First, I am going to give you my prediction, then I am going to provide you with some history, then Microsoft’s solution, and then finally I am going to tell you the reasons behind my prediction.
My prediction is – if Microsoft’s proposed solution to create a software layer emulator that sits between its Windows 10 OS and the ARM processors and they make it backward compatible across all modern ARM/Qualcomm processors then Microsoft is not just back in the mobile game, they are quite possibly back to ruling the entire computing world.
My prediction concerns Microsoft’s announcement to have the same flavor of Windows 10 proliferated across all devices. And with Microsoft, by just announcing it’s next mobile device is going to run on an ARM based Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 next generation processor, is going to nicely position itself to run on every modern device —-> smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop, and servers (with exception of the possibly free s/w based Linux boxes) on the planet. That’s every single device. Yes, they’ve been sucking the proverbial hind tit with only 1% of the mobile market space but that’s about to change.
History. The Android OS presently owns the mobile (OS) operating space with something like 85% of the market. Android comes in a bunch of different flavors but they all mostly run on ARM licensed Qualcomm processors which owns approximately 32% of the mobile market space.
Microsoft launched its first phone a year and a half ago running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor using a specially designed OS (Windows 10 Mobile) to run on this ARM based device. But sales have been dismal (1% market share) chiefly because their App Store is so tiny compared to Apple’s IOS Store and the Android Market Store.
More history. Microsoft has stated since Satya Nadella took over as CEO that they don’t want to maintain several Windows 10 OS ‘shells’ but want the (UI) User Interface to be the same across all devices, regardless of the processor. So the problem right now is that Intel processors (and AMD licensed processors) run the x86 Intel ISA (Instruction Set Architecture), which is fine for the desktop and server environment – for which Wintel (Windows/Intel) own 85% of this market share – but sucks considering the growth and the money is in the mobile space where the ARM based devices run a totally different machine level instruction set.
Microsoft’s solution is to create a software layer emulator that sits between its Windows 10 OS and the ARM processor and it will take all of the old native x86 ISA based applications and translate those instruction sets into an ARM compatible instruction set before passing them down the ARM processor.
Before I get into giving more info on my prediction, let me first say that there have been two unanswered questions which have recently surfaced following the most recent announcement of Microsoft’s proclamation that they will soon release a full blown version of Windows 10 running on Qualcomm’s next generation Snapdragon 835 processor.
The questions raised was what happens to devices running earlier generations of Snapdragon – like my phone with its 810 version? The second question that has been raised and that no one, including Microsoft has answered is what happens to Windows 10 Mobile devices (like mine)?
If Microsoft is collapsing all it’s UIs into the same shell then Windows 10 Mobile – with an entirely different shell – goes bye-bye. But to where? Do we all just throw out our $650 Windows 10 Mobile phones or what?
BTW – I am seriously perplexed why there are these two outstanding questions but no one is either prescient enough (or forthcoming enough) to do nothing more than to raise these questions – given Microsoft’s recent (and past) announcements concerning its future intent for Windows 10.
So, the bigger question is really about Microsoft’s commitment to carry through on their stated plan to put Windows 10 – the exact same version – across all devices big and small.
I am certainly not a genius here but at least I’ve formulated an opinion (aka prediction). And yes, I am well aware of one of the limiting forces here – or so I’ve read – is the Windows 10 shell has a problem adapting to screen sizes less than 6″. Is this true? I have absolutely no idea.
I believe this problem has either been solved or is not true and I say that because of the huge chasm that presents to Microsoft’s future. If Microsoft can’t (or won’t) port Windows 10 to most mobile ARM/Qualcomm type devices then the company runs the risk of staying in last place in the mobile space while steadily losing traction to Android/Qualcomm as they make inroads into the desktop/server space.
I am going to say this again later but in the near future there is going to be one device to rule them all. There is no second place. That is why Satya Nadella has decided to make two important changes to Microsoft’s direction: the first is (to say it again), make Windows 10 compatible across all platforms. Second, in accomplishing the first he fulfills the ultimate future vision where the phone, tablet, and desktop all collapse into one tiny box. Simply stated, that is the near term future of computing.
Note: I want to delineate what I mean by shell, OS, UI, and introduce the concept of the kernel. OS’s – Operating Systems – be them Linux based, Android, or x86 have two major components: the kernel (the guts of the OS) and the shell (the UI, or User Interface). The shell is the part the user sees and the kernel is that hidden piece of the OS that reacts to the shell’s commands.
So my prediction is this. Windows 10 Mobile will go away and all modern smartphones and tablets running a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 forward will eventually run full blown versions of Windows 10, just like your desktop.
Yes, Microsoft has announced that the first release of a full blown desktop shell version of Windows 10 will be released on products running the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, but the emphasis should be placed on first release.
I say this for three reasons: One. The x86 Intel ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) is backward compatible from today’s Intel’s 64-bit i7 Sky Lake /Caby Lake processors all the way back to the original 8-bit 8088. So why shouldn’t the Instruction Set Architecture of the ARM based device be any different? So don’t even try to tell me that Android must release a totally new kernel to deal with each and every Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU upgrade. That’d be absurd. The ISA must remain the same.
Second. Windows 10 – the kernel – is not processor (aka power) bound. For example, I have Windows 10 successfully running on a 7 year old first-gen single core 1.6GHz Atom processor with just 2Gb of RAM. (So don’t tell me that Windows 10 can’t be developed to run on my 8-core Qualcomm 1.6Ghz – 2.0GHz Snapdragon 810 with 3Gb of RAM.)
Third. By making Windows 10 backward compatible across all modern Qualcomm Snapdragon CPUs, then just think of what that does to their potential market? It increases it by say, upwards of a billion new devices. If you’re one of those people either sick of running Android on your smartphone (I know I was) or your company wants across the board compatibility (like your phone compatible with your desktop running Windows 10) then I suspect in the near term future you (or your company) will pay a nominal fee to install the Windows 10 OS over top of the Android OS.
Satya Nadella’s vision is positively brilliant. And the true future of all computing platforms from phones to tablets to the desktop will eventually reside in that one tiny little device you carry around in your pocket that is now called a smartphone. Running the same apps, using the same OS, carrying the same data, capable of plugging into large external desktop devices like HDMI monitors, keyboards, mice, external storage and the like. And it’s all branded Microsoft.
Think about it.