Its always interesting this time of the year, winding down for christmas gets you thinking about the past year and whats happening in the new year ! 20 has seen more innovation from Microsoft, with Office 365 adding more functionality for both business and education, and the ability to turn PC deisgn on its head with the Surface Studio, we have seen all but the death of Windowsphone, but Microsoft never does anything without purpose and thats why I am looking forward to 2017.
Lets take a look at Windows 10 mobile, as you know W10 mobile has been a big part of the Windows 10 direction since it launch. Dont get me wrong Windows 10 on my Lumia 950 was not a pleasureable experience from the start, but a few builds later my Lumia has truly become my ‘small work PC – with the ability to make calls’. The big sell was of course UWP or the Universal Windows Platform the ability for apps to be created with one common code base and and for them to work seemlessly across Windows 10 devices. No mobile store and desktop store simply one Windows store.
However with the new developments released in W10 mobile during 2016, we have also seen Microsoft pull out of the Lumia range of devices , this was replaced with the Elite x3 from HP. So just whats happening .. Well the important message going forward in 2017 was released a few weeks ago and that is Windows 10 on ARM.
So lets wind the clock back to 2013 and the original Surface RT that emerged from Redmond. Surface RT was Microsoft’s first foray into ARM. Windows RT was a version of Windows 8 that runs on an ARM processor. However the Surface RT could not utilise any existing software and would only use a really limited number of Apps from its store – so really it limited you to running Microsoft Office on the device. Manufacturing partners did not see the value of Surface RT against sticking with traditional Windows devices
So Windows has traditionally been based in the Intel x64 platform and when you take a look at the range of processors available these start at the low end Intel Atom all the way upto the Core I7 processor which is available in high end devices like the Surface Pro / Book. The Intel Atom though very cheap, really is an uber entry level chip which has been seen in small tablets like the Linx 8. So where does ARM fit in? well ARM chips are found in the smartphones and now other devices. ARM was a subset of the Acorn Computer business when its first start producing its RISC based chips in the Acorn Archimedes back in the late 80’s. Where Acorn stalled and eventually collapsed, ARM simply went on strength to strength producing processors for all the major smartphones on the market.
The Lumia 950 with Windows 10 (right) is really step one in redefining the mobile experience market. Windows 10 on ARM with the ability to run Win32 will be the games changer of 2017.
So ARM chip are amazingly powerful and amzingly low powered for the price compared with Intel’s offering. ARM chips offer LTE built in (4g connectivity), fast charging amongst other features, At that point you realise the gravity of the statement that Microsoft can now get full Windows 10 to run on ARM, this includes UWP but also includes Win 32 applications as well. So when I talk about Win32 applications, I am really talking about ‘legacy applications’ so things which dont orginate from the Windows store. So for example Adobe suite on the PC is a Win32 application, so infact its any software which you might have installed from a CD / DVD in the past.
So what is this meaning for us, (especially ‘us’ in education)? Well imagine a device, with a touch screen and with a Surface style ‘Pen’, that runs full Windows 10 including your apps & your existing software, (doing so much more than a Chromebook does just in the browser) which has say 15 hrs of battery time in between charges. Good so far? well continue imagining that device with the ability to ‘super fast charge’ by plugging in for 5-10 mins and getting a couple of hours of use from it, plus adding LTE communications ‘built in’ and all this for a price point under £200 – well thats whats coming in 2017.
So if your a school and your thinking Chromebook for 2017 because they are affordable and they look cool, well my advice for 2017 is ‘hang on’ for this new range of devices hitting the market. These days its about spending what money we have in education wisely and an ARM based Windows 10 will be that ‘wise’ moment.
So is Windows 10 mobile dead? no ! I believe Windows 10 mobile will be the ‘light version’ in the mobile space with its UWP support. Then you will full Windows 10 on ARM giving you the functionality of Windows 10 now running the range applications but on ultra thin devices. Of course the Intel based devices like Surface will exist for the power user moving forward.
As we enter 2017, Microsoft are re-positioning the ‘mobile-space’ away from Google and Apple. However I would expect both companies to follow Microsoft’s lead in the next two years.
Remember if you are a school and are looking at refreshing devices in 2017 – hold on .. it will be the best decision you will make !
To find out more come and see me at the Microsoft Stand this year at the BETT Show in London’s ExCel arena.