How Qualcomm wants to drive convergence between PCs and mobile phones

“Bringing the best of smartphone to PC”. Kedar Kondap, senior vice president and director of Computing and Gaming at Qualcomm, presented the semiconductor designer’s strategy in computing. The American company, which is holding its annual summit in Hawaii this week, is looking to capitalize on the rise of hybrid work in particular to capitalize on its innovations. mobile – first. “Applications are moving to the cloud and we want to take advantage of that”Kedar Kondap added.

Development of the Windows ARM market

One of Qualcomm’s goals is to increase its presence on Windows PCs, as Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and head of Mobile, Computing and XR at Qualcomm, said: “we are the common denominator for all smart and connected mobile devices”.

Microsoft is Qualcomm’s exclusive partner for ARM architectures, which theoretically have advantages over the x86 architecture (Intel, AMD) for laptops, such as longer battery life, 4G or 5G mobile network connectivity, thinner and lighter designs, and heated computers. less and sudden ignition.

This is the architecture chosen by Apple. Unfortunately for Microsoft, there are few Windows on ARM laptops on the market today, an offering that has been plagued by many issues since 2017. There are a few from HP, Lenovo, and Samsung. The product on display at Microsoft is the Surface Pro 9 5G, a hybrid between a tablet and a laptop that went on sale last month. But it suffers from the same performance disadvantages as its elders compared to the x86 model, measured in real-world conditions without the advantages claimed by Qualcomm on paper.

Using the AI ​​capabilities on the device

Qualcomm therefore wants to push “Windows on Snapdragon” thanks to it Efforts to integrate AI, which better distributes the power consumption of AI-related computing among multiple components: CPU, GPU, and Hexagon AI processor. Qualcomm says 400 companies are currently testing or deploying Snapdragon-powered Windows PCs. Among them is Citi bank, which will move 70% of its 300,000 employees.

Its innovations have been integrated into Windows 11, especially Windows Studio Effect, to develop new video conferencing features highlighted by the two partners during the conference in Hawaii: background blur, background noise removal, reflections in eyes and frame of moving object. The results are convincing and will speak for many teleworkers. Adobe also announced on November 16 that several software from the Adobe Creative Cloud suite will be available as native apps on Windows 11 ARM in 2023.

“AI on the device will disrupt the entire sector: OS, applications, new types of PCs…”, Qualcomm’s director of product marketing Peter Burns firmly believes. For Aaron Woodman, Microsoft’s Windows marketing director, measuring PC performance solely by CPUs and GPUs is over.

Oryon, the new CPU that will disrupt the PC market…

We still need to talk about the real topic of chip performance, and on this topic Qualcomm made an important announcement on November 16. In 2021, the new CPU, which began development at the Nuvia company acquired by Qualcomm, will be called Oryon. Combining the teams created as a result of this acquisition, Qualcomm has completed the work it started.

On the other hand, nothing else is known about this new CPU, especially if it is intended to replace the Kryo CPUs that Qualcomm has developed so far in the Snapdragon 8CX Gen 3 chip for PC or in all its systems -a.-chip. Qualcomm is targeting 2023 for a release around 2024. A strong signal is Gerard Williams, formerly of Arm, founder of Nuvia and architect of Apple’s M1 chip, who took the stage to introduce the Orion. With this CPU, it promises “A New Era for Premium Windows PCs”.

…On the condition that we resolve the legal battle with Arm

But it will not happen so easily. Arm believes that Qualcomm should obtain its permission to use Nuvia’s designs under Arm’s license. What he didn’t get, because Qualcomm already has particularly extensive license agreements with him and believes that they are enough. The two companies are at an impasse and a legal dispute was launched at the end of August. It’s obviously money. The rights paid by Nuvia (a very young company) were higher than the Qualcomm license, whose contracts date back to the 2000s.

Arm chose November 15, the opening date of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon conference, to add new documents to the file. The company is threatening to simply ban Qualcomm from using the microarchitecture of its cores on all Snapdragon platforms. It should be noted that Armun’s position is not without risks. Qualcomm is one of its oldest and most important customers, and the message sent could undermine others’ trust in it. The free RISC V architecture has never been doubted to be as attractive as it is now.

Qualcomm’s annual conference wasn’t just trolled by Arm. This week, Taiwan’s Mediatek announced that it will also attack the Windows ARM PC market with a new version of its Kompanio mobile processor. The company sees it as a $40 billion market.

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