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Dell was making an Intel-powered Windows Phone, until it wasn’t

Microsoft’s vision for Windows 10 is one; one Windows for all devices, no matter the form. It is ambitious, but it is a vision shared by many over the past few decades – including some of Microsoft’s most loyal OEMs.

A few days ago, Evan Blass, the famous leaker known as @evleaks on Twitter, tweeted a few images showcasing a phone running Windows.

Blass claims that the device was powered by a laptop-class Intel processor, and asks if it would have blown our minds – yes, it would have, if it was real.

Blass also claimed that the device was “more than just a concept,” with a bunch of photos not helping his point. The photos he tweeted, instead, look more like concepts than something real.

Now, a report from Thurott.com suggests that the device was being built by Dell, and was indeed powered by an Intel chip on the inside.

If the claims are true, it also means that the device was envisioned before Windows 10 Mobile was a thing, because Microsoft’s latest and greatest mobile OS does not support x86 chips, and therefore cannot work on Intel chips.

Intel also famously abandoned its mobile ambitions after failing – quite hard – at their attempts to penetrate a market saturated by highly power efficient ARM chips.

The Vision

It is hard to believe the ambitious claims about this device – it is impossibly thin for an Intel chip – especially a “laptop-class” one, as Blass claims; and it certainly doesn’t look like anything more than a concept.

However, if Blass is right and the device was indeed more than just a concept – it was probably a bit ahead of its time.

Microsoft, today, is building Continuum in Windows 10 Mobile to do exactly what Dell wanted to – a full desktop Windows 10 experience, powered by the phone. The problem, for Microsoft, is the ARM chip used in the majority of mobile devices available today.

The Windows ecosystem is based around PC – which itself is an ecosystem based on Intel’s x86 and AMD’s x64 architectures; therefore, the ARM architecture is simply unable to run Windows applications. It’s like trying to communicate in French while in Japan – you would need a translator, which would slow things down.

The Virtualization

The slowing-things-down bit is the issue here; a phone running on a “laptop-class” Intel chip would solve that problem and could allow Dell to provide the full Windows 10 experience on the phone.

Microsoft’s Continuum for Windows 10 Mobile does provide a full desktop Windows 10 experience when docked, but the lack of Win32 apps is disappointing, to say the least.

HP, though, managed to build a solution for the problem – Workspaces allows users to execute Win32 applications in the cloud, then stream them to the mobile device over an internet connection.

It’s a broken solution – yes it works, but it’s quite expensive and requires a constant and stable Internet connection.

The Reality

It’s fun to look at the ambitious projects that churn up inside these massive multinational organizations – there’s a lot of mind-boggling projects that simply do not see the light of day for one reason or another.

It’s not clear what prompted Dell to abandon this project – if it was more than a concept at all. It seems it is too late to bring anything like this now when Microsoft has clearly abandoned its ambitions for the mobile market.

The device would have blown our minds if it were real. Unfortunately, it seems it isn’t.

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