Build 2022: Microsoft goes all-in on Arm with Project Volterra

Kip Kniskern

Unlike some previous Builds, Microsoft is shining a spotlight on Windows this year, pumping up Windows 11, introducing 3rd party widgets, offering developers new tools to build and run apps on Windows, modernizing the Microsoft Store, and going all in on a wider hardware ecosystem including Windows on ARM with Project Volterra.

What is Project Volterra?

Just announced at Build 2022, Project Volterra is a new device powered by the Snapdragon compute platform, and a Neural Processing Unit, or NPU. Snapdragon’s SNPE (Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine, an “accelerated runtime for the execution of deep neural networks,” helps make next generation computing possible on ARM computers and mobile devices.

Native Windows support for NPUs and Arm

Microsoft is building in support for NPUs into the Windows Platform, from Visual Studio and VS Code to .Net, Windows Terminal and the Windows Subsystems for Linux and Android, and will supply an “Arm-native toolchain for Arm native apps,” with full Arm support for VS 2022, VS Code, Visual C++, .Net 6 and Java, Classic .Net, Windows Terminal, and WSL / WSA.

Microsoft is working with a number of open source projects to natively target ARM, including Python, node, git, and LLVM.

The Hybrid Loop

“Artificial Intelligence,” or AI, is rapidly changing the way computing works and the way Microsoft develops tools for applications, and at Build 2022 Microsoft is introducing the concept of a “Hybrid Loop.” This “powerful, cross-platform development pattern for building AI experiences” can dynamically decide whether to run on a local client or on Azure, and shift the load between client and cloud and back again. This “hybrid loop,” where developers won’t have to decide beforehand where to best run their applications, will be enhanced by NPU capable devices like Project Volterra, making AI workloads even more powerful as they’re shifted between the device and the cloud.

Microsoft plans to share more details on the Hybrid loop and the AI Toolchain soon.

Microsoft has had a bit of a rough start with Windows on Arm, as once Intel devices caught up in terms of battery performance there wasn’t much of a reason to run Windows on Arm, but the promise of next gen AI and neural processing may change that, and the future could be bright.