Microsoft presents a miniPC with ARM processor: it’s Project Volterra


Microsoft introduced a mini computer similar to the Mac mini. This is a team that, in a way, seems inspired by the slightest proposal from Apple: it is square, thin and has an ARM heart.

It’s not a consumer market product that those in Redmond intend to compete with those in Cupertino with, but rather a development kit called Volterra Project with which they want to lay the foundations for the future of Windows.

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Volterra project, artificial intelligence and ARM architecture

The device, presented this week at Microsoft Build, incorporates a processor Qualcomm’s Snapdragon (undisclosed model) and a neural processing unit (NPU), three USB ports as well as a DisplayPort port and an Ethernet port.

As you can see in the video, the team stands out for its minimalist and stackable design, ideal for developers. Additionally, the case, according to Microsoft, was made with recycled plastic recovered from the ocean.

The kit will also come with a set of native ARM development tools. These include Visual Studio 2022, VS Code, VisualC++, Modern .NET 6, Classic .NET Framework, Windows Terminal, and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).

Those of Redmond intend to promote with this kit what they call “intelligent hybrid computingwhere services and applications will fall back on local CPU, GPU and NPU computing as well as cloud computing with Azure.

The move could represent a shift in stance from Microsoft, which, despite having ARM devices such as the Surface Pro X, had shown little interest in this architecture, continuing its strong commitment to x86-64.

Added to this are the possibilities that would open up when creating applications for computers using neural processing units (NPUs), such as those built into many smartphones today.

These units, like the one developed by Oppo for its phones, use artificial intelligence to provide functionalities What photo and video enhancements, real-time translation And otherwise.

Microsoft is confident that NPUs will be integrated into almost all computing devices of the future. Therefore, they say, they are working to support this feature on Windows “end-to-end”.

Now there are many unanswered questions. Will Microsoft take the ARM architecture seriously this time or will we be faced with another proposition like the Qualcomm miniPC? Will CPU makers create ARM offerings for laptops and desktops?

And, perhaps most importantly: will these efforts be enough to motivate developers to commit to this system? Those from Microsoft seem confident, although they don’t provide specific dates, so we have to wait and see if these ideas come to fruition.

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