What you need to know:
- Microsoft has unveiled its first Windows on ARM devkit.
- It’s powered by a Snapdragon SoC and will be coming later this year.
- It features a built-in NPU, and is similar in shape and size to a Mac mini.
Microsoft has announced new hardware at Build 2022! Given that Build is a developer conference, it should come as no surprise to hear that the hardware being announced today is a developer kit designed to help devs to build apps that take advantage of new AI capabilities via an onboard neural processing unit (NPU,) as well as add support for Windows 11 on ARM.
Introducing Project Volterra… #Rad pic.twitter.com/llU73ih5A8May 24, 2022
The developer kit is called “Project Volterra,” and is powered by an as-yet unnamed Snapdragon processor. The device is a mini-desktop PC, similar in shape and size to that of a Mac mini or the base of a Surface Studio, just without the display attached. This developer kit is also Microsoft’s first “desktop” PC, though it doesn’t plan to sell the device as a consumer product.
Not much else is known about the hardware at this time, including specs, price, or even a release date. The company says it will share more “at a later date.” Windows Central understands that the Surface team built the hardware in partnership with Qualcomm, and that it will ship with a “flagship SoC.” This would make it the first and only Windows on ARM developer kit so far to ship with a flagship Snapdragon processor.
Additionally, Qualcomm has announced a new Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK for Windows toolkit, which will help developers explore AI scenarios in their apps. Microsoft is committed to baking support for NPUs into the end-to-end Windows platform, too.
For Windows on ARM specifically, Microsoft has announced that its end-to-end software developer kit will be Arm native, with some of the tools launching in preview soon. The Arm-native tool-chain consists of:
- Visual Studio 2022
- Visual Studio Code
- Visual C++
- Modern .NET 6 and Java
- Classic .NET Framework
- Windows Terminal
- Windows Subsystem for Linux
- Windows Subsystem for Android
Microsoft is also affirming its commitment to an “open hardware ecosystem” for Windows, which sees Microsoft evolving the platform to support new hardware platforms and technologies, such as “GPUs that render an app’s user experiences, Wi-Fi and cellular chipsets that ensure devices are always connected, and CPUs including MIPS, x86, Alpha, Itanium, and x64.”
The launch of a new Windows on ARM developer kit built by Microsoft reaffirms its commitment to the platform. Microsoft is all-in on Windows on ARM, and wants it to become just another option for Windows customers looking for their next PC. With new Snapdragon chips getting better every year, we might almost be there.
Be sure to check out all the news coming out of this years developer conference on our Build 2022 page!