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Windows 10 on Apple silicon up to Microsoft says Apple exec in a surprise

Apple's M1 chip would do a stellar job of running Windows 10 on Arm. (Image: Apple)
Apple's M1 chip would do a stellar job of running Windows 10 on Arm. (Image: Apple)
With the advent of Apple silicon for Macs most people had given up on the idea of Apple supporting Windows installations on its computers. The door to the prospect, somewhat surprisingly, has been opened by Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi in recent interview with Ars Technica.

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As many readers will be aware, Apple supports native Windows 10 installations on its Intel Macs through its Boot Camp software as the underlying architecture is completely compatible with Microsoft’s code. However, the transition to Apple’s silicon beginning with the recent launch of the new M1 powered Macs seemed to bring to a close the prospect of running Windows 10 natively on Apple silicon. This is because Apple silicon uses an Arm-based RISC architecture that isn’t compatible with Windows 10 on Intel’s x86 architecture -- although Windows 10 on x86 could potentially be supported on Arm architecture using virtualization software.

Like Apple, Microsoft has been alive to the performance-per-Watt benefits of Arm-based silicon and has, as we know, developed Windows 10 on Arm in close partnership with Qualcomm. At this point in time, however, Microsoft only licenses Windows on Arm to OEMs meaning you can only access it by buying a Windows 10 on Arm machine. This, coupled with Apple’s switch to Arm-based Apple silicon, has meant that running Windows 10 natively on an Apple silicon Mac didn’t seem likely to happen.

The situation seems to have changed, however. In a recent interview with Ars Technica, Apple software chief Craig Federighi surprised observers by saying that running Windows 10 on Apple silicon Macs is “really up to Microsoft.” Rather than ruling out the proposition as many thought Apple might Federighi added:

We have the core technologies for them to do that, to run their Arm version of Windows, which in turn of course supports x86 user mode applications. But that's a decision Microsoft has to make...to license that technology for users to run on these Macs. But the Macs are certainly very capable of it.

Federighi’s comments seem to imply that Apple will make Boot Camp available for Apple silicon Macs if Microsoft were to license it for individual purchase. It would also seem that Apple believes that a good portion of its Mac customers buy them because of their ability to run Windows 10 as well. If Microsoft does decide to license Windows 10 more widely, the question of the utility of Windows 10 on Arm more generally will be raised. 

On the plus side, Microsoft is working on extending its virtualization support for x86 applications on Windows 10 on Arm beyond the current 32-bit limit to 64-bits. This is intended to help accelerate the adoption of Windows 10 on Arm and improve its overall compatibility with businesses. If Microsoft does make Windows 10 on Arm available to Mac users, and if it adds better x86 emulation as well, it is highly likely that the best machine to run Windows 10 on Arm will be a Mac with Apple silicon.

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Sanjiv Sathiah
Sanjiv Sathiah - Senior Tech Writer - 1286 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2017
I have been writing about consumer technology over the past ten years, previously with the former MacNN and Electronista, and now Notebookcheck since 2017. My first computer was an Apple ][c and this sparked a passion for Apple, but also technology in general. In the past decade, I’ve become increasingly platform agnostic and love to get my hands on and explore as much technology as I can get my hand on. Whether it is Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Nintendo, Xbox, or PlayStation, each has plenty to offer and has given me great joy exploring them all. I was drawn to writing about tech because I love learning about the latest devices and also sharing whatever insights my experience can bring to the site and its readership.
contact me via: @t3mporarybl1p
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 11 > Windows 10 on Apple silicon up to Microsoft says Apple exec in a surprise
Sanjiv Sathiah, 2020-11-24 (Update: 2020-11-25)