Credits: Microsoft Disclosure

With the new line of Windows notebooks with Snapdragon X chips, Microsoft is investing to improve user experiences with processors ARM in the system. One of the main new features revealed to achieve this was the Prismthe new translator that promises to run x86 apps as well as Rosetta 2 and Apple.

x86 to ARM migration

Before talking about the new Microsoft emulator, it is crucial to understand the need for it. Currently, most computers use hardware with the x86 architecture, launched by Intel in 1978. This means that many software, including Windows, were developed for this technology.

However, the x86 architecture is based on a complex instruction set (CISC), which has many instructions, which ends up requiring many more transistors than necessary. Which results in larger chips, with more electrical consumption and hotter.

But after years of research, it was found that the vast majority of computers use only a small subset of CISC instructions. Based on this, the RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) architecture was created.

The highlight of RISC is that it provides only the instruction sets needed by computers. This saves space and results in smaller, more efficient processors.

A notable example of RISC architecture is ARM, widely used in smartphones. Currently, ARM processors are becoming more and more powerful and efficient. Apple has already migrated its systems to Arm with the M1, now Microsoft is slowly making Windows Arm better.

Microsoft unveiling Prism Windows emulator
Reproduction / TechSpot

Prism is a new emulator for Windows with ARM

The challenge faced by this migration is the incompatibility of x86 software with the ARM architecture and vice versa. To solve this problem, operating systems such as Windows offer dynamic binary translators, which “translate” x86 software codes to ARM.

Windows currently offers an x86 translator for ARM. But the performance of the current Microsoft tool does not translate well, with the software showing errors and poor performance.

A notable highlight in this field is Rosetta 2, launched by Apple with the M1 chipset in 2020. This emulator is capable of translating x86 applications with high performance, something unheard of at the time.

Now, Microsoft hopes to reach Apple’s level with Prism. According to the company, with this emulator Windows computers with ARM can execute codes 10 to 20% faster than the previous emulator on your system.

Although most current applications support ARM, Microsoft highlights that Prism will be very useful for users. You will be able to use your old software, or those without ARM support, on Windows without any major problems.

In fact, 87% of the total minutes people spend in apps today have native Arm versions. With a new emulator, Prism, your applications work perfectly, whether native or emulated.

Highlights Microsoft

The head of the Windows and Surface division, Pavan Davuluri, says that Microsoft worked hard on creating Prism. Davuluri claims that non-native apps are emulated with “better energy efficiency, platform and performance”.

The 24H2 update will bring this new feature to Windows PCs with ARM in the second half of the year. In addition to new notebooks with Snapdragon X, the emulator will also be available for older computers, improving their emulation performance.

Focus on increasing the number of native apps

Despite Rosetta’s performance success with the M1, the The Verge highlights that the success of Apple’s transition to Arm was the quick port of apps to the new architecture. So, although Prism is a good solution, Microsoft has to convince devs to port their apps to ‘Windows on ARM’.

Prism optimized for Snapdragon X Elite

O PCGamer highlights that Microsoft has optimized Prism in Windows 11 for the Snapdragon X Elite chipset. This means that the emulator’s performance should be even better with this processor.

The website points out that one of the highlights of the Apple M1 is that it has emulation hardware, which further improves Rosetta’s performance. It is not possible to know if the Snapdragon X Elite has specific hardware for Microsoft Prism.

Snapdragon X Elite
Reproduction / Adrenaline

But it is possible to believe so, as Nuvia, a startup created by Apple’s former chief CPU architect, Gerard Williams, made the chipset’s cores. This means that Qualcomm may have used the experience of Williams, and other former Apple employees, in the new processor.

We still don’t have data on the power of Microsoft Prism. But in addition to good performance, Windows emulation has to be efficient, as this process can consume a lot of energy. Which is a problem for notebooks.

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Source: Connected World, PCGamer, TecSpot, The Verge


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