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Qualcomm Aims to Take Chip Leadership with new ARM SoCs for Windows

An SoC chip from Qualcomm from its Nuvia team aims to compete with Apple’s M-series processors in the PC market in 2023.

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Qualcomm’s next-gen CPU for PCs will take on Apple’s M-series chips in 2023 and beyond, says San Diego, California-based chip giant Qualcomm. (via The Verge)

Dr. James Thompson, Qualcomm’s chief technology officer, made the announcement this week at the company’s investor day event.

Nuvia Is Key

As has been written months ago by Architosh, Nuvia is the company whose expertise is critical in Qualcomm’s chip plans to go toe-to-toe with the Apple M-series SoC chips in the personal computer space. Qualcomm acquired Nuvia earlier this year for USD 1.4 billion. Nuvia itself was formed in 2019 by notably Apple’s chief chip architecture Gerald Williams III along with two other star chip designers with stints at Google and Apple.

Qualcomm says its Nuvia chip team is very far along in the development of an ARM-based SoC aimed at performance leadership in the PC space. (Image: The Verge)

While Nuvia’s original goals were to attack the server chip space, which has long been dominated by Intel and where AMD has made huge market share gains in recent years, Nuvia’s expertise is now being directed at the general PC market where Apple has stolen the performance per watt crown in a big way from Intel and AMD.

Bigger Ambitions

Qualcomm is looking to get chip samples to customers in about nine months’ time with products shipping next year with Qualcomm’s yet-named SoC (system on chip) silicon. And get this, Qualcomm isn’t just aiming at dominance over Apple at performance per watt, they are aiming at sustained performance.

Skeptics will say that Qualcomm tried entering the PC chip market before and failed, with the Snapdragon 8cx line of processors, but this time the company literally has the advantage of the talent of Nuvia’s chip team. Williams III was a significant part of the success of Apple’s A-series chips driving the iPhone. This may be the critical piece that lends Qualcomm success this time around.

Architosh Analysis and Commentary

The implications of the rise of ARM into the same PC territory as Intel and AMD’s X86 architecture have been detailed in our article from Xpresso #31, in the special feature titled, “Chip Technology, Geopolitics, and the CAD Industry.” 

We make the point that today’s CAD software contains millions of lines of code with hundreds of dependencies, including links to modeling kernels, rendering engines and so much more. Moving the CAD industry so it can support both X86 and ARM chip architectures will be a bigger task for some players than others. Some, like Nemetschek’s daughter company, Vectorworks, Inc., have already completed the task and are now on both X86 for Apple’s macOS and X86 for both Windows and macOS. 

In the past, some companies, like PTC (Parametric Technology Corporation) failed to acknowledge a sea change in platforms fast enough and lost huge ground to SolidWorks when the Windows PC began to dominate and take market share away from UNIX CAD platforms. This same process can repeat again for some of the biggest CAD companies in existence. If Qualcomm is truly just nine months away from shipping SoC chips that can rival Apple’s M-series processors—and why would they not be able to when the team responsible holds leaders from Apple’s chip team that brought about the A and M-series Apple Silicon?—then the Windows world will soon be aflush in foundational change. 

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