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Windows on Arm is Ready for Prime Time: Native Chrome Caps Momentum for the Future of Laptop Computing

The stage is set for Windows on Arm to make waves in the laptop market, following a series of significant announcements and advances.
By David Whaley, Director, Strategic Partnerships, Client Line of Business, Arm

As I wrote previously, we have seen tremendous advances in the state of Windows on Arm (WoA). This progress has not just been in the releases of new hardware and devices, but also in the software ecosystem that supports the WoA platform.

The work in 2023 and at the start of 2024 is setting the foundation for major gains to be realized for WoA throughout this year and beyond. From Google recently previewing its Chrome browser native on WoA to an ever-increasing range of development tools, momentum in the WoA ecosystem is accelerating at a significant rate.

A growing WoA application ecosystem

For the past year I have been using a WoA device, the awesome Lenovo ThinkPad X13s laptop, as my daily work machine. The list of native productivity and most commonly used applications has only continued to grow, with some significant and popular additions since last year. For example, at Microsoft’s Build conference in May 2023, Dropbox, WhatsApp, GoodNotes, and Camo were all announced with native Arm support. Other natively supported applications of note include Microsoft Office, Teams, and Edge, as well as Zoom, Spotify, Adobe Photoshop, Firefox, and Visual Studio .

This is just scratching the surface of all the applications that are now natively available on WoA. Frankly, it is difficult to keep up with the ongoing developments in the WoA ecosystem — and that is a great problem to have!

Recent significant developments

Just recently, Google made its first Arm64-native build of the Chrome browser available for testing on Windows on Arm through its “Canary” development channel. This is a truly exciting development for the WoA ecosystem, which promises to dramatically improve performance and efficiency on Arm-based PCs.

Native application development has come a long way on WoA, with investments behind-the-scenes to unblock the intermediate libraries and middleware needed for the platform to flourish. Several years ago, a working group for WoA was established within the Linaro open-source engineering organization, sponsored by several WoA partners. This group has been responsible for implementing and releasing WoA-compatible developer tools, compilers, frameworks, and libraries to further enrich the native application developer experience.

Some of the packages and applications recently released or in-beta include Python, Node.js, Ruby, LLVM, Flutter, Dart, Blender, GIMP, Audacity, PyTorch, and many more. Further details can be found at aka.ms/ArmOSS. Having these tools available allows the ecosystem to grow and evolve organically, making it easier for developers to target Arm-based laptop devices.

Another development worthy of attention is the release of the Arm Performance Libraries (APLs) for Windows. In a blog from August 2023, Chris Goodyer, a Director of Engineering and Distinguished Engineer at Arm, explained that the release of these libraries for Windows – which covers key libraries for fast, efficient, and accurate computation of dense and sparse linear algebra – brings “optimized implementations to a new ecosystem for acceleration On Arm”. The APLs are free to download and use, and more information can be found here.

Application development support

For developers, there have also been advancements in commonly deployed build and CI/CD tools. GitHub Actions has recently integrated Arm-native runners powered by Arm-based Ampere processors to accelerate software development using automated GitHub workflows. This functionality will first be available as a private beta scheduled to begin in early 2024

Arm makes for better laptops

Alongside the expanding WoA ecosystem, the hardware is improving all the time as Microsoft and device manufacturers continue to make investments in the platform. For laptop device manufacturers, Arm’s thermally efficient architecture is far better at enabling the thin and lightweight device designs that users want. When switching my daily work laptop to the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s, I was surprised by its lightweight and thin profile. Several times during the first few weeks my backpack felt too light to contain my laptop, and I genuinely had to stop to double-check that I hadn’t left it behind!

And slimmer and lighter is not the only benefit to WoA laptops, with yet more improvements in regards to battery life and computing performance acting as key motivators for developers to target their applications for WoA.

Great momentum leading into 2024

The past year has seen plenty of excitement for WoA across the ecosystem, with significant advances and announcements taking place. With WoA now ready for prime time, it is the perfect time for developers to look at building their Windows applications on Arm, especially with the range of resources, hardware, and tools now available.

With this undeniable momentum, the future of laptop computing is already one that is built on Arm.

Arm’s presence in the laptop market

Learn about Arm’s presence in the laptop market, including Windows on Arm devices.

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