Qualcomm and Microsoft have an exclusive agreement for Windows on ARM.Visual Media Factory
MediaTek intends to develop a Windows-based ARM chipset. As it turns out, the Windows on ARM chipset space could be even more competitive, because there’s a reason why we’ve only seen Qualcomm SoCs in ARM PCs thus far. Qualcomm does, in fact, have an exclusivity agreement with Microsoft for Windows on ARM, but the agreement is set to expire soon.
Aside from the fact that Microsoft has publicly stated that anyone who wants to can build a Windows on ARM chip, this should come as no surprise. Qualcomm did not begin producing PC chips in the hope that Microsoft would compile Windows to support them. No, these two businesses collaborated to make it happen. As a result, Qualcomm benefits from some exclusivity.
We don’t know when the deal will expire, only that it’s what’s preventing other chip vendors from competing in the space. It’s possible that Samsung will enter the fray with its Exynos processors, especially given its recent partnership with AMD for graphics power. This is also likely why Apple Silicon Macs aren’t officially supported for running Windows 11, though hopefully, that will change as well.
Qualcomm has always had a strong relationship with Microsoft (though it pales in comparison to Microsoft’s relationship with Intel). When it came to Windows Phone, Qualcomm chips were the only ones that were ever supported. There isn’t a single Windows Phone in the modern era that doesn’t use a Snapdragon processor.
Between MediaTek’s Executive Summit and Qualcomm’s Investor Day, there has been a very clear message that ARM SoC vendors absolutely believe that the ‘Wintel’ partnership will fade and that the transition to ARM isn’t just happening, but it’s unavoidable. Naturally, all of these companies will want to be a part of it when it becomes available. Qualcomm, on the other hand, has a significant head start because it has been doing this for a few years and, on top of that, it will begin building its own custom silicon as a result of its Nuvia acquisition.
Microsoft and Qualcomm first announced Windows on ARM in 2016. It was a big deal because it would be able to emulate x86 apps, which was what set it apart from the failed Windows RT. A year later, the devices were announced and began shipping shortly after. Since then, Microsoft has added x64 emulation, as well as ARM64EC, to Windows 11, making it easier to run apps natively with emulated plug-ins. Of course, the company still has work to do to improve the overall experience of Windows on ARM.