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Microsoft introduces Project Volterra, an Arm-based mini PC with NPU for developers

Microsoft introduces Project Volterra, an Arm-based mini PC with NPU for developers
Photo Credit: Microsoft
25 May, 2022
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Microsoft took to its annual developer conference stage at Build 2022 to unveil a mini PC, aimed at developers. Called Project Volterra, the mini PC is based on Arm processors, and interestingly comes with a neural processing unit (NPU) integrated into its chipset. The move has offered two key indicators as to what Microsoft expects in the future, and how it seeks to evolve the Windows ecosystem.

To be sure, Project Volterra is not a consumer project, which means that it can’t quite be called a direct competitor to Apple’s M1-powered Mac Mini compact PC. However, the developer mini PC that Microsoft is bringing offers cues to what the future of Windows could include.

To begin with, the device will run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, which has not been named yet. All that Microsoft has so far said is that the chip will be a “flagship” one, and include an integrated NPU. The latter is not a typical offering of a desktop PC, but is generally found in mobile chips that handle background tasks, power consumption optimization and automated operations.

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However, Apple notably included an integrated NPU when it launched its own line of chips with the M1 SoC. The latter offers more seamless integration of features and operations between devices of various form factors, and cross-platform app functionality plays a key role in enabling this. It is this that Microsoft is seeking to enable with Project Volterra, by running desktop-class Windows on Arm-based PCs.

Such a move could enable Microsoft to run Windows 11 apps across devices of varying form factors, which is something that company chief Satya Nadella spoke about during his keynote at Build 2022. This also suggests that more low-power desktop PCs would be launched in the coming days, leading to a blurring of lines between mobile and desktop apps.

Microsoft, however, has not offered any details in terms of the exact specifications that its Project Volterra mini PCs would come with. There is also no launch date or pricing of the device, but Microsoft has said that more details about it would be offered, “soon”.

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