The Windows space could be getting busy in the next few years with a broader range of ARM-based PCs. That’s suggested by a rumor from XDA Developers, which reports that Qualcomm has an exclusivity deal with Microsoft for Windows on ARM, and it could be expiring soon.
Although Qualcomm and Microsoft first introduced Windows on ARM back in 2016, the current Qualcomm contract expiring leaves the door open for other chipmakers. In those five years, Qualcomm built ARM chips for PCs including the Snapdragon 835, 850, 7c, 7c Gen 2, 8c, 8cx, and 8cx Gen 2 5G. It even worked with Microsoft on the custom Microsoft SQ1 and Microsoft SQ2 processors, which are based on Qualcomm’s ARM chips.
Yet, PCs with these chips have never taken off since they are mainly found in highly expensive sub-$1,000 laptops like the Acer Spin 7 or a flagship Microsoft device like the Surface Pro X. Apple, meanwhile, came from behind in 2020 and introduced its own custom ARM chip, the Apple M1, across all of its Mac lineup and even on the iPad.
With that exclusivity expiring, Microsoft’s other partners could enter the space once only occupied by Qualcomm. The list includes Samsung, with its own Exynos processor, or MediaTek, which already builds ARM-based chips for Chromebooks.
MediaTek previously expressed interest in making a chip for Windows on ARM PCs during its Executive Summit in Laguna Beach. “The Wintel partnership that’s gone on for so long has to be under some pressure, and when there’s pressure, there’s an opportunity for companies like ours,” said Eric Fisher, vice president of corporate sales and business development.
As for Samsung, rumors had indicated that the company was planning a laptop with an Exynos processor. Like Acer and Lenovo, it already built the hardware for ARM PCs with the Galaxy Book S, but likely due to the Qualcomm exclusivity deal, it can’t use its own chips inside.
This news should not be too surprising, as it seems as though Microsoft is prepared for the new wave of ARM-based PCs. In Windows 11, Microsoft made it easier for app developers to emulate x64-based apps. Microsoft is even selling the Qualcomm Snapdragon Developer Kit, a mini ARM-based PC, from the Microsoft Store for $220.
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