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ARMing Windows

Qualcomm announced on June 4th, the Snapdragon 850 for use exclusively in PCs. A move that is clearly designed to improve the shortcomings of the Snapdragon 835 in current ARM-based Windows PCs. In fact, Qualcomm is telling us to expect a 30% improvement in performance over the 835 chip.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 850
This new class of ARM chip from Qualcomm signals a new shot in the ongoing war of Intel vs ARM. Qualcomm clearly sees the opportunity for a return on its investment in customizing silicon for PCs otherwise the new wave of Always On, Always Connected PCs would be using the Snapdragon 845 that is currently featured in high-end smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S9 or OnePlus 6. The 850 is the second-generation of the 10nm platform that debuted with the 835. Intel is now only beginning to slowly roll out 10nm chips, showing they've had a hard time reliably stepping down from 14nm.

I believe this new chip, along with continued development of Windows 10 on ARM could potentially make this new category of PCs disruptive to traditional laptops. If Microsoft can improve it's developer relations enough to get some decent apps into it's App store, not only does Windows 10S improve, but so do the chances of ARM succeeding in the PC space.

The real question now becomes, is Microsoft committed to Windows 10 on ARM? The so-so reviews of the first batch of ARM-based PCs has thrown some cold water on this new device category. Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, has shown he's willing to quickly cut development of projects and initiatives he doesn't see developing successful revenue streams, so will Windows 10 on ARM continue to make the grade? I think in the short term, it's hard to not try to pit ARM against Intel to push Intel to get better. Microsoft wins (and so do consumers) as chips get better, so I foresee development in this space to continue far longer than it did with Windows RT.

Qualcomm's Announcement video for the Snapdragon 850 Platform

While nothing has been said of this as of yet, I can't help but also speculate that this new chip could be used to great effect in Chromebooks. Using ARM chips for Chromebooks is nothing new, but most have relied on mobile device designs for this application. Having a PC focused ARM chip could add significant punch to these lower-end Chromebooks.

In the end, this could be a strong move for lower-cost, higher powered devices for Microsoft in one of their most critical markets, Education. As Microsoft has lost market and mindshare in the Education space to Google and Chromebooks, the future of Microsoft in the workspace is at stake. If Microsoft is unable to influence the next generation of those entering the working world, they risk losing out in their biggest space, the enterprise.

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