Although four PC manufacturers have already announced their approval of Qualcomm’s strategy in the notebook chip market, performance remains below that of x86 terminals. The arrival of Oryon processors, resulting from the Nuvia acquisition, should bring Qualcomm back into the race.
Last Wednesday, Qualcomm subtly adjusted the marketing strategy of its PC processor business. First, he called the next CPU “Oryon”. Then he said his goal is to bring the best of the smartphone to portable machines. On the other hand, Qualcomm is still not selling a new processor for PC. Qualcomm also didn’t expect the company to show off the fruit of its Nuvia acquisition, announcing earlier this year that those chips wouldn’t arrive until the end of 2023. without any delay noted. Additionally, they didn’t mention the pending lawsuit that ARM, which provides intellectual property to Qualcomm, filed against the company earlier in the year, presumably to avoid undermining Nuvia/Next-gen Oryon development. Note that Qualcomm executives did not provide performance estimates for the Oryon cores. They even refused to talk about it at the request of Qualcomm’s legal department.
AI-powered experiences on Windows
In any case, Qualcomm executives were keen to emphasize the experiences offered by AI-powered ARM chips. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processors for smartphones incorporate a hexadecimal switch that allows these chips to accelerate AI functions. These affect everything from improved photos to better connectivity. On a Windows PC, Snapdragon chips have always struggled to compete with AMD and Intel x86 chips in terms of raw performance and compatibility. The latest Surface Pro 9 (5G) equipped with Microsoft’s SQ3 chip developed in collaboration with Qualcomm is not without interest, but buying Windows on an ARM PC always means limiting yourself to Office applications / Microsoft 365 core and Edge. I want to take advantage of the best features of the device. In the case of SP9 (5G), the performance in these applications is enough to recommend it. On the other hand, if one tries to use other x86 programs, the performances will not be followed due to emulation.
However, the SQ3’s AI processor can provide access to Windows Studio Effects, a collection of AI-powered experiences that range from noise filtering and background blurring to AI-powered techniques that always keep the eyes on the screen during video calls. These effects require a special artificial intelligence core, which currently can only be provided by Qualcomm. (Intel’s upcoming Meteor Lake chip may close this AI gap). Adobe also announced a partnership with Qualcomm to write more native ARM apps for the Creative Cloud suite.
Qualcomm is trying to claim that its AI capabilities are superior to CPUs and GPUs. (Credit: Mark Hachman/IDG)
Message? That AI will make up for all of Qualcomm’s CPU performance shortfalls. “Our goal is to enable convergence between mobile and computing, bringing the best of smartphones to laptops,” said Kedar Kondap, senior vice president and general manager of Computing and Gaming at Qualcomm. At the Snapdragon Summit in Maui, Mr. Kondap invited Gerard Williams, Qualcomm’s senior vice president of engineering, on stage to talk about Oryon (the presentation lasted a minute).
“Qualcomm Oryon is the first step in this journey, and this best-in-class processor will revolutionize the industry by delivering fast, powerful and efficient performance, ushering in a new phase of high-end Windows PCs,” said Mr. Williams. “Best of all, Qualcomm Oryon will play a key role in our technology roadmap and power Snapdragon across multiple platforms and device categories. From mobile to XR, processing and more. I look forward to everyone experiencing this new technology, which is scheduled to be delivered to customers in 2023.” Mr. Williams later provided a series of support videos from Asus, Acer, Lenovo, and Samsung, but he did not say whether those manufacturers would ship computers based on the Oryon. We’ll probably have to wait until 2023 to find out.