Can ARM chips drive innovation in the PC industry?

The PC market is currently dominated by Intel and AMD. Could the disruptive potential of ARM-based silicon lead to innovation? In an interview at CES 2021, ARM chief executive Simon Segars offered hope for the future of the PC industry — a market his company has long sight to break into.

“What we’re starting to see now is real innovation going on in a market where there hasn’t been a huge amount of innovation,” said Segars at CES 2021, as picked up by CNET. “Any time there’s a discontinuity that makes people question how we’re doing this, that injects energy into innovation.”

ARM is a British semiconductor and software design company that licenses and makes the technology for the ARM-based chipsets and software in PCs. CNET reports that ARM has been pouring new engineering resources into PC chipset designs.

It will be an uphill battle for ARM to achieve a further breakthrough in the PC industry, however. ARM-based chips are popular in cell phones, as well as routers and elsewhere, but the PC space has been a struggle despite the benefits of always-on connectivity, 4G and 5G connections, and all-day battery life brought by ARM’s architecture.

Microsoft actually introduced a new custom ARM-based processor, the Microsoft SQ2, in the refreshed Surface Pro X, but many have noted performance issues within Windows 10 due to app emulation. Microsoft worked with Qualcomm on the chip, but rumor has it that the company is also working on its own ARM chip to power servers and future devices.

Microsoft’s partners also announced new ARM-based PCs, including the HP Folio and the IdeaPad 5G. These Snapdragon 8cX PCs are designed with help from Qualcomm, which holds a small share in the PC market.

While extolling the benefits of ARM-based chips, Segars mentioned that while it is true that the current ARM-based PC industry involves a mix of different manufacturers and ecosystems, there could be hope. He emphasizes that it’s performance and energy efficiency that matters.

Updated at 9:07 pm January 13, 2021: Clarified comments throughout from Segars, who was speaking about the general PC industry.

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Computing | Digital Trends

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