Windows 10 on Apple's future Arm-based Macs? It's not an option via Boot Camp

Only Windows 10 on Arm could run on Apple's future Arm-based Macs, but Microsoft's license doesn't permit it.

First look at Apple Silicon

For years Apple's Boot Camp has let users dual-boot Windows on a Mac, but for now it looks like that won't be an option on Apple's forthcoming Arm-based Macs.

And the main reason, it seems, is not a technical obstacle, but a licensing one, since the only way to get Windows 10 on an Arm-based PC is by buying a Windows 10 on Arm PC. 

These PCs are otherwise known as Always Connected PCs, which run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and ship with Windows 10 on Arm preinstalled. Microsoft doesn't distribute Windows 10 on Arm separately. 

SEE: Windows 10: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

"Microsoft only licenses Windows 10 on Arm to OEMs," a Microsoft spokesperson told The Verge's Tom Warren. Microsoft isn't saying whether it intends to make an exception for Apple. 

The Arm Macs do support Parallels Desktop, so users can run Linux and Windows apps in a virtual machine. At WWDC 2020, Apple also demonstrated a Linux distribution running on a Mac with an Arm chip.

However, Windows and Linux guests need to be Arm-based to run on Apple Silicon Macs. And this means that until Microsoft changes its licensing for Windows 10 on Arm, it won't be available to install. 

Apple and Microsoft are likely to have known that the Boot Camp question would crop up at some point, given the pair have been partnering on Arm-based Macs to bring Office to Apple's new hardware. 

As Warren notes, even if Microsoft did change its licensing for Widows on Arm, Apple would still need to create Windows on Arm drivers for its new hardware. 

But for now, if you want to dual-boot Windows on a Mac, users will need to stick with an Intel-based Mac.

The company expects the move to Apple silicon to "take about two years", Apple CEO Tim Cook said earlier this week on a WWDC video link. The company plans to continue to "support and release new versions of macOS for Intel-based Macs for years to come". 

"In fact, we have some new Intel-based Macs in the pipeline," Cook said.

SEE: New MacBook Pro details leak

Apple's new Arm-based Macs will be able to run iPhone and iPad apps.   

VMware has announced that its Fusion virtualization software for running Windows apps on Macs will support macOS Big Sur but it hasn't said whether it would support Apple's Arm-based chips. However, the company has asked its community of users what they would like to see if it were to deliver support for Apple Silicon Macs.