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

The computer includes a neural processing unit.


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. But with chips like Apple’s M1 including built-in NPUs, they’re becoming more commonplace, and it’s that future that Microsoft wants to be prepared for when it comes.

“Because we expect to see NPUs being built into most, if not all future computing devices, we’re going to make it easy for developers to leverage these new capabilities, by baking support for NPUs into the end-to-end Windows platform,” said Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer.

With Volterra, Microsoft is adding Windows support for NPUs. The company also said development tools like Visual Studio 2022 and Windows Terminal would soon run natively on ARM hardware. All of that suggests the company is keener than ever to get developers to program native ARM apps for Windows.