Over at the Build developer conference in Seattle, Microsoft has given us a look at Windows 10 running on an ARM processor, and made an important revelation: you’ll be able to run x86 Windows apps from any source.
In other words, it won’t limit you to apps downloaded from the Windows Store, or be otherwise restricted. Rather, you’ll be free to download whatever Windows programs you want, from wherever you like, and they'll install and run just as on a normal Windows PC (with an Intel or AMD x86 processor).
The news will be a relief to those who feared Windows 10 on ARM would end up being more of a walled-off ecosystem, potentially restricted to software downloaded from Microsoft’s store (either universal apps, or ported Win32 apps).
That fear may have been heightened recently when Microsoft unveiled the lightweight spin on its desktop OS, Windows 10 S – given that this isn't just strictly Windows Store apps-only, but has other restrictive policies – you can’t even install a third-party browser.
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As MS Power User spotted, at Build Microsoft gave a demonstration in which the 7-Zip archive utility was downloaded directly off the internet, installed and run on an ARM-powered device with no hitches. The user doesn’t need to take any action whatsoever, with the x86 emulation automatically handling everything behind the scenes.
Neither does the developer need to do anything; full Windows desktop apps will simply run as-is on the new system.
In short, the implementation of Windows 10 on ARM is looking pretty smart and seamless. As we’ve already seen, Microsoft hopes this will usher in a new generation of what it calls ‘mobile PCs’ – ultra-thin devices powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips.
The first such device is expected to launch in the final quarter of this year, and will likely be a hybrid notebook or tablet (but eventually we can expect to see smartphones running full-fat x86 Windows apps).
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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).