During its Build conference, Microsoft unveiled a new developer group called Volterra, to boost the transition of its apps to Arm architecture.
Microsoft’s Build is an event usually reserved for developers and software, but this year the manufacturer unveiled a new mini PC in passing. This Volterra project is original because the computer includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor in a small box. The architecture of Arm here is not really intended for the general public, but rather for developers in order to transition from x86 applications to Arm.
This isn’t Microsoft’s first attempt in this area since the Surface Pro X has already tried the exercise without much success. Few apps ran natively under Arm at the time, and emulation of x86 and x64 apps wasn’t the smoothest.
So Microsoft intends to follow in the footsteps of Apple, which has been able to transition almost all of its Intel processors to the new M1s in less than two years, with successes we know in terms of power consumption and performance. Microsoft’s strategy will be different, however, so the idea is not to abandon the classic architectures and the Windows/Intel and Windows/AMD relationship (for now anyway).
Few details have been given about this Volterra project which is actually the Windows counterpart of the Mac mini M1 except for some pictures of the box and its connections. The Snapdragon model has not been made official, but we can believe that it will be the 8cx Gen 3 introduced in December 2021 by Qualcomm which promises much better performance than the previous generation.
A priori, however, it would be difficult to compete with the latest chips from Apple, AMD, Intel … The goal is not, in any case, to present a high-performance machine, but enough so that developers can work efficiently, in particular thanks to the presence of an NPU chip (a unit Neural processing) customized for AI, all right on a PC with Arm.
We hope in any case that this project will allow Microsoft to accelerate the development of their applications under the arm in order to offer the general public portable computers (and other small computers) with performance and independence. The delay will be complicated to catch, as Apple is currently off to a good start, especially if the M2 chips are announced soon, as early as June 6 at WWDC possibly.
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