Desktop PCs using ARM hardware have yet to hit the market en masse, but the software ecosystem to accommdate them is already growing, as Eltechs demonstrated this week with the announcement of virtual machine software tailored for ARMv7 tablets, mini PCs and other devices.
The product, called ExaGear Desktop, runs x86 operating systems on top of hardware devices using ARMv7 CPUs. That's significant because x86 software, which is the kind that runs natively on most computing platforms today, does not generally work on ARM hardware unless software developers undertake the considerable effort of porting it. Since few are likely to do that, having a way to run x86 applications on ARM devices is likely to become increasingly important as more ARM-based tablets and portable computers come to market.
That said, the ExaGear Desktop, which Eltechs plans to make available next month, currently has some steep limitations. First, it only supports Ubuntu Linux. And while Eltechs said support for additional Linux distributions is forthcoming, there's no indication the product will be able to run x86 builds of Windows on ARM hardware, a feat that is likely to be in much greater demand than Linux compatibility.
Eltechs has also not announced any plans to extend ExaGear Desktop support to ARM versions other than ARMv7 platforms, meaning the product will work only with a certain subset of the ARM hardware ecosystem—not including the ever-popular Raspberry Pi mini PC.
Nonetheless, ExaGear Desktop stands to gain some traction because it promises performance up to 4.5 times faster than QEMU, the popular open source virtualization hypervisor that can also run x86 software on ARM platforms—but more slowly and without anything in the realm of enterprise-grade support, at least for now.
And regardless of whether ExaGear Desktop takes off, the real takeaway from this news—which comes shortly after Red Hat's (RHT) announcement of a new ARM server partner program last month—is that the ARM software market continues to heat up. x86's days as the only game in town are numbered.