Qual­comm-pow­ered PCs to get 64-bit apps

Mi­crosoft plans to an­nounce an ARM64 de­vel­oper kit preview at its Build con­fer­ence in May, re­veals

Tech Advisor - - Contents - MARK HACHMAN

Win­dows PCs that use the bat­tery-sip­ping Qual­comm Snap­dragon ARM pro­ces­sor are just be­gin­ning to roll out, but they in­clude some ma­jor caveats. One of them, the in­abil­ity to run 64-bit apps, doesn’t ap­pear to be go­ing away any­time soon.

Ac­cord­ing to a Mi­crosoft rep­re­sen­ta­tive, the com­pany will “share more de­tails” on a preview of its ARM64 soft­ware de­vel­op­ment kit (SDK) at its Build de­vel­oper con­fer­ence at the be­gin­ning of May. It’s un­clear when the preview ver­sion of the SDK will be

re­leased, when a fi­nal ver­sion will debut, or when apps based upon it will roll out to end users.

A road­block for users

PCs such as the Asus No­vaGo cur­rently in­clude a 64-bit ver­sion of the Win­dows op­er­at­ing sys­tem, but will only run 32-bit apps. (Vir­tu­ally all of to­day’s PCs in­clude a 64-bit ver­sion of Win­dows, and 64-bit apps.) The real dif­fer­ence be­tween 32- and 64-bit apps con­cerns the amount of mem­ory they can ad­dress; 32-bit apps are limited to 4GB of mem­ory, mean­ing that some high-per­for­mance cre­ative apps and games might not be able to run.

On one hand, that might not be a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem for PCs like the No­vaGo, which have been mar­keted as an al­ways-con­nected, all-day com­puter rather than a per­for­mance pow­er­house. But Win­dows also blocks 64-bit apps from be­ing in­stalled from the Store or else­where. That road­block will go away once 64-bit apps are sup­ported on ARM.

The other sac­ri­fice that own­ers of a Qual­comm Snap­dragon PC have to make is to tol­er­ate that apps writ­ten for the In­tel Core chips have to be em­u­lated, or in­ter­preted – a trans­la­tion fea­ture that slows down the app some­what. The good news, Mi­crosoft rep­re­sen­ta­tives added, is that as more de­vel­op­ers check in code com­piled for the ARM pro­ces­sor – ei­ther us­ing the 32-bit SDK or, even­tu­ally, the 64-bit ver­sion – the Mi­crosoft Store app will au­to­mat­i­cally down­load the up­dated apps to users. So while buy­ing a Qual­comm­pow­ered Al­ways Con­nected PC cur­rently car­ries with it sev­eral caveats, things should im­prove over time.

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