Microsoft announced this week that with the release of Visual Studio 15.9, developers can now build native 64-bit Arm applications for Windows 10 on Arm devices. Additionally, it’s accepting such app submissions for the Microsoft Store.
Native Arm64 Apps for Windows 10
Although this isn’t the first time we’re seeing native Arm applications for Windows 10, the previous applications were only 32-bit. Moreover, the x86 applications were all emulated to run on Arm hardware, which means more sluggish performance of your regular Windows 10 apps on Windows-based Arm devices.
In addition to being able to build 64-bit versions of Arm applications with the new Visual Studio, developers have also gained the ability to re-compile both Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and C++ Win32 legacy programs to run natively on Windows on Arm devices. According to Microsoft, running natively allows the applications to take full advantage of the processing power of Windows 10 for Arm devices.
Microsoft also noted that even the more powerful second-generation Arm machines running Windows 10--Lenovo and Samsung devices using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 CPU--combined with the native 64-bit Arm applications should offer a much improved experience. However, this will largely depend on how fast developers can re-compile their x86 programs for Windows on Arm. For some apps it could take weeks, while others may take years or might never offer an Arm binary file. After all, we can still spot programs that don’t have 64-bit versions even today.
How to Develop Arm64 Apps
To start developing Arm64 apps for Windows on Arm devices, you will need to update Visual Studio to version 15.9 and install a component called “Visual C++ compilers and libraries for ARM64,” as shown in the image below:
After the update is complete, you will see Arm64 as an available build configuration. For existing projects, you will need to add an Arm64 build configuration to your project, following Microsoft’s instructions.
Although Windows on Arm devices don’t benefit from the legacy programs that conventional x86 machines do, Arm devices should bring more competition in the PC market, even if only at the lower-end or mid-range of the market for now.
As consumers become more accustomed with them, that should also give developers an incentive to re-compile their x86 applications to Arm64 the next time they provide an update for their application.