back to article Hello 'WOS': Windows on Arm now has a price

Microsoft's long journey away from Intel reached escape velocity this week, as the first traditional laptop machine with Qualcomm's Arm processor was revealed by Lenovo, in the shape of the Yoga C630 WOS. "WOS" stands for "Windows on Snapdragon", how Qualcomm prefers to call "Windows on Arm", and since it's Qualcomm Inside, …

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  1. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Go

    I Wish You Luck

    Anything that steps away from a monoculture is a good thing in my books.

    Chipzillla desperately needs more competition if for nothing else but to motivate them to be better, Sadly I don't think AMD has what it takes to be any other than an occasional annoyance.

    Give the rise and collapse of the Bulldozer architecture I am forced to anticipate the pattern to repeat itself with Rizen.

    1. E_Nigma

      Re: I Wish You Luck

      I'm not sure I follow. Bulldozer and related microarchitectures were a flop because both performance and power efficiency were beyond comparison (except under very specific workloads). Ryzen is a completely different case. As for ARM, I'm a little sceptical.

      In the past, performance and compatibility weren't there. As those improve, the gap in power consumption dwindles. I fear that in the end, if it does become an option, there will be no particular reason to go with ARM except just for the sake of getting something that's not x86. Which is cool in a way, but it would be even better if we could get a practical advantage. And they do need to go the full distance on performance and compatibility, as market has already rejected products such as Windows RT (power efficient, cheap, not really compatible) and Transmeta Crusoe and the likes (low power consumption, low performance, laptops weren't exactly cheap).

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        Re: I Wish You Luck

        I am more enthusiastic for ARM. The reason Intel is a power hog is because the chip, internally, is a RISC. It emulates the IA instruction set in software, i.e. microcode. That is clearly not as efficient as simply running RISC instruction set. This emulation is why all the low-power Intel attempts have failed, and the native RISC instruction set is why ARM is so doing well at the low-power end. But this does not mean that ARM needs to be barred entry to the high power computing - quite the opposite, actually, because it turns out that at the high end, the power efficiency is also very important. For an example, see The Next Platform. The only reason for Intel to stay at the position it is right now is its instruction set, which the exact same thing killing its (energy) performance.

        1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

          Re: I Wish You Luck

          ... actually, I need to correct myself. The only reason for Intel architecture to stay at the position it is right now is its instruction set

          Intel (firm) knows it very well, which is why it is investing in alternatives - for example (also The Next Platform).

        2. Dig

          Re: I Wish You Luck

          " I am more enthusiastic for ARM. The reason Intel is a power hog is because the chip, internally, is a RISC. It emulates the IA instruction set in software, i.e. microcode. That is clearly not as efficient as simply running RISC instruction set. "

          Surely Internally x86 is now RISC. It takes a CISC and converts it to a stream of micro instructions. It's a bit like compression in that sense then, meaning lower bandwidth on the external bus. The conversion to micro instructions would seem to be a fairly trivial task in terms of die size and power.

          1. oldcoder

            Re: I Wish You Luck

            It takes a LOT of power and electronics to do the translation FAST.

            It isn't a simple table lookup translation. Closer to being a compiler... The only RISC instructions passed on are those relative to the specific operation. It isn't the same sequence for different operands.

        3. CheesyTheClown

          Re: I Wish You Luck

          I use ARM every day in my development environment. I work almost entirely on Raspberry Pi these days.

          I would profit greatly from a Windows laptop running on ARM with Raspbian running in WSL.

          That said, I already get 12 hours battery life on my Surface Book 2 for watching videos and I also have. Core i7 with 16GB RAM and a GTX 1060.

          Nokia basically destroyed their entire telephone business by shipping underpowered machines with too little RAM because they actually believed batter life was why people bought phones. They bragged non-stop about how Symbian didn’t need 200Mhz CPUs and 32MB of RAM and yet, the web did and when iPhone came out and was a CPU, Memory and battery whore, people dumped Nokia like the piece of crap it was. The switch to Windows was just a final death throw.

          After all these years, ARM advocates seem to think people give a crap about battery life and are willing to sacrifice all else... like compatibility or usability just so they can not run what they want or be able to use it just because they can’t carry a small charger with them. I honestly believe that until ARM laptops are down to $399 or less and deliver always online Core i5 performance, they won’t sell more than a handful of laptops.

          Let’s also consider that no company shipping Qualcomm laptops are making a real effort at it. They’re building them just in case someone shows interest. But really, the mass market doesn’t have a clue what this is or why it matters and for that much money, there are far more impressive options.

          And oh... connectivity. If always connected was really a core business for Microsoft, why is it that my 2018 model Surface Book 2 15” Computer packs LTE?

          1. KegRaider

            Re: I Wish You Luck

            I have 2 Lenovo laptop tablet things with Atom processors. Low power, decent SSD performance, but slow as hell for normal operations. As a consequence, they rarely get used for anything but Netflix.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I Wish You Luck

          "The reason Intel is a power hog is because the chip, internally, is a RISC. It emulates the IA instruction set in software, i.e. microcode. That is clearly not as efficient as simply running RISC instruction set. "

          My understanding is that the core is RISC-like, and that the Hardware Control Unit processes most of the instruction set and the microcode is only used when the instruction is not in the CU, or has been patched.

          The microcode is obviously not as efficient as running through the CU, but I don't think it would be fair to claim that simply because there is a RISC-like core, that there is an efficiency loss. (ignoring of course the microcode updates for Meltdown/Spectre...)

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: I Wish You Luck

        Bulldozer and related microarchitectures were a flop because both performance and power efficiency were beyond comparison (except under very specific workloads).

        I presume you mean that the performance was low at a given power consumption? You are possibly right, but you ignore other things. I have been using AMD almost exclusively in low to mid range builds (not that I do hundreds, but y'know) for a while now because for an equivalent amount of computing grunt, the AMD parts have for a long time been cheaper than the Intel parts, particularly when you consider integrated graphics and motherboard facilities.

        For example, for a very long time a cheap AMD board would have 4 or 6 SATA3 ports while the equivalent Intel board might have two SATA3 and two more SATA2 ports if you were lucky. It was a similar story with USB3.

        For general desktop use, light gaming and life-extension upgrades the A6, A8 and A10 processors (mainly the A8) have been excellent value for money over the last five or six years, though I note that Intel's pricing has moved in the last nine months or so, still, an A8 (two Bulldozer modules sold as "four core" with R7 graphics) is the same price as a two core non HT Celeron with UHD610 graphics.

        Ryzen is now competing with Intel in the higher performance bracket, which is a place AMD haven't really been for a long time. I'm just setting up my first Ryzen system. Interesting times.

        M.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: I Wish You Luck

      does it come with Linux instead?

      Mate desktop, please, and *NO* 2D FLATSO themes!

  2. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    How much?

    I thought the ARM things would be cheaper than the *ahem* industry standard things.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: How much?

      It's relatively expensive as it doesn't have the volume to be a standard.

      Hopefully MS won't fluff it this time so it will be. In the end it's about the software.

      1. alain williams Silver badge

        Re: How much?

        Hopefully MS won't fluff it this time so it will be. In the end it's about the software.

        They already have fluffed it ... it runs Windows 10 S -- the version that restricts you to only running stuff from the MS App store.

        I like the reported battery life, but not at that price. Anyway: I would wait until someone reports that Linux Mint runs on it.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: How much?

          Apparently Windows 10 S has an app in their store which flicks the switch and changes it to normal Windows 10 and it's a free download.

          It's probably the only app you'll ever need...

          1. Tim 11

            Re: How much?

            "Apparently Windows 10 S has an app in their store which flicks the switch and changes it to normal Windows 10"

            but this thing doesn't have an Intel (or Intel-emulating) CPU so presumably it won't be able to run x86 and x84 native windows apps. So this while thing really boils down to nothing more than a reinvention of windows RT. Can someone explain how I'm wrong?

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: How much?

              Windows 10 on ARM does have an x86 emulator for Win32 exes, this time around.

              1. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: How much?

                Theoretically, anything relatively legacy from win32 should run, as long as it can without doing any deep-system work. The APIs are compatible and the instructions are simulated. If what I saw months ago is still correct, 64-bit applications won't work, but with only 4GB of ram, that's not a really big deal.

                I wonder how far the battery drops when you're running one of those. I presume quite a bit. I also wonder if the 25 hours of battery when watching local video is perhaps taking advantage of a GPU that is efficient. Usually, that kind of number sparks my exaggeration sensor. I would like to see real world numbers for activity that will actually happen: browsing internet, doing office work, spreadsheets with inefficient formulas courtesy of finance, and doing one of those with several tabs, mail client, and skype running in the background. Then I'll know what I predict.

              2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

                Re: How much?

                Only win32? then it is almost useless.

                Five years ago, people would have bought it (maybe) but not these days.

                1. Dan 55 Silver badge

                  Re: How much?

                  Why would it need anything else? Everything else is .Net or precompiled store apps which can have builds for as many CPU types as necessary.

          2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

            Re: How much?

            > Apparently Windows 10 S has an app in their store which flicks the switch and changes it to normal Windows 10 and it's a free download.

            That is apparently true for the Intel version of Windows 10S. That has no bearing on whether the ARM 10S has the same facility.

            The Snapdragon 850 only has emulation for x86 and _not_ x86-64. As most software over the last decade has moved to 64bit then your favourite programs may not be available on this machine.

            In fact the lack of 'normal' Win10 may be deliberate so that Microsoft can ensure that only software that will run under this emulation will be available. Otherwise there may be too many returns because the user tried loading software that could not run.

          3. Avatar of They Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: How much?

            ...Probably the only App you will find.

            I know coat already on.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How much?

          Anyway: I would wait until someone reports that Linux Mint runs on it.

          I did this a couple of years ago with an Acer Aspire One cloudbook; they shipped with Windows 10 which it was far too low specced to run properly on at all, and so retailers were awash with returns which had basically been booted up and then sent straight back. I picked one up for less than half price, put Mint on it and it ran perfectly.

          1. damiandixon

            Re: How much?

            Picked myself up a returned Dell Inspiron 13 a couple of months back for ~£230. Usual price is > £500.

            The laptop has a touch screen, tablet mode, full windows 10, 1TB drive, 4GB of memory. Absolutly nothing wrong with it at all. Did not look like it had even been turned on.

            Installed Ubuntu on half the disk, as I need both OS's. I manly needed the laptop for testing software with an Intel GPU.

            Ubuntu runs well. Windows not so well.

            Chrome on both struggle after you have 5 or 6 tabs open.

            Could do with at least 8GB of memory though!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: How much?

              Nice buy. For the same price as an 8GB RAM upgrade kit, you could swap the hard drive for an SSD. A good quality SSD will give you far more bang for your buck!

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: How much?

      Apparently, we thought wrong. I can get a monster battery pack for my slow-sipping Asus X202E (which I adore, runs Windows Server 2016 here as my lab machine) well below that cost, tossing in an upgraded laptop in the deal. Yes, I want to see alternative paths, non-x86 paths at that, but this? at this price?? No.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: How much?

        I can get a monster battery pack for my slow-sipping Asus X202E

        And what does the thing way with the extra battery?

        1. jmch Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: How much?

          "And what does the thing way with the extra battery?"

          It will weigh way more :)

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: How much?

            @jmch

            Yeah. -) I have days where the spelling just goes like that. I think it has something to with language cross-coding that buggers up whatever checks we run when spelling homophones.

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: How much?

      The chips are cheaper, but you can expect to pay a premium for the combination of low weight + good battery life. 25 hours for a 1.2 kg device is very impressive. People who want something light but with good endurance won't mind paying a bit. If the numbers do hold up then Microsoft has definitely stolen a march on Apple.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: How much?

        "you can expect to pay a premium for the combination of low weight + good battery life"

        And thus marketing kills demand for a product which at half the price would be marching out the door to the tune of cannibalising sales of most of the rest of the models

        Disruptive products come in at prices which put everything else on its ear. This doesn't and the fact that it's coming from an established maker is a lot of the reason why.

        WRT "Always connected" I've been seeing laptops with 3G and LTE connectivity for years. What kills them utterly is the telco fees. After a couple of months of that only the most dedicated roamers keep the SIM installed and everyone else pulls 'em.

        1. H in The Hague Silver badge

          Re: How much?

          "WRT "Always connected" I've been seeing laptops with 3G and LTE connectivity for years. What kills them utterly is the telco fees."

          Depends where you live. Here in NL 4G data is very reasonably priced, with roaming throughout the EU. On my Vodafone business contract I get unlimited calls in NL + EU + 15 GB data + 2 extra SIMs (for my laptop and mobile hotspot) for EUR 36 (exc. VAT) per month. Including roaming in Canada and the US would cost me EUR 29 extra. Haven't used WiFi for more than a decade.

          https://www.vodafone.nl/zakelijk/shop/mobiel/abonnement/?icmp=nav-subs-simonly

          There are also consumer contracts for about the same price with unlimited data.

  3. Tom 38 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    The proof is not in the pudding, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

  4. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Intel sueing in 3... 2... 1...

    I mean Intel and AMD have patents on their instruction set architecture.

    Of course they could just emulate >15 year old CPUs which would fit the usecase of most coorporate Windows machines very well. After all few Windows-only Software actually uses anything that came out after 2000.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Intel sueing in 3... 2... 1...

      The original x86 patents expired a quite some time ago and they're the ones that matter. Licences may still be required for some of the extensions MMX, SIMD, etc. but those aren't likely to be such a problem.

      Anyway, the real fun will come on these machines with Windows removed so that no emulation is required. I assume we can expect bootlockers designed to prevent this.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Intel sueing in 3... 2... 1...

      "After all few Windows-only Software actually uses anything that came out after 2000."

      I wish this were true. Unfortunately, some *EXTREMELY* unwise software developers (for business applications) drank the Micro-shaft coolaid and either use C-pound, or (nearly as bad) ".Not" with C++.

      If the application you use falls into this category, you're *B0NED*.

      However, if the developers were SMART, they used Java [Oracle does this] or MFC/C++ *without* ".Not" and targeted XP or 7 [and not 10]. Yes, it's STILL possible to do that. And very, very wise.

      /me points out that with a little effort, MFC applications can be modified to use wxWidgets to run on Mac or X11 systems. There's effort for sure, but it's not "that much" and worth doing. Then you can have a single code base for everything. Yes, _I_ do this.

      Once business applications are commonly available for Linux and Mac, people will *STOP* "needing" Windows, and developers will have even MORE reason to make their applications run on non-windows OSs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Intel sueing in 3... 2... 1...

        A few years back I got all the main Windows tools of the company I worked at the time runing under Wine. I even fixed a few issues with Wine to make sure it worked and swapped out DLLs on installation to be doubly sure.

        However there were no additional sales because of this even though half our runtime sales were for Linux.

        I did not regret doing this exercise. But afterwards I pushed development to use Qt for the tool frontends.

        However with the SDK costs of Qt being so high compared to a VS licence and the new confusion sown by the new owners over the use of LPGL and the dropping of the runtime exception clause I struggle to convince people to use Qt.

        The primary issue with picking technology is with Senior management. Invariaby they use Windows and always pick Windows technologies. Senior management in the UK does not usually have a software development background...

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Intel sueing in 3... 2... 1...

        "Once business applications are commonly available for Linux and Mac, people will *STOP* "needing" Windows"

        We still have coders insisting on producing stuff that _ONLY_ works on MSIE and who then whine that everybody has a windows box available, even android users.

    3. damiandixon

      Re: Intel sueing in 3... 2... 1...

      Almost everything I compile is targeted at i5 or newer running Windows 7 SP1 or newer (ignoring Windows 8/8.1) depending on what the customer asks for. If they want something older or a different processor it costs extra.

  5. K Silver badge

    "Now all Intel can do is watch from the sidelines"

    Or they'll do what other gargantuan companies do... if you cannot compete, then consume. So, a high probability they will attempt to acquire ARM!

    1. msknight Silver badge

      Re: "Now all Intel can do is watch from the sidelines"

      Acquire ARM... from China... I can't see china ever letting ARM go.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: "Now all Intel can do is watch from the sidelines"

        ARM From China? I think you meant Japan. I'm pretty sure Softbank would sell if the price was right.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: "Now all Intel can do is watch from the sidelines"

          Intel eating ARM would mean anti-competitive problems so it suits Intel to have ARM out there.

        2. msknight Silver badge

          Re: "Now all Intel can do is watch from the sidelines"

          Softbank, as far as I can read, is basically Chinese. I've got to admit, it's getting very hard to keep track of who owns who these days... https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-07-18/did-china-just-buy-most-important-company-world - https://www.design-reuse.com/news/44316/softbank-arm-china-stake.html

        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: "Now all Intel can do is watch from the sidelines" Softbank

          I think Intel cant afford ARM. I voted against the sellout to Softbank as I though ARM would be worth 4 or five times the offer price in a few years. Seeing their post buyout release of info on there NN software I thought I'd underestimated. Seeing their ML stuff I KNOW I underestimated.

    2. The Original Steve

      Re: "Now all Intel can do is watch from the sidelines"

      The ink wouldn't be dry on the proposal before anti competition regulators would throw it out.

      1. K Silver badge

        Re: "Now all Intel can do is watch from the sidelines"

        Possibly, but it does not stop them trying!

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: "Now all Intel can do is watch from the sidelines"

      Qualcomm is a preferred supplier for the US military so no sale without their approval.

      Anyway, that ship has more or less sailed: there are too many ARM licencees, including Intel, out there now with the right to design their own ARM-based archs.

  6. Buzzword

    Only 4GB of RAM ?

    Even mobile phones have 6GB these days. For similar money I'd rather have a Samsung Galaxy S-whatever and a DeX dongle.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only 4GB of RAM ?

      I don't see any particular need. Lots of iPhones out there with 1 to 3GB. Very few Windows applications would need anything like 1GB of working memory. Extra RAM has traditionally been used as a cache to compensate for slow magnetic disks but it makes very little difference if you go with a good fast solid-state drive.

      It is a source of mystery to me why the world is still flooded with desperately slow PCs which take forever to boot up or even to launch an Office app, but I don't think RAM size is the limiting factor.

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