Microsoft and Qualcomm have announced a partnership that will see Windows – in its full form – running on ARM-based processors.

Microsoft has been trying to get it’s operating system on mobile gadgets for some time now but the trouble is that many smartphones and tablets house an ARM-based CPU which is not compatible with many programmes that run on Windows. To solve that problem Microsoft released Windows RT back in 2012.

That operating system was specifically designed to run on ARM based processors but Microsoft fell between a rock and a slightly stronger rock when users weren’t willing to buy a product that didn’t support the apps they used and developers weren’t willing to make apps that weren’t going to be used.

What’s great about ARM-based chipsets however is that they require less power compared to their desktop and notebook counterparts and more importantly; they are often cheaper.

So what does this have to do with Africa?

While the cost of PCs puts them out of reach of Africans, smartphones are becoming more prolific.  Earlier this year IDC reported that South Africa, Morocco, Tunisa and Algeria all saw growth in smartphone shipments.

The trouble with a smartphone is that it is rather limited in what it is capable of. You can’t – for instance – run Photoshop on a mobile phone because it lacks the compute power needed and of course Photoshop uses an X86 instruction set which is not supported by ARM-based chipsets.

This partnership between Qualcomm and Microsoft then would change that as Qualcomm is working with the Redmond giant to emulate the X86 instruction set on it’s ARM based chips and we might see the fruits of that labour as early as next year according to a report by PC World.

According to that report it is said that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 would be the first chip from the manufacturer that would support this endeavour but that is yet to be confirmed by Microsoft or Qualcomm.

There is also a problem with emulation as it might lessen the performance of chips so it remains to be seen how Qualcomm and Microsoft get around that.

Having low-cost devices that are able to run applications that smartphones can’t could mean that African’s have compute options that won’t break the bank.

We’re looking forward to seeing how Qualcomm’s efforts compare with Intel’s Core m chips when they hit the wild. In the mean time we’re holding thumbs that the next slew of smartphones, tablets and two-in-one notebooks are powerful enough and cheap enough to bridge the digital divide in Africa.

[Via – PC World]
Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.