Microsoft launches Windows Dev Kit 2023 announced in May. “Project Volterra” at Microsoft BuildThe developer box, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 computing platform, will cost $599 and will ship in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, China, France and Germany.
The idea of the Dev Kit is for developers to create Windows apps for Arm-based systems. This is an area where Windows is slowly growing in terms of software support. Vendors such as HP, Asus, and Lenovo have had varying degrees of success with Windows on Arm laptops, and Microsoft uses customized Qualcomm chips in their Surface devices (the latest Microsoft SQ3 is Microsoft Surface Pro 9 with 5G).
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3|
|graphic||Qualcomm Adreno GPU (Integrated)|
|depository||512GB NVMe SSD|
|networking||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1|
|port||2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 3x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, Mini DisplayPort, Ethernet|
The desktop is small at just 8 x 6 x 1.1 inches, but it’s still great for developers who need to power multiple monitors (if you’re willing to use USB Type-C and Mini DisplayPort) and peripherals. I have enough ports. It has 3 USB Type-A ports, 2 USB-C ports and 1 Ethernet jack.
Microsoft also highlights Snapdragon’s neural processing unit (NPU) as a feature for developers to design AI and machine learning applications using models like PyTorch and SensorFlow. On some models, Microsoft claims that “NPUs are about 80-90 times faster than CPUs and about 20 times faster than GPUs.”
Back in May, Microsoft announced its intention to release an Arm-native toolchain for apps built for the architecture. We have released previews of several of these, and most will be available by the end of the year. Additionally, Visual Studio 2022 17.4 has Arm native support in C++, C$, Windows SDK and App SDK components, as well as workloads for Web, UWP, Node.js and game development.
If Microsoft sees a future where Windows on Arm is as prolific (or more realistically close to) as Windows with the x86 platform, it’s important to get developers on board. That makes me wonder about the $599 price point. Enterprise customers may be able to afford it, but that’s a fair price for individual developers. Even if you’re developing, you still need to distribute these.
Microsoft has made many of its own apps Arm native, including Teams, Edge, and Office. Other apps that made the switch include Firefox, Adobe Photoshop, VLC, Netflix, Handbrake, Zoom, and 7-Zip. In Windows 11, Microsoft supports x64 emulation, but it’s not the same as native apps. Some software still doesn’t work, games and many antivirus software and applications still don’t. Microsoft’s Arm64EC is designed to allow developers to build new Arm apps natively or slowly integrate new functionality into existing apps.
Will new hardware lead to a plethora of new Arm native software and cloud, AI and machine learning based apps? Not sure. But this $599 bet suggests Microsoft thinks it’s interested. Only time will tell if the company is right.