It was December 2016 when Microsoft and Qualcomm first announced their ambitious plan to introduce Windows 10 PCs that can run x86 apps on a Snapdragon processor. Now, the PCs are here, and users are starting to see their shortcomings, one of which is the inability to run 64-bit applications.
Microsoft aims to change that though, as it has previously promised. At the company's Build 2018 developer conference this year, the company will finally be releasing an SDK that will allow developers to compile their apps in ARM64, according to a report from Engadget.
UWP apps are compiled into three packages: ARM, x64, and x86. The ARM package is 32-bit, being that prior to this, the only ARM devices were Windows phones, which always ran a 32-bit OS. The new Windows on ARM PCs run a 64-bit OS, but they'll still choose that ARM package first. If the ARM package doesn't exist, the Store will download the x86 package, since x64 isn't supported.
The new ARM64 SDK will result in minimal changes for the end user. The app might be a bit faster, but it won't solve what most will admit is the real problem, which is the lack of x64 support. Most Win32 apps are available with a 32-bit flavor, but some, such as Photoshop Elements, are not. And it's not likely that Microsoft will be adding x64 emulation support to Windows 10 on ARM anytime soon.
What this does do, however, is increase the value proposition of the Universal Windows Platform. Developers have historically used Win32 to develop for Windows, and Microsoft has worked hard to lower the barrier of entry into the Store by allowing developers to package those Win32 apps as Store apps. Those apps can't be compiled for ARM though, much less ARM64. Developers will see a large boost in performance with UWP on ARM PCs, over using an older technology like Win32.
Update: Microsoft issued a statement to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, saying the following:
To clarify, Microsoft is planning to release a preview of the Windows 10 ARM64 SDK for Store and desktop apps, allowing developers to recompile their win32 desktop apps to ARM64 so they can run natively without emulation. With the SDK, x64 apps and x86 apps will also be able to recompile to ARM64 and run natively. We will be sharing more details on the ARM64 SDK Preview at Build.
The statement strongly implies that developers will now have the ability to recompile their 64-bit Win32 apps to ARM64. We'll find out more about it at Build in May.