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Build-ing an Even Brighter Future for the Windows on Arm Ecosystem

All the latest Windows on Arm developments and announcements from Microsoft Build 2023.
By David Whaley, Director, Strategic Partnerships, Client Line of Business, Arm

Build is Microsoft’s annual Windows developer conference. This year’s event, which took place between May 23 and 25 in downtown Seattle, was the first in-person Build in four years and all the talk throughout the three days was about building the best user experiences on Windows with the latest tools and technologies. As I’ve discussed previously, there is tremendous momentum with Windows on Arm (WoA), with Build reflecting Microsoft’s continued commitment to the platform.

What I saw and heard at Build

I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s Build. Not only was I able to meet colleagues, friends and partners who are embarking on the WoA journey, but I also attended various sessions, keynotes and presentations throughout the conference. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the dominant theme, there were ample highlights and announcements in relation to WoA that indicated a bright future for the developer ecosystem.

Big applications committing to native WoA development

I was delighted to see several of the world’s most widely used applications committing themselves to native WoA app development. These included announcements from Dropbox, GoodNotes, WhatsApp, and Reincubate who make Camo about the availability of their applications on the platform. Speaking with these companies about their rationale and motivations for building native WoA applications, providing an increase in performance and a superior user experience were the primary incentives. It was also pleasing to hear that the engineering process behind building these native applications for WoA was relatively straightforward. This is testament to the work that has gone into Arm-specific tooling and dependencies, with even more support coming in the future due to the work being done by ecosystem partners participating in the Linaro Windows working group.  

More WoA tools and support are coming

During his day two Build keynote Panos Panay, Executive Vice President, Chief Product Officer, Windows and Devices, announced: “Additional solutions are coming soon to Arm64 including, GNU GCC, Dart, Flutter, PyTorch, and GIMP.” These are tools that can now be used on Arm development devices, like the purpose-built “Windows Dev Kit 2023” device which was launched in October 2022, to target the increasing number of WoA devices.

More gaming titles for WoA

Unity, makers of a world-leading game engine, announced that the native Arm version of Unity Player will be generally available for game developers in June. This engine allows developers to target current and upcoming gaming titles on WoA devices and obtain better performance as a native process.

A growing WoA open-source community

The WoA developer community continues to grow. Many WoA ecosystem partners are contributing to open-source projects as part of this community and enabling more Arm-based tools, libraries, and frameworks. This provides further encouragement for developers to build, compile, test and maintain native apps with minimal engineering effort. Linaro, the open-source organization which currently maintains and collaborates on over 40 projects, has maintained a Windows work group for some time and enabled commonly used tools and packages for WoA, such as Electron, Chromium Embedded Framework, LLVM, Qt, Python, and Bazel.

With more native libraries, tools, and hardware for WoA app development now available, porting to native Windows 11 for Arm is easier than ever before, with cross-compiling no longer needed. Also, with more support for tools and middleware, the prospect of developing native WoA applications is more enticing and easily accomplished than ever before.

WoA momentum continues

We are seeing plenty of excitement for WoA across the ecosystem. With the recent wave of Build announcements from Microsoft, developers of popular widely used apps, and across the WoA ecosystem, we are confident that this momentum will continue to build. Working with leading application developers, we are continuing to showcase what can be done when developers target WoA devices – a straightforward development process that leads to great application performance on best-in-class devices that are the future of the laptop market.

Now is the perfect time for developers to start exploring building their Windows applications on the Arm platform. With so many resources, hardware, and tools available, it has never been easier to make the leap to WoA. Developers should take advantage of the opportunity to support all Windows 11 devices and be confident that the tools and backing of the WoA ecosystem is available today to meet their needs.

Moving forward Arm will continue to provide resources to Windows developers, so they can take advantage of all these exciting WoA announcements at Build for their own WoA-targeted applications.

As a first step, developers can learn about how to add Arm support to their Windows applications here.

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Brian Fuller and Jack Melling
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