Qualcomm announces next-gen PC SoC to tackle Apple M-series by tapping its new team of former Apple Silicon engineers
Qualcomm is tired of playing second fiddle to Apple’s class leading M-series chips announcing its first serious high-performance Arm-based SoC for Windows PCs. The company even went as far as calling out Apple’s class leading silicon claiming that its chip will be an “M-series competitive solution for the PC”. The first samples will reach PC makers in around nine months time with the first devices fitted with them reaching the market in 2023. Qualcomm is targeting big performance and efficiency increases across both CPU and Adreno GPU cores.
The announcement was made by Qualcomm’s chief technology officer, Dr James Thompson at the company’s 2021 investor day event. The company is even aiming to topple Intel too, it seems, also claiming that these new chips are “Designed to set the performance benchmark for Windows PCs”. With Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max chips proving to be as powerful as Intel’s consumer desktop chips, it would make sense that what Qualcomm is cooking up could pose a genuine threat to Intel in the Windows PC market (assuming it is indeed M-series competitive).
Qualcomm’s efforts to date in the Windows on Arm space haven’t set the world on fire, however. The Snapdragon 8cx Gen1 and Gen 2 have offered strong battery life in devices like the Samsung Galaxy Book S, but performance is now well off both the pace of Apple and Intel. The company, however, is banking on its recent US$1.4 billion acquisition of Nuvia, a fabless chip design company comprising a number of former Apple Silicon engineers getting the job done.
Apple's decision to pivot from Intel’s x86-based chips has been about leaning into its competitive advantage in terms of performance-per-Watt, being able to differentiate from the competition, and control the end-to-end software and hardware experience. Intel’s new Alder Lake chips are showing improvements in performance, but still at a considerably higher Wattage, leaving room for an Arm-based design for Qualcomm in the PC market. While Qualcomm will be hoping for wide adoption of its new silicon, it will be in the Windows laptop and 2-in-1 market where it could stand to gain the most traction and hurt Intel the most.