Windows 10 Preview Adds Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 on ARM64 Devices

Microsoft's latest Windows 10 preview release for testers (build 18980), announced on Wednesday, includes support for version 2 of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), plus ARM64 device support for WSL 2.

In addition, this Windows 10 test release is notable for greasing the skids on the availability of Cortana, Microsoft's voice-responsive digital assistant. Windows Insider Program participants will see a new Cortana app and icon. Microsoft is also promising that Cortana will be available for all "supported languages" when this Windows 10 version gets finalized.

Windows 10 preview build 18980 is on the path for a possible product launch in the first half of 2020. It could get named the "May 2020 Update" when finalized, according to speculation in this article

WSL 2 Support on ARM64
The WSL 2 support in this preview release of Windows 10 build 18980 isn't exactly new as WSL 2 got early exposure for Windows Insider Program testers when Microsoft released Windows 10 preview build 18917 back in June. Details on installing WSL 2 are described in this blog post by Thomas Maurer, a Microsoft senior cloud advocate.

WSL is a component in Windows 10 that lets users run Linux tools on that operating system. Running Linux workloads isn't supported, though. WSL 2 differs from the first WSL release in that a custom-built, open source Linux kernel will be part of Windows 10 to bolster the subsystem's capabilities. The earlier version of WSL uses an emulation environment instead.

WSL 2 is expected to bring a faster file system performance, along with "full system call compatibility," Microsoft earlier indicated. It's possible to use WSL 2 with Microsoft's Visual Studio Code development environment as well, per this article.

Devices running Windows 10 on ARM currently are available. They're called "Always Connected PCs" and feature faster wake times, longer battery spans, plus different form-factor sizing options for device makers. These machines typically use Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, come bundled with Windows 10 in S Mode and can run x86 apps via emulation, but they can't run 64-bit apps.

At press time, this Qualcomm page listed seven commercially available Always Connected PCs. Microsoft and Qualcomm first announced a Windows 10 on ARM effort using Snapdragon chips almost three years ago. In any case, the added WSL 2 support in the latest Windows 10 preview implies that Linux tools will be able to run on such devices.

In other hardware bits, Microsoft is planning to describe its Surface device plans on October 2. This event will be live-streamed to the public at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time (7:00 a.m. Pacific Time). Surface devices use Intel processors.

WSL Conference and Linux
More Linux love will be coming with Windows 10 and WSL 2. There will be a new WSLconf 1 in March 2020. This free two-day event will be held at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. campus.

Here's the event's description:

WSLconf is a community-organized event from the founder of Pengwin on all things Windows Subsystem for Linux and WSL-related. Two days of hands-on workshops, hackathons, presentations, and networking events for developers on WSL.

Pengwin Linux (formerly known as "WLinux") is an open source Linux distro for Windows 10 machines, optimized for WSL, that's made by Whitewater Foundry. It's based on the Debian Linux operating system and was supported by Microsoft Research.

Linux Teams Client
There's also some Linux news with regard to Microsoft Teams, which is Microsoft's workspace collaboration client for Office 365 users. Microsoft is actively working on building a "native" Microsoft Teams client for use on Linux machines.

No further details on the Linux-based Microsoft Teams client were shared. The announcement can be found in this September 6 "User Voice" comment by a Microsoft Teams engineer.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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