Qualcomm has vowed to unleash a generation of laptop processors that will rival Apple’s M-series chips, though they won’t arrive until late 2023.
That’s the latest word from Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon, who said development is “on track” for the Arm-compatible, Windows-friendly system-on-chips during his company’s second-quarter earnings call [PDF] last week.
The update provides a little more granularity to the general 2023 shipping timeline Qualcomm provided last fall for its M-class laptop chips, whose custom CPU cores and design team were gained through Qualy’s $1.4 billion acquisition of Nuvia in early 2021.
At the time of the last update, Qualcomm said it planned to offer samples of its Nuvia chips to laptop makers in late 2022. If that roadmap is still in place, it means laptop makers will have samples of the silicon roughly a year ahead of when Qualcomm plans to ship the chips.
During the earnings call last week, Amon said there is “broad interest” in the Nuvia components, which he called “industry leading.” He added that the processors will “drive the inevitable transition” to Arm-based computing, creating disruptions for x86 giants Intel and AMD.
To date, Qualcomm’s laptop efforts of late have been driven by Snapdragon processors based on CPU designs licensed from Arm.
Amon said Qualcomm’s plans to become a bigger player in laptops, including the roll-out of its Nuvia chips, “are on track.” He added that his biz has a “number of design wins” for its latest Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 chips, and that Qualcomm’s chips are fully supported by Windows 11.
With the Nuvia chips, Qualcomm is planning a major pivot by turning to custom core designs that were destined for servers when Nuvia was a startup.
Qualcomm’s confidence that it can take on Apple’s high-performance processors for laptops is based in part on the fact that Nuvia was founded by Apple semiconductor veterans, including Gerard Williams, who was chief architect of the iPad and iPhone’s custom silicon.
The big question is how Qualcomm’s Nuvia chips will compare to the latest silicon from Apple when they hit the market. While Apple has been making good use of its M1 family through different permutations, such as the M1 Max, the consumer tech giant has been edging closer to the release of its next-generation M2 chips that will go inside various MacBooks and Macs.
If you’re curious about where things will be at in x86 world in late 2023, here is where things currently stand: Intel said it plans to launch its Meteor Lake client processors in 2023, which will then be followed by Arrow Lake at some point in 2024. Those processors will rely on the Intel 4 and Intel 20A nodes, which were previously known as Intel’s 7nm and 5nm processes. They will also make use of TSMC’s 3nm process.
As for AMD, things are less clear in 2023, though it will likely give an update on such matters during a financial analyst event in June. The company most recently said its next-generation Zen 4 architecture will debut in PCs with the release of the 5nm Ryzen 7000 CPUs later this year. ®