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Microsoft Windows chief Terry Myerson. (GeekWire File Photo / Nat Levy)
Microsoft Windows chief Terry Myerson. (GeekWire File Photo / Nat Levy)

Microsoft will again seek to expand the reach of its Windows PC operating system to devices running mobile-oriented ARM processors, through a partnership with Qualcomm announced tonight at the Windows Hardware Engineering Community event (WinHEC) in China.

The company has tried this before, through a version of Windows 8 called Windows RT that was designed for ARM processors. But that version flopped due in large part to the inability to run traditional Windows apps on those devices. This time, Microsoft will use emulation technology to allow Windows 10 on ARM to run x86 Win32 apps such including Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, among many others.

“For the first time ever, our customers will be able to experience the Windows they know with all the apps, peripherals and enterprise capabilities they require, on a truly mobile, power efficient, always-connected cellular PC,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, in a post outlining the company’s news from the conference in Shenzhen, China.

The company separately makes its Windows 10 Mobile operating system for ARM-based devices, but expanding full-fledged Windows 10 to ARM is part of a broader effort to bring the capabilities of the traditional desktop operating system to more devices and scenarios.

Also at the conference, Microsoft is announcing a new collaboration with longtime partner Intel, called “Project Evo.” The idea is to lay the groundwork to expand the capabilities of PCs in areas including voice interaction, biometric security, video games and mixed reality.

For example, Microsoft says the specifications from Project Evo will enable far-field speech communications to activate Cortana from across the room. That promises to make Windows 10 machines more competitive with Amazon’s Echo, Google Home and other voice-enabled devices.

In addition, the company is announcing at the conference that future Windows 10 updates will make it possible for users to buy cellular data from the Windows Store for connecting Windows devices over cellular networks.

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