One of the things gathering attention at Build 2022 is Project Volterra. It’s a new ARM-powered PC that’s specifically made for Windows developers. Microsoft wasn’t very specific on the details of the actual hardware, but they did share a Surface-like teaser video for the upcoming device.
From the roughly minute-long teaser, we can see a couple of different things about the device. First of all, we can see that it looks a lot like the base part of a Surface Studio, but without the display mechanisms. Microsoft also shared that it is made of recycled ocean plastic, hinting that this could be an all-plastic developer device, much like the Snapdragon Developer Kit from 2021. This gives it a very Mac-mini-like compact shape, with Microsoft even showing how the device could be stackable for desktops as well as rack deployment.
Other than that, we can see the insides at one point, with Microsoft showing off a single fan, as well as the internal SoC. Microsoft even goes as far to mention the ports, though sparing technical details. We can make out a power jack, ethernet port, mini display port, as well as USB-A ports on the back. As for the sides, there look to be two USB-C ports and three additional buttons.
Again, we’re just speculating what we’re seeing based on the video. The video doesn’t represent the final hardware, as far as we know. Microsoft still promises that it will share more “at a later date.” We were involved in a Twitter thread that asked about the hardware. Microsoft’s Rich Turner tells us, and other writers, that they’ll be sharing more details later in the summer once they’re more certain about actual availability.
We'll be sharing much more detail later in the summer once we're more certain about actual availability, etc. Turns out that building and shipping a new device during a pandemic & world-wide component and shipping issues is … challenging 😜
— Rich Turner (@richturn_ms) May 24, 2022
According to Windows Central, however, it does look as though the Surface team was involved in this design, in partnership with Qualcomm. They also believe that it will ship with a “flagship SoC.” It’s unknown at this point what this could be, as the Snapdragon 8cX Gen 3 is the latest flagship SoC from Qualcomm. But even if it is a flagship, it would be very much different in terms of performance from the entry-level 7c chip inside last year’s Snapdragon Developer Kit. This makes total sense, as Microsoft is targeting this for development on ARM with optimized apps like Visual Studio, .Net 6 and Java, Classic .Net, and even the Windows Terminal WSL / WSA.
What we also do know about is the Neural Processing Unit or NPU inside Project Volterra. The NPU is “an “accelerated runtime for the execution of deep neural networks.” This can help developers explore AI scenarios in their apps for AI- and machine learning-specific workloads without comprising performance, as well as battery life.
All that said, Project Volterra is a developer PC and isn’t targeted at consumers. It still, though, seems like an attractive PC for Windows and Surface fans, as it could shape up to be the first desktop PC from Microsoft, Surface-branded or not.