Windows on Arm? Yes, With Advantech Hardware

By Ken Briodagh

Senior Technology Editor

Embedded Computing Design

September 25, 2023

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Windows on Arm? Yes, With Advantech Hardware

Windows is well known as one of the more stable and reliable OS choices for embedded and industrial applications, but it’s traditionally only run on machines that are powered by x86 processors. That isn’t the case anymore, and it’s time to start thinking of bringing the advantages of Windows onto your Arm-powered machines.

For more on that, see the blog Develop Your Windows Apps on Arm-Based Hardware.

The benefits of leveraging Windows on Arm (WoA) are particularly noticeable in applications that are looking to be frugal in energy use because the Arm architecture is ideally suited to engineering for long battery life paired with peak processing performance. In addition, you can design for GPU, Wi-Fi, mobile data networks like 5G or LoRa, and Neural Processor Units (NPUs) for accelerating AI workloads. Arm SoCs are designed to accommodate any of these uses, and more, making them flexible and usable anywhere x86 might be used, and many places it couldn’t.

It's not all about the versatility and power of the tech, either. WoA is more cost effective in both hardware and software. It’s also good for managing future costs because existing Windows apps that can run directly on Arm-based machines can be redeveloped and updated in much less time.

Where to Start

Thanks to Microsoft seeing the need for WoA development, the company made sure Windows 10 can enable existing unmodified x86 apps to run on Arm devices, and Windows 11 added the ability to run unmodified x64 Windows apps on Arm devices. With the assurance that x86 and x64 apps will run on a WoA system, the decision of where to source the embedded hardware you’ll need is an easy one thanks to Advantech’s Arm-based computing solutions, which pair the best hardware with first-class support.

Advantech is ready to offer partners the benefit of all its experience so that they can feel confident dedicating R&D resources to developing for WoA. Engineers at Advantech have been working with WoA for some time and they’re ready to offer their help where it’s needed.

One such common question they see concerns peripherals in the motherboard development process on the WoA operating systems, particularly the BIOS development process. Unlike the x86 process, an Arm bootloader is needed for hardware initialization on UEFI, including DDR memory and other system chip parameters. The developers also advise engineers to modify LAN, audio, and display drivers in accordance with the peripheral hardware design on Advantech's Arm platform to create specific hardware drivers for the platform.

Advantech offers all the tools engineers need to develop for WoA. It’s all ready to go at every level of complexity, from development kits and modules to boards and complete embedded machines. Advantech’s Arm-based embedded computers, single-board computers, and computer-on-modules come with CPUs from industry leaders like NXP.

Adapting to WoA with Advantech hardware gives you a jump start on your development process, which you’d have a hard time getting anywhere else. The company will set you up with .Net Framework WPF, UWP apps, WPF apps and make the Advantech co-development service available to you. And as an authorized distributor of Microsoft Windows products, the company stands ready to offer any support needed.

When to Use WoA

As with any embedded platform, it’s important to know you’re choosing the right solution for your needs. WoA devices are well suited for industrial applications and solutions that must be portable and lightweight, or need advanced networking via 4G or 5G connectivity. These include implementations at mass scale like charging or refueling devices, mining equipment, retail chains, or even medical devices.

This is only the beginning, and expectations for WoA are high. According to a study by Arm and Microsoft, 81% of developers expect the WoA market to grow significantly in the next five years, and nearly half said they believe that WoA will make up nearly a quarter of the entire PC market within that time. Two-thirds of respondents said that productivity applications have the greatest potential, followed by utilities and tools, and business applications.

Most current WoA applications are designed for tablets and laptops, but Advantech is bringing this architecture into the enterprise and industrial space with its NXP-based products using Windows IoT Enterprise for Arm. These include the company’s ROM 5720, ROM 5721, ROM 5722, RSB-3720, RSB-3730 boards, and the EPC-R3720 IoT Gateway.

The EPC-R3720 in particular is interesting for its Edge AI capabilities, thanks in part to the bundled Hailo-8 M2 AI acceleration modules. In fact, Advantech is using the device in its own factories to power AI machine vision on its manufacturing line.

WoA is the faster, lighter, simpler solution for IoT, AI, and other mobile solutions, and Advantech is ahead of the industry at every turn thanks to its array of products in the space and key partnerships with Microsoft, NXP, and Arm, amongst others. Take a look at the Advantech developer community and see for yourself.

Ken Briodagh is a writer and editor with two decades of experience under his belt. He is in love with technology and if he had his druthers, he would beta test everything from shoe phones to flying cars. In previous lives, he’s been a short order cook, telemarketer, medical supply technician, mover of the bodies at a funeral home, pirate, poet, partial alliterist, parent, partner and pretender to various thrones. Most of his exploits are either exaggerated or blatantly false.

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