OPINION: I’ve already written a lot about the prospects of Windows on Arm, with it seeming like the logical step for the operating system as it looks to keep pace with the power and efficiency that Apple’s M-series offers. 2024 could be a turning point, but I think 2025 is when things get serious.
Ever since Apple launched the M-series chip to much success, with its jump in performance and battery life, I’ve kept one eye on the likes of Qualcomm to see how it could translate its mobile chip technology into the PC realm. Of course, the Snapdragon range is no stranger to the PC market but Windows on Arm has long felt like a hindrance, with Chromebooks being the best showcase of its chips thus far. With the new Snapdragon X Elite chips coming to laptops in 2024 however, things look set to change.
The introduction of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite chips looks like it could reinvigorate the fight of Windows machines against Apple’s top-notch MacBook devices. Qualcomm has proudly touted some impressive benchmark scores to showcase what its chips will offer but I’m keen to get the final laptops from manufacturers in my hands before getting my hopes too high, though what I’ve seen does look impressive. Check out our Apple M3 Pro vs Snapdragon X Elite early comparison for some more insight there.
However, while 2024 may be a big year for Qualcomm’s powerful new Snapdragon X Elite chips, I’m intrigued by what may come in 2025. If you’ve paid much attention to Windows on Arm over recent years then you may have wondered: what about the other chip manufacturers? Where’s the likes of Nvidia and MediaTek that already make Arm chips, and the rest of the field like AMD and Samsung? No? Well, that’s what I’ve been pondering anyway and there’s a simple answer.
For several years, we’ve only seen Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips feature on Windows on Arm devices but that looks set to change with reports that its exclusivity deal will run out in 2025. This isn’t breaking news, with Reuters reporting back in October that Nvidia and AMD are looking to take advantage of the new freedom of Windows on Arm in 2025.
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However, there’s renewed attention this week as, for the story in October, representatives for Nvidia, AMD, Microsoft and Arm all declined to comment on the story. Now, the latter has broken cover to provide the largest hint yet that the PC market is set for a huge shakeup in 2025. Speaking to Ben Thompson for his Stratechery newsletter, Arm CEO Rene Haas confirmed: “Microsoft and Windows were on, I think, exclusively with Qualcomm for Arm for a very long time. Now, there’s news about Nvidia or AMD making Arm chips for Windows … it’s really well-documented that the exclusivity that Qualcomm has with Windows times out, I think, this year. I think it’s this year.”
So, while the Snapdragon X Elite from Qualcomm looks like it could shake things up in 2024, the competition could be fierce in 2025 if brands like Nvidia and AMD also bring their Arm-based chips to PCs. Windows on Arm is yet to nail the experience in the same way that Apple managed to with its transition from Intel to its Apple Silicon, but the sheer force of will to get this version of Windows right should huge players like Nvidia, AMD, and even other chipmakers like MediaTek and Samsung, is an exciting prospect.
Windows laptops come in many shapes and sizes, with differing sets of priorities. So far, the few interesting Windows on Arm devices, mainly coming from the Microsoft Surface line, have focused on being thin and light, but Qualcomm is touting much more power with its new X Elite chip and I’m extremely interested to see how manufacturers, particularly those renowned for their gaming-related offerings like Nvidia and AMD, can inspire an exciting future in the laptop realm.
Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.