Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

Microsoft is designing its own ARM-based processor for Surface and cloud servers

Updated on Monday, December 12 to include Intel’s statement.

Microsoft is working on designing its own custom processor for its products, according to a report from Bloomberg news. Details are scarce, but the report notes that the new processor Microsoft is working on is “in-house” and will use ARM-based designs. It could not only be used to power data centers, but also the Surface line of computers.

Though Microsoft already worked with its partner Qualcomm on ARM-based processors for the Surface Pro X and other Windows 10 on ARM devices like the Galaxy Book S, this move also could signal another bigger shift away from depending on Intel’s processors and Qualcomm’s partnership.

Microsoft is not alone in making such a move. Apple recently proved that it could successfully shift away from relying on Intel’s line of processors in favor of its own in-house processor. In November, the iPhone maker announced the M1 CPU, in a new line of MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini models. That ARM-based M1 CPU has been praised for being more powerful, with longer battery life, too.

Previous Microsoft Surface products have all had chips from Intel and AMD. The exception is the Surface Pro X, which features the Microsoft SQ1 and SQ2 chip, which was co-engineered with help from Qualcomm. The Surface Laptop 3, meanwhile, featured a custom “Surface Edition” AMD Ryzen chip.

Intel’s Xeon chips power most data centers. AMD dipped into the server market, too, with its EPYC lineup of processors.

Even if the ARM-based chip Microsoft is working on is powerful enough, Microsoft would have its work cut out for itself in shifting to its own custom ARM-based processor, mainly due to issues with the software.

Apple depends on the Rosetta 2 emulation to power certain apps that are designed for traditional MacBooks with Intel processors and not yet updated for the M1 chip. Microsoft only recently tweaked Windows 10 to support both 64-bit and 32-bit applications, and it is still in beta testing. Reports have also shown that Windows 10 performs better on Apple’s M1 Macs running under emulation than when it runs natively on devices like the Surface Pro X.

Intel has released a statement on the matter to Digital Trends, reaffirming its commitment to both x86 systems and new markets like self-driving cars: “The incredible demand for computing fueled by new workloads like AI is driving more silicon experimentation in the cloud. Building on decades of x86 ecosystem innovation, we are committed to providing customers the world’s best CPUs and new products from GPUs to AI chips. In this expanding market, we expect to gain share in many areas like AI training, 5G networks, graphics and autonomous driving.”

Editors' Recommendations

Arif Bacchus
Arif Bacchus is a native New Yorker and a fan of all things technology. Arif works as a freelance writer at Digital Trends…
Intel is making its own ARM competitor to fight Nvidia and Apple
Intel Quark SoC X1000.

Intel is working on a new SoC (system on a chip) that will compete with the ARM-based designs that have dominated the mobile market for several years. Through a partnership with fabless chip designer SiFive, Intel is licensing IP to create its own 64-bit SoC that's built on its 7nm node.

Last week, Intel announced a partnership with SiFive for its upcoming Horse Creek platform. Intel is using SiFive's P550 core for the Horse Creek design, which is SiFive's "highest performance processor" available. Intel said it will be incorporating its own IP, including DDR and PCIe, into the design.

Read more
Why Microsoft’s moonshot attempt to support ARM could finally work this time
microsoft announces surface laptop go pro x

Microsoft's Build developer conference saw updates for products like Azure, Outlook, Teams, and the remainder of the Microsoft 365 services. However, an exciting announcement regarding ARM-based architecture really caught my attention.

Although Apple has stolen most of the spotlight when it comes to switching its products over to the custom ARM-based M1 chip, Microsoft did go there first. The company did it with the Surface RT, and again with the Surface Pro X, but both flopped for a number of reasons that I've documented in the past.

Read more
Microsoft goes all-in on Windows 10 on ARM, with its target set on the M1 Macs
surface pro x

Just as Apple did almost a year ago with the ARM-based M1 chip, Microsoft is getting ready to finally dive into ARM-based architecture. Today, at its annual Build Developer conference, the company detailed new ways for developers to port their apps to ARM-based PCs like the Surface Pro X.

The forefront of those plans is a new Snapdragon Developer Kit. Microsoft says that this kit is an affordable Windows on ARM-based PC that is specially designed for developers. The kit will be available for purchase at the Microsoft Store this summer as part of a partnership between Microsoft and Qualcomm Technologies. Microsoft didn't share specific pricing or availability, but notes it will be "cost-effective."

Read more