Chipmaking giants Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) are coming for the Intel-dominated personal computer world as they plan to launch Arm-powered computer chips for PCs.
According to a Reuters report, artificial intelligence (AI) and gaming chip manufacturer Nvidia has already started designing central processing units (CPUs), supported by Arm technology, that could work on computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
Both Nvidia and AMD are set to partner with Qualcomm – which has been making Arm-based processors for Windows laptops since 2016 – and could sell their first PC chips as soon as 2025, the year Qualcomm’s current deal with Microsoft runs out.
Microsoft To Power Windows PCs With Arm Processors Built By Nvidia And AMD
The plan is to shake up the PC industry long been dominated by Intel, whose mantel is seriously threatened by Apple. In 2020, Apple, which was using chips built by Intel in their Mac computers, introduced custom-built Arm-based chips that have been a game changer for the industry.
The Apple silicon M1 and M2 series of chips, with their increased performance, better battery life, and AI processing, have caught the attention of Microsoft executives as they are more efficient and powerful than CPU processors found in Intel-based Mac and Windows machines. Preliminary third-quarter data from research firm IDC suggests that Cupertino has nearly doubled its PC market share in the three years since releasing its own Arm-based chips.
With the mega collaboration, Microsoft aims to get leading chip manufacturers to build Arm processors for Windows PCs. However, this is not the first time the Seatle-headquartered tech giant has tried its hands on chips built using Arm technology.
Microsoft’s first Surface tablet, the Surface RT launched in 2012, was powered by Nvidia’s Arm-based Tegra processor. It came on the foot of Microsoft’s long-standing exclusivity partnership with Qualcomm, which is the leading manufacturer of Arm CPUs powering smartphones and PCs, for its Snapdragon chips.
However, Windows RT, Microsoft’s Arm-based OS, failed to make an impact in the market despite major players like Lenovo, Asus, Samsung, and Dell getting involved and pushing for devices powered by the software.
Microsoft decided to extend its collaboration with Qualcomm to build special Arm processors for its servers and Surface Pro tablets running Windows 11. Both companies co-engineered Arm-based SQ1 and SQ2 processors for the 2019 and 2020 variants of the Surface Pro X.
AMD And Microsoft Join Forces To Build AI-powered Chips For Surface Devices
In May, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft had allegedly teamed up with AMD to help bolster the chipmaker’s AI prowess to compete against its chief rival Nvidia. While Microsoft would provide the engineering resources, AMD is helping the former develop its own in-house AI chips, codenamed “Athena”. Sources suggest that AMD is working on a custom version of its Ryzen processor for next year’s Surface Laptop 3.
On October 24, Qualcomm is expected to unveil its latest flagship Snapdragon chipset which was designed by a team of former Apple engineers. The event will also be attended by Microsoft executives, including Vice President of Windows and Devices Pavan Davuluri. The Arm-based chips are most likely to power Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S24 and S24 Ultra smartphones.
Microsoft Pushing Chipmakers To Build Arm-based CPUs To Compete With Qualcomm
Although Nvidia does not build a chip, it develops a compute module called the GH200 Superchip, which is designed to boost the performance of artificial intelligence applications deployed in data centers.
Intel’s Client Computing Group, which is responsible for selling PC processors, is the dominant player in the computer chip market, with a reported revenue of $6.8 billion for the first quarter of 2023 ended June 1. Meanwhile, AMD, who is the architect behind the world’s fastest gaming CPU, the Ryzen, generated around $1 billion in sales in the client chip market.
Experts assume the major factor driving Microsoft’s quest for an Arm-based CPU for all its devices is software compatibility and power efficiency. Since Arm silicon is shipped with almost all smartphones, they are becoming a mainstay in the industry as mobile devices and personal computers are becoming more and more synchronized.
As Microsoft’s current exclusivity arrangement with Qualcomm is set to expire in 2024, the tech giant is encouraging Nvidia and AMD to build their own Arm-based PC chips equipped with “advanced AI features”.
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Intel To Launch Next-Generation AI-powered CPU In December
Intel has no plans to give up yet. The company is set to launch its Meteor Lake CPUs, equipped with a neural processing unit (NPU) to support machine learning and AI applications, on December 14. Intel says the chip will be the most power-efficient client processor that has ever been made, with up to twice the graphics performance and is designed to support Microsoft Windows out of the box.