Is Windows Phone Really Dead? x86 On ARM Suggests Not
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Microsoft's mobile phone hopes surely must be well and truly dashed, but if a recent report is to be believed, perhaps not. 

The history of Windows Phone is a nightmare of bad timing and poor decisions. When Microsoft had a reasonable phone platform based on Silverlight it tore up its plans and started over. Then after Windows 8 was such a disaster it rebranded the whole thing as Windows 10 Mobile and again kept everyone waiting.

The fact of the matter is that both incarnations of the mobile OS were reasonably good and were easy to program. In short, Windows Phone would be an attractive proposition for any C# programmer if there was any market for the resulting apps. With a roughly 1% share of the market, and having stated that no new hardware is on the horizon,it seems clear that Windows Phone is dead.

Or is it?

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A new report, or more accurately a rumor, from ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley suggests that Microsoft might still be working on the dream of getting full Windows x86 apps to run on an ARM processor.

The rumor is that x86 ARM emulation will be in Windows Redstone 3 in the Fall of 2017. Windows Mobile runs on ARM processors and only supports Window Universal Apps, not full Win32 or .NET apps. Microsoft recently introduced Continuum intended as a killer feature with the Lumia phones. Continuum allowed the phones to be used as a PC substitute with a keyboard and mouse. The problem is that the only apps that worked were Universal Windows Apps. The idea seems to be that a Win32 emulator would allow any existing Windows app to run on an ARM phone. 


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There have been rumours of a Surface Phone for a while, but recently Intel stopped work on its x86 mobile processor and so made it impossible for Microsoft to simply put x86 Windows on a phone. This suggested that the whole phone enterprise was done for because without an x86 Phone Windows is at a disadvantage. With an x86 Phone Microsoft could claim that it had been clever in its phone strategy and had simply waited until the hardware "grew up". 

If the rumors are true it might be that an x86 emulator is the solution to the lack of real hardware. However, it does push the limits of what the existing hardware can do. You would not only need to load the ARM version of Windows Mobile, you would also need the emulator and an x86 Windows subsystem. A quick reality check suggests that this is a crazy route to go down, even if you add the use of a 64-bit ARM processor to the rumor. 

Making emulation work at a reasonable speed with good memory efficiency isn't going to be an easy trick to pull off.

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More Information

Microsoft's x86 on ARM64 emulation: A Windows 10 'Redstone 3' Fall 2017 feature

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Continuum - Microsoft's Killer Phone Feature?

A New Build Of Windows 10 Mobile

Microsoft Scales Down Windows Phone

Microsoft Buys Nokia

Windows Phone 8 - A Restart

 

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 08 December 2016 )