Microsoft has finally released a preview of 64-bit Intel emulation for Windows 10 on Arm in its latest Dev Channel Insider build.
It has been a while coming, and did not make it in November as previously promised. It is, however, at last here for Dev Channel Windows Insiders running on Arm hardware.
Microsoft would dearly like developers to recompile their apps for Arm (as is happening for Apple's new silicon) and while some, notably Adobe, have heeded the call, there remain a large number of x64 apps that simply don't work on the platform.
It was all so different back in 2017, when Windows 10 on Arm was launched. "The long tail of apps customers needed were dominated by 32-bit-only x86 applications," explained Hari Pulapaka, Microsoft Partner Group Program Manager last night, "so we focused our efforts on building an x86 emulator that could run the broad ecosystem of Windows apps seamlessly."
Far be it from us to point out that that little-used suite of apps, Microsoft Office, has had a 64-bit variant for the best part of a decade. Still, it's good to see the emulation finally make an appearance.
x64 apps can come from the Microsoft Store or be installed independently. As well as the likes of the 64-bit-only Autodesk Sketchbook, Pulapaka noted the apps that currently run as 32-bit, such as Chrome, can now use the 64-bit emulation capability. "These apps," he added in what is no way a dig at the browser's notorious thirst for RAM, "may benefit from having more memory when run as 64-bit emulated apps."
Build 21277 also heralded a possible start of some new features for Microsoft's loyal army of unpaid Dev Channel testers.
Those who wish to can opt to hop onto the RS_PRERELEASE branch of the code, although caution is advised; once the jump is made, there is no going back to the FE_RELEASE branch after the rollback option expires (or another build is received).
Microsoft plans to shift all Dev Channel Insiders over to the new branch in the New Year, where some will get to play with the new toys, such as voice typing, which were yanked back in October.
Other than the branching and the x64 emulation for Arm fans, the build contained the usual raft of fixes, including a number around searching in File Explorer. Support for Unicode Emoji 12.1 and 13.0 has also been added and features already in the Beta Channel's Windows Feature Experience Pack, such as improvements to the touch keyboard and screen snipping can be found. ®