Qualcomm Will Try to Save Windows 10 on ARM

Posted on June 4, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Windows 10 with 35 Comments

Qualcomm will address the performance issues with first-generation Windows 10 on ARM PCs by engineering a new family of CPUs specifically for these products.

I actually saw this one coming, for a change. And if you also were paying attention to what Qualcomm announced so far this year, you might have noticed an interesting trend too. The mobile chip-making giant has started expanding its product lines by custom-designing chipsets specifically for different workloads instead of using the same chips for everything.

We saw this first with wearables, which I did report on. And we saw it with Internet of Things, which I did not. And I wondered, would we see this with PCs, too?

The answer, I was told, is yes. And I couldn’t be happier.

What this means is that second-generation, Qualcomm-based Always Connected PCs will not use the Snapdragon 845 processor, as we previously expected. Instead, they will utilize a new chipset, called the Snapdragon 850, which is being custom-tailored for PC use cases and optimized for performance.

Please read that again. Optimized for performance.

If you’ve followed along with my pre-release excitement about Windows 10 on ARM, and then my disappointment in actually using the first of these new PCs, you understand why this is such a big deal. Is, in fact, a potential gamer changer.

Windows 10 on ARM succeeds on a number of levels, but it suffers from two major usability issues: Application compatibility, which is tricky, and performance. Qualcomm is working with Microsoft and app makers to ensure that more applications work—and work well—when running on Snapdragon. But that latter issue, performance, is a bit trickier.

The performance problems we’re seeing today are caused in part because the first-generation ARM-based PCs utilize a Snapdragon 835 chipset which is optimized for smartphones. Its successor, the 845 is likewise optimized for smartphones.

So Qualcomm’s multi-year and multi-generational solution is to fork its Snapdragon chipset and create a new family of processors that specifically target PCs. The first of these is the Snapdragon 850.

It differs from the Snapdragon 835 in several important ways.

First, the 850 provides 30 percent faster performance on the PC, thanks to its faster Kryo 385 CPU cores, which run at speeds of up to 2.95 GHz, an improvement over the 2.6 GHz Kryo 280 in the Snapdragon 835. It also provides a 30 percent graphics performance boost.

Second, the 850 will provide 20 percent better battery life than its predecessor. Which is impressive, given that Snapdragon 835-based PCs already deliver about 20 hours of real-world battery life.

And third, Qualcomm is improving the speed of LTE-Advanced by about 20 percent, with the top download speed jumping to 1.2 Gbps thanks to a new Snapdragon X20 LTE modem.

At its Computex presentation today, Qualcomm will show off a reference design that it created for the Snapdragon 850. But the company expects the first 850-based PCs to hit the market in time for the holidays.

 

More soon.

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Comments (37)

37 responses to “Qualcomm Will Try to Save Windows 10 on ARM”

  1. Avatar

    pachi

    At the costs of the SD835 PC's are going for, and the bad word of mouth. MS really needed to delay WoA until this new series... Hope it will recover as I think it's a good idea in theory.

    • Avatar

      Winner

      In reply to pachi:

      If Steve Jobs were at MS, he would say "I don't want that product until I see double the battery life of Intel with equal performance". And he'd kill it otherwise, not release it like Microsoft has.


      An early flameout means your mindshare is shot. LIke Kinect, Zune to name two.

      • Avatar

        HellcatM

        In reply to Winner: Also only Microsoft would be making the hardware and it would be a walled garden like apple produces are which is why a lot of people think they're boring and sterile. Sure they sell tons but to people who like boring and sterile things.


      • Avatar

        skane2600

        In reply to Winner:

        I agree, We also shouldn't ignore the possibility of "resume driven" development. Young developers who want to use whatever the "hot" technology is independent of business concerns to pad their qualifications. I suspect that's why we heard so much about HTML and JavaScript with regard to programming for Windows 8. Now the hot thing is "ARM" but it's not clear how Windows on ARM can help Microsoft's bottom line.


        Update: I thought I made up the term "resume driven development" but it turns out it was already a thing: https://rdd.io/

    • Avatar

      roastedwookie

      In reply to pachi:

      Since Nadella came, they like to deliver half baked products in hope some users are stupid enough to take the bait...do you really expect quality from Nadella? So fare he has proven otherwise.

  2. Avatar

    Hassan Timité

    I have just one question.

    What did prevent Microsoft to wait for the Snapdragon 850 before releasing Windows 10 on ARM ?

    I mean this is not as if they feared competition from someone else ?[/sarcasm]

    Btw, if the main issue of current WOA is performance why not sacrifice the so called 20 % additionnal battery life for even better performance.

    I mean, it is not as if 30 % performance increase is that impressive !

    • Avatar

      Chris Payne

      In reply to Hassan_Timite:

      Here's one area where I (almost) sympathize with MS. They almost _couldn't_ wait. They'd been talking about Windows on ARM for a year at that point (which was too early to start talking about it anyway), and they faced backlash if they hadn't released anything. Now they're facing backlash for releasing something that wasn't great. It's really a problem of their own making, but moving past that and given the choice they had, I think putting something out was better than not. But again, MS screwed up the marketing of that too, so what are you going to do? They just can't help hurting themselves.

  3. Avatar

    cseafous

    My mom uses her browser, Word, and her printer. I could replace her desktop with something like this.

  4. Avatar

    TheSchmed

    " Is, in fact, a potential gamer changer."


    Paul you know as well as anyone that you can change the game but you can't change the gamer. ;)

  5. Avatar

    Martin Klimke

    I doubt that 30% more performance is a game changer.

    And the extension of battery life is relevant if a PC already exceeds 20 h.

    And whether LTE can now support 1.3 Gbit/s in comparision to 1 Gbit/s is a non issue because the network will anyway not provide these speeds in the real world.

  6. Avatar

    harmjr

    So why cant they just use this 850 chip in cell phones? Why do they need to fork it?

  7. Avatar

    Billzeal

    This could be the start of something good if not great!

  8. Avatar

    roastedwookie

    It won't save anything...users are not that stupid to buy into another beta project of MS only to find themselves abandoned later. Been there, done that.

  9. Avatar

    Tony Barrett

    Qualcomm are trying to save Win10 on ARM, because it's a potential new market for them. Microsoft want to save Windows 10 on ARM because it's new revenue for them and their next step to dumping win32, locking down the OS to store-only apps and pushing their services even harder. The big problem though, is that customers don't seem interested in Win10 on ARM - and rightly so. It's a ruse, a con if you like, to allow MS to take Windows where it want it to be. It doesn't really offer any major benefits to end users (extended battery life is a nice to have, 'always on' is a gimmick).

    WoA won't be a game changer - it will just be dead within 2 years!

    • Avatar

      skane2600

      In reply to ghostrider:

      I think at best Windows on ARM would be revenue neutral unless they are planning to charge more for it than Windows on Intel (which would surely kill it). It's not as if they are going to get users who have no interest in traditional Windows to buy Windows on ARM.


      As far as Win32 is concerned you may be right that they want to dump it, but to what end? Mobile is essentially dead to them so what benefit does a Win32-less Windows offer? Win32 compatibility is the only unique advantage that Windows offers.

    • Avatar

      RR

      In reply to ghostrider:

      First off nobody is trying to "save" anything, that is just typical blogger hyberbole. This is part of a road map that was conceived years in advance may be with an adjustment of 1 quarter here and there.

      Second Apple just announced bringing iOS Apps to Mac, they have been going iPad pro for years, Google has been merging Android & Chrome of years now, etc. So, Microsoft should just stand still, because you know, I use Win32 and I don't want to be bothered by any changes.

      These companies are responding to the opportunities and threats technological capabilities are presenting to them. And that is all WoA is about. It is not a luxury of choice. And no, WoA won't die, it will find its market niche(s), that may be large or small, but clear that are many permutations of this yet to be written.

      • Avatar

        skane2600

        In reply to RR:

        It's easy to see the parallels between what Apple and Google are doing (i.e. bringing their mobile apps to their desktop OS's) but they have nothing in common with what Microsoft is doing with WoA.


        What new opportunity or threats does WoA address? I don't see any.


        It's also worth keeping in mind that a small market niche is often the precursor to product death. We don't need to look any further than the Windows Phone to see an example.

  10. Avatar

    PeteB

    This will go nowhere while Windows 10 is still bloated and awful looking with a schizophrenic UI.


    They needed a ground up, Surface OS .. years ago. MS has moved on from Windows internally as Paul acknowledged a few weeks ago, not sure why he thinks glorified netbooks with cellular are a product anyone's looking for anymore, certainly not consumers.

    • Avatar

      roastedwookie

      In reply to PeteB:

      Well said!

      You got down voted by desperate fanboys as always.


    • Avatar

      feedtheshark

      In reply to PeteB:

      I'll give you a + as everyone else has given you a -.


      I've long thought they needed to create a new OS, one without the stigma that Windows has for people these days (mostly undeservedly but that's another topic). Take everything they've learned from Windows and put that into something built on a more modern kernel and have built in compatibility to run Android apps as well as x86. A stripped down fast OS that runs most modern apps and programs, touch-first design for tablets but still with mouse support for desktop apps. They need this before Chrome/Andromeda comes out from Google and kills Windows. Kill it themselves, take control, shame they won't as they seem to be moving further and further from the consumer space.

      • Avatar

        skane2600

        In reply to feedtheshark:

        Sounds more like wishful thinking to me than a technological solution. You essentially want more functionality (e.g. x86, Android) than current Windows in a "stripped down fast OS". There are always trade-offs and you can't just choose all you want independently when you design a product.

  11. Avatar

    Varuna Singh

    Well, throwing a faster processor at the Windows 10 ARM situation is bad practise. The 845/830 is very capable of running (eg: a browser). The flaw I think relies in Windows 10 ARM not completely taking advantage / Windows is too bloated in the first place / not very much optimised yet.


    The last thing you should do is throw a better processor to be on par with phones from 3 years ago.


    Edit: Upon thinking about it. The device with the 850 would still give you the optimal Windows 10 experience and thats not a bad thing. You'd still get decent performance and battery life which is great. However makes me think Chrome OS would probably run better on the same hardware.

    • Avatar

      lilmoe

      In reply to varuna:


      The OS is fine. What they need is a new, universal framework that is more robust and feature rich than UWP to build powerful, productive and efficient DESKTOP applications that are mouse and keyboard oriented first, and touch second, instead of bastardizing current frameworks to fit the bill. And use said framework to build the entirety of the Windows shell, Office suite and all 1st party applications.


      They'll need more CPU/GPU power regardless. This isn't a smartphone/tablet OS, and it shouldn't be. The usage paradigm is not the least similar, and that inherently needs much more CPU power relative to a mobile first, touch first paradigm.

      • Avatar

        skane2600

        In reply to lilmoe:

        While successfully implementing what you suggest could probably help Qualcomm, it doesn't really help Microsoft. For most people the combination of Windows and Intel is fine. The ARM solution would have perform significantly better than the Intel one to give people a reason to switch and even if they did, it would probably be a zero-sum game for MS (A Windows license on ARM, a Windows license on Intel, what's the difference?).


        What you're really suggesting from a users's perspective is a brand new OS. Something that MS could have written years ago if it wanted to abandon it's cash cow.

    • Avatar

      shcole

      In reply to varuna:

      The only bad performance people refer to with Windows 10 on ARM is the emulation (Chrome and old apps like that). Now since Microsoft announced ARM64 support at Build, those apps can be recompiled by the dev and run natively without the performance problems (depending on the app, I'm sure visual studio wouldn't run great even with that).

      • Avatar

        roastedwookie

        In reply to shcole:

        No dev would ever care, like always, about that junk app store. Even VLC, has indeed recompiled a version for ARM64, but it is a standard installer :))) Stop dreaming that someday devs would care because that day will never come...MS fcked up badly too many times to ever be trusted.

  12. Avatar

    Winner

    If optimized for performance then undoubtedly battery life won't be as good, narrowing the gap with Intel.

    And of course there are the other architectural issues like only handling Win 32 bit apps.

    i just don't see any real breakout success scenario here. I hope I'm wrong.

  13. Avatar

    lilmoe

    If they want Windows on ARM to truly succeed, they need fundamental changes in both hardware and software. I've discussed the software side a lot before but for the hardware side, Qualcomm needs to customize the new (wider) Cortex a76 core, make it run at 3Ghz, significantly increase cache and decrease memory latency, and completely ommit the little (efficiency) cluster since it doesn't make sense on a laptop with a relatively massive battery and lots of thermal headroom (I just don't see any practical use or need for that little of course performancein Windows). 8 of these cores would definitely make things MUCH faster and snappier, and Windows is no slouch in making use of all of them.


    They should also increase the amount of GPU CORES by 50% at least AND increase the max clocks.


    This would create a monstrosity of efficiency and decent performance. I'd be very interested in a laptop powered by a chip like that.


    Yes, the economy of scale isn't nearly as big on Windows ARM compared to a Galaxy S, let alone an iPhone, but someone needs to bite the bullet and take a real, strategic risk.


    Sorry Paul, will have to disagree with you again. 30% improvement isn't nearly enough to remedy the tragedy they built with this first generation. They need 2x AT LEAST, in the form of more cores, higher clocks, and lower latency, even if that leads to 15 hours of battery instead of 20 since standby and connectivity will make up for it with added convenience.


    Better software is too obvious for me to even bring up, its a given, and not just the OS. And the big one, PRICE.

  14. Avatar

    rameshthanikodi

    The comments here are just fucking sad.

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