back to article Rivals and legal action cast shadows over Windows on Arm market

The race for Arm-based Windows laptops could soon get interesting, as MediaTek is said to be preparing to enter the game, while the legal battle between Arm and Qualcomm could disrupt the latter's products. Chips and telecoms company Qualcomm spent some time at the recent recent Computex show revelling in the 20-plus vendors …

  1. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    I used a Tegra K1 Chromebook with Ubuntu and it kicked ass

    I used a Tegra K1 chromebook (with Chrubuntu on it) and it kicked ass. (Acer Chromebook 13, I got the variant with 4GB since I knew darn well 2GB wouldn't be enough and they don't make an 8GB or more variant.)

    The ARM was reasonably fast, I got 22 hour battery life under "normal" use and 12 hours with all 4 cores pegged out doing video encodes and whatever. The Chrubuntu install copied over power management scripts from the ChromeOS side so it automatically would drop to the 5th "low power" when usage got under roughly 700mhz on a single core. (The odd side effect, the CPU usage didn't scale, so it'd almost always claim 90-100% CPU usage, it'd just be 90% clocked at like 50mhz if it wasn't doing much. If you installed a CPU meter it'd do that in chromeos too; I just looked at clock speed instead if I wanted to determine how loaded up it really was. Only negative effect of the setup was the canned low battery "warnings" at 20%, 15%, 10%, and 5%... getting warned when you have like 5 hours of battery life left is of course a bit daft. My current KDE install (on a regular notebook) does let you change that, but the battery manager thing in the desktop I had on there didn't as far as I know. Pretty minor nuisance though, I'd just dismiss the warning and ignore the red battery symbol.)

    The GPU was roughly dead even with a GTX650, but the whole chip used like 10W of power max (GPU + CPU) rather than the like 65W the GTX650 used. At the time I had a Sandy Bridge desktop, and the laptop would video encode at like 2-3x the speed the desktop would. Having a modern, fast ARM system would be fabulous! I didn't run a bunch of other benchmarks, just found that even heavier tasks (as long as they weren't memory-intensive) ran great on it. Drivers? Nvidia driver, including Vulkan and CUDA, at least for Linux they've had Nvidia ARM drivers for many years. (So I imagine the driver has no Intel-specific code baked into it and can be trivially brought up for ARM on Windows as well.)

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: I used a Tegra K1 Chromebook with Ubuntu and it kicked ass

      Lovely fast battery sipping ARM system, the last thing you want to do is cripple it running Windows.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: crippled with Windows

        IMHO I don't think it is going to matter. I think the OP's post is extremely pertinent: I see Windows on Arm the competitor to Chromebook, as WinArm wasn't a success previously due to software compatibility and availability. Most people choose Windows to allow them to run certain desktop applications, and once that choice is gone I do not believe WinArm will offer an option that is more attractive than competitors; if all you can do with WinArm is using cloud apps, then Chromebook has had that covered for years and will almost certainly be more efficient doing it.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: crippled with Windows

          Except that most of those applications will work the same. If they want local Office, there's been an ARM build for that for years. More and more tools that have Windows builds have started to have ARM binaries, and for anything open source, you can compile it yourself. Their emulation for X64 is also markedly improved, so if you need an old application that isn't being compiled the chances are high that you can run it in emulation with less battery life, but otherwise little difficulty.

          There are a few situations where it won't work. If you need a driver for some old hardware, emulation won't do it for you, so you won't see Windows on ARM devices taking over for old X86 machines attached to even older hardware. If you need a lot of performance out of an application that isn't compiled for ARM, that won't work well either. There will undoubtedly be some people whose use cases would not be possible to run with an ARM machine, but that number is lower than you'd imagine.

          I haven't bought any Windows on ARM machines and I don't really want to right now. They have an advantage in battery life, but sometimes I need higher performance than the high-end ARM laptops can provide and don't want to achieve it with a remote connection. I also value being able to run Linux on my hardware, and when I say that, I mean any version I want, not the one that might support my hardware.

          1. Snake Silver badge

            Re: Windows ARM applications

            I can't believe that I'm the only one who runs more than a browser and an office suite on their computer. I know that seems to be the expectation, and maybe the reality, here on El Reg, but I'm shocked at how frequently I see replies that seem to imply the only thing we Windows users care about is Office. I've got so many applications and drivers on my Win machines that there is no possible way to leave the Windows ecosystem, between the full Adobe suite; firmware updaters for everything from Bluetooth helmet communicators, to two different GPS units, to two different cameras, to wireless photoflash units; live tethering application for one of the cameras; Wacom tablet support; DaVinci Resolve (at least that supports Linux); MS Visual Studio; desktop mapping software (a wonderful old version of MS Streets and Trips, plus the terrible Garmin BaseCamp); Skype; ColorChecker calibration software & drivers, plus built-in Pantone color sensor...

            I can't even remember the rest, there's just so much. Am I really the only one here who actually has that much software??

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Windows ARM applications

              "I can't believe that I'm the only one who runs more than a browser and an office suite on their computer."

              You're not, and I never said either that you wouldn't nor that I don't. However, a lot of people do. There are billions of Windows computers in offices, homes, and schools which run a small number of basic applications. For that reason, it is worth considering whether they can use an ARM-based Windows computer. In nearly all cases, yes.

              I specifically mentioned several of the types of software you name. For example, the ones that involve custom drivers likely won't work on an ARM machine. Firmware updaters that use standard protocols probably will because you need very little processing power to run a serial connection and send over a file. Software like Adobe's products probably wouldn't have worked well at the beginning because, while they have emulation now, it's not the fastest. For a while, Adobe would have been a good reason not to buy one. A month ago, Adobe started making ARM versions. DaVinci Resolve has an ARM Windows build too. I'm expecting that "old version of MS Streets and Trips" will run acceptably under emulation.

              I don't have some of the software you have, but I have my own collection of tools that I couldn't do without. As I stated, I haven't bothered to get an ARM device for various reasons, but I have reason to believe that, if I did, several of those pieces of software would either have an ARM build or would run well enough under emulation. It might negate the point of buying one, but it would be possible for me to use it. I think a lot of what you named is in the same category.

  2. Blackjack Silver badge

    [Arm disclosed that the trial for its case against Qualcomm is set for December 2024. It also disclosed that Qualcomm is currently "a major customer of ours" and that the Snapdragon maker accounted for 10 percent of Arm's total revenue for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2024, meaning that any victory against Qualcomm could be a Pyrrhic one.]

    Idiots both of them, an out of courts settlement woulf save both time and money for both of them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      By all accounts that’s what failed and got them into this mess in the first place.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      I think that's what ARM's been hoping for. Qualcomm is getting a lot out of those designs, so if ARM's license complaints have merit, it wouldn't be surprising for Qualcomm to pay them to let them keep their designs. Qualcomm must either think that they can defend against those license problems more easily than ARM thinks, or they're banking on ARM choosing to give up at the last minute rather than suing a large source of revenue.

    3. UnknownUnknown

      NVidia must be laughing their tits off from the sidelines at this on-going handbags at dawn bullshit …. whilst coveting their Golden share price like Smaug.

    4. Mike007 Bronze badge

      Politics. Or a game of chicken. Call it what you like, but the litigation aspect of a court case is part of the negotiation.

      Qualcomm are betting ARM will cave to a major customer, and ARM are betting on Qualcomm being heavily invested in getting these chips to market... Final deal will be somewhere between those 2 prices and will likely be influenced by the market reaction to the chip announcement... Qualcomm is getting financially screwed by the media enthusiasm right now :)

  3. Roland6 Silver badge

    Microsoft extending its control…

    >” but it isn't clear whether Microsoft has approved this chip for the Copilot+ Windows program.”

    With ARM and AI it seems MS is getting even more control over the hardware platform; clearly wanting to follow Apple and make the platform closed, ie. It will only run Windows or MS Linux.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft extending its control…

      Agreed. Seems to be the path they set out on years ago.

      Hardware control, cloud control, systems control and desktop as a service.

      And the corporate world is giving it to them all in the name of seeing MS stock do well.

  4. zipityzi

    > Snapdragon maker accounted for 10 percent of Arm's total revenue for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2024, meaning that any victory against Qualcomm could be a Pyrrhic one.

    IIRC, doesn’t Qualcomm use Arm codes in its WiFi chipsets and what-not? So Snapdragon SoCs alone can’t be all 10%.

    Maybe Arm thinks Qualcomm is moving to totally abandon Arm and migrate to RISC-V? I know they’re making an Android watch SoC, but that’s a far cry to replace the likely thousands of individual Qualcomm dies that incorporate Arm cores.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't matter.

    Just read other articles on this and two, (American), take the position that Qualcomm worked with Microsoft to make the market for Windows on Arm, so should get all the spoils??

    Licenses in the chip design marketplace are routinely linked to a company. If it gets bought then you don't automatically have rights to the licenses.

    It should be a straightforward decision by the court, but there's a lot of money at stake so why not "try it on".

  6. ecofeco Silver badge

    Too funny!

    So Broadcom has shot itself in the a foot... a second time?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too funny!

      > So Broadcom has shot itself in the a foot...


      Sure you don't mean Qualcomm, as in, the company TFA is reporting on?

  7. Mage Silver badge

    Windows on ARM?

    Might as well migrate to another OS as the main reasons for window are old legacy programs never getting an update (and a VM of older windows might be needed), or x86-64 Windows programs with no Mac or Linux alternative.

    Windows on ARM may work well, but it's pointless.

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