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Qualcomm, Microsoft plot ARM Snapdragon-powered Windows 10 PCs, tablets, phones

Are you reading this, Brian?

First, it fired shots at Intel's data center margins. Now Qualcomm is gunning for its rival's notebook processor cash cow.

Qualcomm and Microsoft are hooking up to port full-fat Windows 10 to smartphones, tablets, PCs and virtual reality goggles powered by Qualcomm's 64-bit ARMv8-compatible Snapdragon system-on-chips. These processors will be competing head on against Intel and AMD CPUs in the mobile PC arena.

"With full Windows 10 compatibility, Snapdragon-based technology will enable hardware makers to develop new and improved consumer products including handsets, tablets, PCs, head mounted displays, and more," Qualcomm boasted in a statement issued just a few moments ago during Microsoft’s WinHEC hardware developer conference in Shenzen, China.

We're not seeing things, are we? We're not tripping balls, right? Qualcomm and Microsoft have schemed before to produce Snapdragon-powered Windows Phones. But this is something else. This is today's news translated: Windows 10 mobile PCs powered by, not Intel and AMD silicon, but Snapdragon chips – the family of processor normally found in smartphones – will hit the market... um, when?

"The first devices running the full Windows 10 experience based on Snapdragon processors are expected to be commercially available in the second half of 2017," the announcement continues.

What the hell is happening? Look out, WinTel, here comes Win, er, WinDragon?

"We are excited to bring Windows 10 to the ARM ecosystem with our partner, Qualcomm Technologies,” gushed Windows supremo Terry Myerson while expertly stepping over the corpse of Windows RT, Redmond's last big Windows ARM push that crashed pretty hard. Windows RT was essentially Windows 8, though, and now here comes Windows 10 – all ready and waiting with drivers and software support for Qualcomm's Snapdragon line. Microsoft reckons it's on to a winner this time round with Windows 10 and Qualcomm's ARM-compatible CPUs.

The upcoming Snapdragon 835 system-on-chip is a 10nm FinFET part so that means Qualcomm will have beefy 10nm SoCs – either the 835 or something similar – ready to roll soon for notebooks and handhelds. Snapdragon-powered Windows 10 gear is due to arrive in the later half of 2017.

Meanwhile, Intel's next-generation desktop CPUs, also due to arrive in the second half of 2017, will also be 10nm parts.

Therefore, in the final six months of next year, we'll have 10nm Intel x86-64 processors and 10nm Qualcomm 64-bit ARMv8-A system-on-chips hitting the market, all vying to power notebooks, tablets and similar devices running Windows 10. Not only has Intel got to deal with AMD's Zen chips, it will have to fend off a brawnier rival – Qualcomm.

Microsoft reckons you will be able to run desktop software such as Office and Edge, games like Crysis 2, Universal Windows Platform apps, and classic Win32 programs via x86 emulation and API bridging, on the Snapdragons with Windows 10.

And if you choose to do so, you'll be helping to chip away at Intel's domination of desktop CPU world and inject a little more competition and innovation into the market. ®

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