Windows 10 on ARM to support 64-bit apps emulation

Windows 10 on ARM is not Windows RT, but it’s also not the Windows 10 you know. By contrast, the ARM version of Windows 10 is a full-fledged operating system, capable of running most desktop apps unmodified from Microsoft Store and other sources.

Windows 10 on ARM can run desktop apps in a 32-bit emulator but it does not allow users to emulate 64-bit apps in the same way, which limits the use of 64-bit desktop apps.

According to a Github commit by Kenny Kerr, Principal software engineer on the Windows team, Microsoft is working to break down one of the biggest barriers to Windows on ARM and enable support for 64-bit apps emulation.

The Github commit has revealed that Microsoft is actively working on ‘ARM64EC’, which could be the name of the new Windows architecture for x64_64 apps. This would be a major deal for Microsoft’s Windows on ARM effort, with the latest Snapdragon 8cx making serious improvement in performance.

It’s possible there would be larger performance impacts for 64-bit apps than we’ve seen with 32-bit apps on devices with older Snapdragon processor, but it’s likely that such performance slowdowns won’t be noticeable on devices with newer chipsets such as the Snapdragon 8cx.

It’s worth pointing out that Windows on ARM had a slow start, but it’s not yet another Windows RT, which was plagued with various limitations. The tech giant has devoted a massive amount of development resources to port Windows 10 to ARM processors and recent updates to the project had resulted in noticeably improved performance.

The 64-bit app emulator for Windows 10 on ARM is likely to debut in a feature update in the first half of 2021, possibly with Windows 10 21H1 (Spring 2021 Update).

Windows on ARM progress will also encourage OEMs to launch affordable devices with longer battery life in the 2-in-1 market.