Apple's release of Arm-based system-on-chips for its desktops and laptops three years ago demonstrated that such processors could offer competitive performance and power consumption. On the Windows-based PC front, only Qualcomm has offered Arm-based SoCs for notebooks in recent years, but it looks like it will soon be joined by AMD and NVIDIA, two notable players in the PC space, according to a Reuters report.

While neither AMD nor NVIDIA has confirmed plans to offer Arm-based SoCs for client PCs, it will not be the first time these companies either planned or offered Arm-powered processors for the Windows ecosystem. Furthermore, this move will align with Microsoft's broader vision to push the adoption of Arm-based processors into Windows PCs to make them more competitive against Apple's offerings.

Microsoft has spearheaded initiatives promoting the utilization of Arm-based processors, intending to diversify and evolve beyond the prevailing x86 architecture, predominantly controlled by Intel, for years. At first, the company attempted to do this in the late 2000s but saw no major success for years. However, AMD tried to develop a competitive Arm-based SoC (but had to fold development due to insufficient budgets), whereas NVIDIA offered its Tegra processor. 

Microsoft's renewed attempt to push Arm into Windows PCs kicked off in 2016 when the company signed a deal with Qualcomm, under which the latter produced PC-oriented Snapdragon application processors. In contrast, Microsoft tailored its Arm version of Windows specifically for these SoCs.

"Microsoft learned from the 90s that they do not want to be dependent on Intel again, they do not want to be dependent on a single vendor," said Jay Goldberg, chief executive of D2D Advisory, in a conversation with Reuters. "If Arm really took off in PC (chips), they were never going to let Qualcomm be the sole supplier."

That deal between Microsoft and Qualcomm is set to expire in 2024 when AMD, NVIDIA, and others will be able to release their Windows PC-oriented SoCs. But it remains to be seen what exactly the two companies will offer.

AMD, Intel's arch-rival on the x86 CPU market for decades, may be inclined to expand its offerings. However, this move will not fit into its contemporary data center-oriented strategy. Furthermore, NVIDIA has also focused primarily on data center business in recent years. 

On the one hand, both companies are interested in making high-volume products of PCs. On the other hand, both earn tons of money on AI, HPC, and data center CPUs and GPUs, and both use all production capacity they can to meet demand for their high-margin offerings. Yet, historically, companies that solely concentrated on enterprise hardware went extinct or became parts of more prominent entities.

Source: Reuters

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  • iphonebestgamephone - Thursday, October 26, 2023 - link

  • meacupla - Friday, October 27, 2023 - link

    Doesn't that one have some severe GPU performance issues? IDK if it's the hardware or driver, but it's "underwhelming" for a radeon product is what I've read.
  • iphonebestgamephone - Wednesday, November 1, 2023 - link

    It got no opengl support, so it translates opengl to vulkan with angle, which caused some bugs in opengl android games and citra emulator back then. Perf/efficiency was similar to the qualcomm alternative.
  • Sahrin - Wednesday, October 25, 2023 - link

    I mean...yes, they had publicly announced an ARM design in 2017. It was cancelled in favor of Zen, but they have an ARM Architecture license, and likely have had engineers working on it the whole time.
  • Kevin G - Thursday, October 26, 2023 - link

    It wasn't in favor of Zen as if it was one or the other, rather the initial goal was to be in parallel to Zen. AMD was cash strapped and didn't finish it. The real question is if AMD restarted K12 or is simply licensing high power ARM cores.

    AMD still has an ARM license and uses their cores as part of the security process inside the IO dies. Further ARM core usage was inherited by AMD's Xilinx and Pensando acquisitions. AMD's current design philosophy isn't making the Xilinx or Pensando designs migrate to x86 (which is something Intel attempted with Altera before spinning them of again). Rather AMD strategy is simply chiplets and separating the hard CPU cores from their FPGA SoCs and putting in a chiplet Infinity Fabric link. Conceptually AMD would only have to provide an ARM based CCD to carry forward with the status quo on the development side. Similarly, swapping the ARM based CCD with a Zen x86 CCD would give customers options. This is cuts down on development resources and provides customers options.
  • Xajel - Thursday, October 26, 2023 - link

    I've seen an interview with Jim Keller I think (or some other high-thing who worked in AMD CPU team, but I'm like 80% sure he was Jim).

    He said that he told AMD to work on both x86 and ARM, and they started the project like that, he said something that the main different between an x86 and ARM CPU is just a few parts, both can share most of the design if they're similarly designed (I mean not like ARM is optimized more for low power and higher efficiency)

    AMD was convinced at first, but duo to time and limited resources and that they MUST succeed in their project, they decided to focus on the x86 design only, that was how the original Zen was born, there was supposedly an ARM brother design as well, but it was paused.

    Technically, they can re open that project, of course it won't be a simple copy and paste, but they already have the hardest work, they need to port the design to ARM first, then do some ARM-specific optimizations.
  • vip2 - Thursday, November 2, 2023 - link

    AMD has already built ARM based processors starting in 2014. The AMD Opteron A1100 64-bit processor.
  • Dodozoid - Friday, November 10, 2023 - link

    building an ARM "processor" is something completely different than building an ARM "core"
  • tipoo - Wednesday, October 25, 2023 - link

    Oh man, the next few years are going to be really interesting with a multi way throwdown between Qualcomm, Nvidia, Apple and AMD all having ARM SoCs, hopefully Intel joins the fray too. Going to be way different than decades of comparing the x86 duo.
  • Threska - Wednesday, October 25, 2023 - link

    Have Apple to thank for the incentive to move away from that duopoly.

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