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'Project Volterra': Microsoft is building an Arm dev kit on the Snapdragon compute platform


Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek, and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2. Microsoft is working on a new Windows-on-Arm dev kit powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon compute platform that will allow Windows developers to build Arm-native apps. Codenamed "Project Volterra," the dev kit, coming sometime later this year, will allow developers to use coming Arm-native versions of Microsoft dev tools to build apps -- especially apps that handle AI processing on the device. Microsoft announced Volterra on Day 1 of its virtual Build 2022 developers conference on May 24, hoping to generate more excitement around its Windows on Arm (WoA) platform. Microsoft has been working on Windows on Arm for years, but there are still few (if any) compelling PCs and devices running on it.

Microsoft's Project Volterra is a mini PC for ARM developers


At its annual developer conference, Microsoft doesn't typically announce new hardware. But at Build 2022 the company made time to unveil Project Volterra, a PC Microsoft designed to assist developers with building native ARM apps that employ AI-accelerated workloads. While we don't have all the details on Project Volterra just yet, what we do know is that it will feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset with a dedicated neural processing unit or NPU. Microsoft told TechCrunch the component would deliver "best-in-class" AI computing capacity and efficiency. A neural processor isn't something you typically see on PCs. They're far more common in phones where they help save on battery power by taking on machine learning tasks from the CPU.

Microsoft's vision for the PC's future: AI-infused 'NPUs' and the cloud


We've become used to sharing files between the cloud and our local PCs, so much that we often don't think about where a file physically resides. It sounds like Microsoft wants us to start thinking about our computing resources in the same way -- and start considering AI when buying a new PC or processor, too. In the future, an app you use will make a decision between whether to use the power of your local CPU; a local "neural processing unit," or NPU; or the cloud to get your task done fast. "We're entering a world where every Windows computer will draw on the combined power of CPUs, GPUs, NPUs, and even a new coprocessor, Azure Compute, in this hybrid cloud-to-edge world," said Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella during his keynote address at the Microsoft Build conference, held virtually. "You will be able to do large scale training in the cloud and do inference at the edge and have the fabric work as one."

Windows 11: Microsoft gives Notepad an update it thinks you will enjoy


There aren't many Windows-on-Arm PCs out there yet, but when they do arrive Microsoft's Windows Notepad app will be ready for them. The freshly updated Notepad app with native Arm64 support is rolling out now to Windows Insiders on Windows 11 Microsoft's Dev, Beta and Release Preview channels. The Arm64 Notepad app should be a faster and better performing app on Windows 11, according to Microsoft. Users can try it by updating to versions 11.2204 and higher, according to Microsoft's Windows Insiders blog which notes: "We are rolling out changes to Notepad that we think the community will enjoy." Windows 11 users should also notice that scrolling large files and replacing large amounts of text performs better on devices in Notepad version 11.2205 and higher, which is available in the Dev channel.

Project Volterra could encourage switch to Arm-based PCs


Microsoft will release a refreshed Arm-based desktop PC for developers later this year. Project Volterra will speed up machine learning algorithms for data scientists and AI developers. The vendor introduced the stackable PC, which can connect to multiple units for additional capabilities, last week at Microsoft Build, its annual software and web developer conference. The PC will enable developers to use Arm-native versions of Microsoft developer tools to build apps. The small PCs, which look like Mac minis, are built from recycled ocean plastic. They are the first to integrate the gasconaded neural processing units (NPUs) -- a controversial name that some analysts view with skepticism.