back to article This is why old Windows Phones won't run PC apps

Thanks to Qualcomm, x86 support is coming to Windows 10 ARM phones and tablets - but not to older Lumia devices. In a webcast, Joe Belfiore, these days the corporate VP in the OS Group at Microsoft, has explained why. Belfiore positioned the x86-on-ARM initiative as extending Windows 10 to hardware with a better battery life …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It would appear...

    ... that this will run Win32 programs only? Newer 64-bit Windows applications won't run then?

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: It would appear...

      That's probably not a real limitation as 64-Bit is only used in new programs which are still maintained. Those could even be re-compiled for ARM once Microsoft offers an ARM version of Win32.

      The big problem is all of that unmaintained software that was bought decades ago and still needs to run somehow. The manufacturer went bust 10 years ago, and nobody has the sourcecode.

      1. James 139

        Re: It would appear...

        And Microsoft dont, and wont, care about old legacy apps that fail to run.

        You cant run ancient 16bit or DOS software on x64 Windows for example, and most of Microsofts more recent shifts have been towards UWP which means 1 program for x64, x86 and ARM without changes to the source.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          You cant run ancient 16bit or DOS software on x64

          Just because AMD dropped the Virtual 8086 mode when the CPU is in 64 bit mode when it designed x86 64 bit extensions. It's not a Microsoft decision. You can still run DOS in a VM, without the CPU support running real mode applications while in protected mode is not so easy, trapping direct accesses to memory, I/O and interrupts is an issue.

      2. Mage Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        x86 support is coming to Windows 10 ARM phone

        "The big problem is all of that unmaintained software that was bought decades ago and still needs to run somehow."

        Good luck trying to run it on a phone, even if it has an x86 cpu.

        This is a pointless piece of marketing.

        How many people are going to buy a WINDOWS and ARM and PHONE device to run a real windows desktop program? Especially a legacy one.

        The market too for any sort of Metro/UWP/Fluid design app is dead (horrible on desktop), and the whole point of that was to NOT be locked to x86 code.

        So exactly what real world problem does this solve? Making ARM Surface tablets with Keyboards to replace low end x86 laptops running native/legacy x86 desktop programs instead of Metro/UWP/Fluid design app? Madness.

        1. Christian Berger Silver badge

          Re: x86 support is coming to Windows 10 ARM phone

          What about all those (nearly) no-GUI applications for Windows, like VPN clients and stuff? Those wouldn't have problems with braindead ideas found in modern "smart"-phones.

        2. RyokuMas Silver badge
          WTF?

          Re: x86 support is coming to Windows 10 ARM phone

          "How many people are going to buy a WINDOWS and ARM and PHONE device to run a real windows desktop program?"

          Disregarding opinions on the look-and-feel of the WinPhone UI, I have to agree - why the hell would anyone want to run an x86 application on a phone? I can only think of two situations in which such applications would still be in regular use: either it's an integral part of an organisation's structure that is deemed too risky/expensive/edge case to warrant an upgrade, or it's an old DOS game.

          This definitely has the feel of finding a problem for a solution.

    2. patrickstar

      Re: It would appear...

      Win32 is the name of the Windows API currently being used.

      Despite the name, it's not specific to 32 bit architectures. A 64 bit Windows application still uses the "Win32" API.

      This actually makes some sort of sense from a historical standpoint.

      The original Windows API was Win16. This was designed for a segmented memory model.

      Then came NT and introduced Win32 (which later ended up in Win95 as well). This is designed for a flat memory model and was 'inspired' by Win16 more than actually being a 32 bit extension of it - there are lots of other differences apart from just how memory is addressed.

      Porting applications from Win16 to Win32 was a major thing - basically rewriting API calls and the surrounding glue.

      But taking an existing 32-bit Win32 application and porting it to 64 bit usually just involves recompiling it. It's still exactly the same API, just with bigger pointers.

      Therefore, saying you support the "Win32" API doesn't imply that you don't support 64 bit applications.

      Confusing, I know...

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: It would appear...

        "But taking an existing 32-bit Win32 application and porting it to 64 bit usually just involves recompiling it"

        ACK. Good explanation.

        And, of course, Micro-shaft will REGRETTABLY support Win32 API appLICATIONS for as long as they have to. But you know... you KNOW that they want to GET RID OF IT ENTIRELY and force *everyone* to use ".Not" Core, UWP, and whatever OTHER "new, shiny" they excrete from their bowels inside the halls of Redmond...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: It would appear...

          "And, of course, Micro-shaft will REGRETTABLY support Win32 API appLICATIONS for as long as they have to. But you know... you KNOW that they want to GET RID OF IT ENTIRELY and force *everyone* to use ".Not" Core, UWP, and whatever OTHER "new, shiny" they excrete from their bowels inside the halls of Redmond..."

          It's called Windows 10 S. S for "Security" and only works with Edge browser and Apps from the MS App Store. It's here now. Many have been saying MS wanted to emulate the Apple walled garden, and it's here now.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: It would appear...

            S for "Security"? Is that the same S as in IoT?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It would appear...

          And here he is out of the starting blocks, Mr Oh so predicable himself

          Mr Microshaft AKA BB

          YAWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          My 4 year old plays nicer than you do

      2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: It would appear...

        > Therefore, saying you support the "Win32" API doesn't imply that you don't support 64 bit applications.

        The Qualcomm x86 support only supports 32bit x86 emulation and does not support AMDx86-64.

  2. Michael Prior-Jones

    Deja vu all over again...

    x86 emulation on ARM is nothing new... anyone else remember this?

    http://chrisacorns.computinghistory.org.uk/docs/Mags/PCW/PCW_Jan88_PCEmulator.pdf

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Uhm...

    I used to run Norton Commander on my Psion 5mx. And that hardware is much older than your average older ("lastgen"?) Windows Phone.

  4. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Alert

    Unequal Partnership

    Microsoft & Nokia had a brief 'marriage'.

    The 800 lb. woman married the 90 lb. man and she rolled over him, poor dear, on their wedding night. He was then unrecognizable to his next of kin.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Unequal Partnership

      But MS killed the Kin earlier.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unequal Partnership

      >> The 800 lb. woman married the 90 lb. man and she rolled over him, poor dear, on their wedding night. He was then unrecognizable to his next of kin.

      And the 90lb Nokia man climbed into bed thinking he was John Wayne, and woke up as John Wayne Bobbitt.

  5. Roland6 Silver badge

    "What Win10 on ARM is, is a desktop-type experience,"

    So click on an icon and drop into desktop Windows, which as we know Win10 still retains the long outdated obsession with pixels and so will, on a 4.3" HD screen, proceed to display the desktop as if it were being displayed on a 24" HD screen...

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: "What Win10 on ARM is, is a desktop-type experience,"

      Ha!

      It's hardly a desktop experience on 1920 x1080 laptop. Unless you are thinking of Windows 2.0, GEM, Lisa in 1980s as being rich, productive "desktop experience".

    2. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Re: "What Win10 on ARM is, is a desktop-type experience,"

      That's part of why Mr. Belfiore says it's not a good idea. The whole Win32 platform was built around devices with large screens (even in the early days, much larger than 5 inches), a mouse rather than touch screen (enables right-click, hover effects, and greater precision because of the feedback from 2 stage point and click), as well as a regular (hardware) keyboard. It's as intrinsically incompatible with the touch way of doing things as is MacOS, and Apple's already told us they're not touching that one.

      There's a reason that touch interfaces look and act as they do and desktop interfaces look and act as they do. Forcing a mobile interface on a PC or a PC interface on a mobile is going to be a poor experience for either of them. Other than this obsession with one OS to rule them all that has infected much of the software world (not just Microsoft, but GNOME and Unity in the open-source world too), there's not really any good reason to try to run stuff on a platform not suited to it other than to make up for a lack of native UWP software. (Thankfully, Ubuntu has realized this, and Unity is no longer a part of Ubuntu. I never used Ubuntu proper myself, but maybe this will be looked back upon as the turning point where people realized that universal anything is never as good as custom-made.)

      Apple got this one right, I think... ARM is touch and runs iOS; x86 is mouse & keyboard and runs MacOS. The two OSes get along together and share data seamlessly, but there's no point in trying to make one OS that does it all. You'd end up with something like Windows 10, which seems to displease both mobile and desktop users equally. That's the Continuum legacy-- equal mediocrity across a broad range of devices. Hooray.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: "What Win10 on ARM is, is a desktop-type experience,"

        Updraft102's comment puts his finger on it. Users need two things; to be able to share data across various devices - mostly a main machine of some sort and a mobile one. and to be able to use their data both devices without thinking too much about where the buttons are.. It doesn't have to be the same OS. It doesn't even have to look exactly the same, as long as there are no obvious contradictions and complications. Things like those dreadful hidden "charms" and swipes in Win 8 that only activated when you didn't want them. I have no problem moving between a Win 10 desktop, a laptop and a Windows phone ( that 640 model). They are similar enough . And I will not be creating much content on my phone, so the only "apps" I need on that are ones that access my content and some basic programmes to do the practical stuff. But on the laptops and PC I might need full-fat programmes to create, edit, curate and manage content, (and by the way not Windows Store applets as in these new "S" Windows machines). The OS is just there to make the programmes I need work- other than that it should be invisible. A good OS is one that keeps out of the way - not one that imposes itself, its adverts, or its unwanted Start menu items on the users.

      2. dajames Silver badge

        Re: "What Win10 on ARM is, is a desktop-type experience,"

        Apple got this one right, I think... ARM is touch and runs iOS; x86 is mouse & keyboard and runs MacOS.

        Mostly agree ... but ... it has nothing to do with the CPU. You could build an iPhone or an iPad with an x86 CPU and you'd still want touch and still want it to run IOS; you could build a MacBook or an iMac with an ARM CPU and you'd still want a keyboard and a mouse, and to run MacOS.

        ... there's no point in trying to make one OS that does it all ...

        If you did, you'd have to make a single OS with two very different presentation layers for the two different usage cases: mobile/touch and desktop/keyboard. There might be some point in that -- it would depend how much code you could make common to the two environments without screwing either of them up, and how much development/maintenance cost it saved you to do so.

        Windows 8 (and to a lesser degree Windows 10) shows how easy it is to get wrong.

        1. Updraft102 Silver badge

          Re: "What Win10 on ARM is, is a desktop-type experience,"

          "Mostly agree ... but ... it has nothing to do with the CPU. You could build an iPhone or an iPad with an x86 CPU and you'd still want touch and still want it to run IOS; you could build a MacBook or an iMac with an ARM CPU and you'd still want a keyboard and a mouse, and to run MacOS."

          Well, yes, that is true in terms of the UI directly. A touch UI on a desktop ARM would be just as bad as it is in an x86 desktop setup, and an x86 phone would be terrible with a desktop UI. The reason, though, that so many people want to run x86 stuff on Windows mobile is to get access to that big software library, and that software library was also written for the mouse and keyboard using desktop PC. The same would be true of running Mac software on an iPad (which some Apple fans have asked for). It's more than the UI of the OS itself that has to be optimized for its platform... the UI of the applications does too.

          I have also pondered the idea of an OS that has desktop and mobile UIs for everything, and as long as the Windows experience I have come to expect, from a desktop perspective, is still good, I would be happy with it (though telemetry, forced updates, etc., still have to go). But including two UIs and calling it one product doesn't seem as gee-whiz cool, does it? You can bundle any two things together and give the resultant product a singular name; that's not new or innovative. The common kernel doesn't matter either, as it already has an ARM binary version and an x86 binary version. They share APIs to make UWP easier to implement, but otherwise, it would be increasingly difficult to keep calling it one product that runs on everything. It would be Windows RT Enhanced and Windows 7 Enhanced bundled together and called Windows 10.

          If they did it well and with an eye toward customer needs rather than Microsoft needs, it could still work, but they'd have to get over the "Continuum" idea that it can go from desktop to phone and anything in between seamlessly and in a continuously variable way. It would be one or the other UI, to be determined by the capabilities of the device, scaled up or down as needed, but still either-or, not continuously variable.

          A desktop that is always connected to a mouse and keyboard is easy; so is a phone that never has those things. A convertible device that is sometimes a laptop and sometimes a tablet, though, would IMO be configured as a PC while docked (assuming the keyboard dock also has a pointing device) and a tablet while undocked, though I would always leave the option open to the user. If he wants a tablet UI all the time or a desktop UI all the time, who am I to tell him any different? That's really the bottom line for me... whatever the user reasonably expects should be do-able without addons or hacks.

          "My way or the highway" works for Apple, but they are a bit player in PCs and they're being reduced to that in the smartphone market they are credited with inventing too. A market leader needs to do more listening (to real users, not the handpicked echo chamber of "insiders") and less dictating. MS seems hellbent on copying Apple without stopping to consider that or the fact that the Apple platform they are copying is 100% mobile and 0% desktop, when their own platform is close to the exact opposite of that.

        2. Fatman Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: "What Win10 on ARM is, is a desktop-type experience,"

          <quote>If you did, you'd have to make a single OS with two very different presentation layers for the two different usage cases: mobile/touch and desktop/keyboard. </quote>

          Someone who 'gets it'.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: "What Win10 on ARM is, is a desktop-type experience,"

            Re: <quote>If you did, you'd have to make a single OS with two very different presentation layers for the two different usage cases: mobile/touch and desktop/keyboard. </quote>

            Which isn't particularly difficult, unless you decide to embed the (desktop) UX/UI in the OS, whilst this made sense in the 80's and 90's today?

            As to applications, you just have to accept that you are going to have to have two different clients. The issue is avoiding rewriting the core code for two different user environments and use cases; interestingly this problem was solved some 12+ years back by the UK startup AppSwing...

  6. JJKing Bronze badge
    Coat

    How many would believe the below headline?

    Oh shit I can just see the gun nut NRA headlines:

    World so dangerous that they are going to Arm Windows 10 PCs.

    Invoke images of a robot saying "Danger Will Robinson". Opps, different arms.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: How many would believe the below headline?

      'Opps' you mis-spelled 'Oops'. heh

      /me grabs my 'Microsoft Pistol' to defend myself against an intruder in my house... sees 2D flatso windows logo on it... waiting... advertisement displayed... waiting... LOGIN screen! *BANG* [too late, I've been shot with an old-school saturday night special]

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: How many would believe the below headline?

        Well, you should not have had your home invasion outside of the predefined active hours. What do you mean you can't always predict in advance when you would like your equipment function the way you want and in a way that serves its maker and not its owner?

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