Microsoft has updated its Surface series with two challengers who take on important parts of the market. Surface Laptop Go takes up space on Windows 10 laptop space, while the updated Surface Pro X pushes Microsoft’s plans for Windows 10 on ARM
With Apple set to launch its own ARM-powered MacBook, who has the benefit of this new frontier?
The Pro X family is for those looking for a highly mobile device, with 4G LTE connectivity, long battery life and a focus on productivity. It is still an excellent client for cloud-based services, whether they are from Microsoft or other vendors. If your work was about Microsoft Office, Teams, Slack and online tools, Pro X is designed for you.
It remains to be seen how Apple will throw away its upcoming ARM-powered MacBook, but the same benefits that drive the Pro X choices apply to ARM on MacOS. Apple has been its traditional self-confidence in terms of capabilities and marketing of the machines. Although there have been references to the developer transition kits running the older A12Z chip, nothing has been officially communicated.
These references put the performance just below the level of this year’s MacBook Air on the first level with an Intel Core-i3 chip, even though the reference program runs in emulation mode. Apps coded directly for ARM should and more performance. It echoes the same performance gap that was seen in Pro X in 2019; native ARM apps flew while the emulation for 32-bit x86 apps was competent performance but not fantastic.
Both Windows 10 and macOS need to handle emulation for older apps for some time. Apple discontinued 32-bit app support in MacOS last year, so it only needs to deal with 64-bit applications designed for a single platform. Microsoft has a much broader base of older applications to support. It has not cut off x32 (32-bit) application support, and a preview of Windows 10 on ARM with x32 and x64 emulation (as well as support for native ARM apps) was announced for release later this year as a preview before a full rollout early in 2021.
With that, we have a new battlefield that will drive the development of both the laptop and the PC in the coming years. And Microsoft has an early advantage.
That benefit is measured in time. Surface Pro X has been on the market for a year and has gathered important information about the use of the platform, the apps used and feedback from the owners. The development of Windows 10 is public, and the commitment to ensure backward compatibility should ensure a smoother transition as ARM becomes more prevalent in the Windows 10 mix both in the Microsoft Surface family, but in the broader Windows 10 ecosystem.
Apple has held the card close to his chest. It will have done as much work as Microsoft in the dark corridors of Cupertino … but with less feedback outside the circle. The feedback from Developer Transition Kits will have been fed back to the project, but the crunch will come when the new MacBook arrives and a ridiculous number of setups and application interactions will take place – much like Microsoft encountered when the first Pro X was launched.
Today, the Surface Pro X is not only a known quantity that has been validated by the market, but it is a known quantity that has picked up a mid-cycle update on the processor and a roadmap for increased app compatibility and flexibility.
Apple’s ARM-powered MacBook is a mystery. The emulation that Apple has been talking about is just that. Talk. Once released, the dental problems that Microsoft faces will also be faced by Apple; let’s not forget the transition to ARM also comes on top of a major update to macOS for Big Sur v11.
If you want to jump to ARM, the first consideration must be which of the existing operating systems you are on, but with much of the value of using cloud services, this will not be as important as you might think. The next assessment must be the experience of the two platforms with the audience.
Microsoft is on the streets ahead of Apple right now.
Read now why Apple is ready to say goodbye to MacBook AIr …