The first PCs will be the ASUS NovaGo, which is a convertible laptop, and the HP ENVY x2 convertible tablet.
This is exciting news on a couple of fronts. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, which was the processor first announced for Windows 10 on ARM, offers reasonable performance, but with lower power consumption than what we’ve been used to in the PC space, and especially in low-power states. Without having the devices in-hand, we still don’t know how the SD835 compares in performance to the competition. We should finally be able to answer that soon though.
Battery life should also be a big win, and while we don’t have our own tests done yet, Microsoft’s information is claiming up to 30 days of standby and up to 22 hours of active use, while the detachable tablet-style HP ENVY x2 is claiming up to 20 hours of active use.
Branded as Always Connected PCs, the new Windows on ARM systems are positioned as bringing together the best of PCs and smartphones. They have PC form factors, with the productivity enabled by a real keyboard, touchpad, and general purpose operating system capable of running regular Windows software, but they bring with them the seamless switching between LTE and Wi-Fi, instant on, multiple working day battery life, and slimline, lightweight packaging that we’re accustomed to on our phones.
The emulator runs in a just-in-time basis, converting blocks of x86 code to equivalent blocks of ARM code. This conversion is cached both in memory (so each given part of a program only has to be translated once per run) and on disk (so subsequent uses of the program should be faster, as they can skip the translation). Moreover, system libraries—the various DLLs that applications load to make use of operating system features—are all native ARM code, including the libraries loaded by x86 programs. Calling them “Compiled Hybrid Portable Executables” (or “chippie” for short), these libraries are ARM native code, compiled in such a way as to let them respond to x86 function calls.