy right now. Although, oddly enough, the CPU is rarely the biggest power consumer in a laptop/tablet – it’s usually the display and/or wireless communications.”
Microsoft’s official response from a spokesperson when I asked about Windows on Arm’s value proposition: “With Surface Pro 9 and the upcoming Windows 2023 SDK in mind, we believe the The continued investments we make in Windows on Arm will ultimately benefit customers and the entire Windows ecosystem.”