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MediaTek wants Windows 11 Arm PCs powered by its chips, not just Qualcomm's

CEO plans to hop into bed with the Beast of Redmond

MediaTek intends to work with Microsoft on putting Windows 11 on devices powered by its Arm-based processors, the chip house's CEO said during an earnings call this week.

The Taiwanese company's bossman, Rick Tsai, didn't say if the pair were already holding hands, but made the intention clear in response to an analyst asking whether teaming up with Microsoft was on the cards.

"Yes. We certainly intend to do that. It's not going to be easy, of course. But we have the capability from our technology, our IPs," Tsai said.

In the Arm world, Windows 11 is right now only officially compatible with processors from Qualcomm. Microsoft has its own Arm-compatible brains designed by Qualcomm, which it uses in the Surface Pro X. PC makers including HP, Lenovo, and Samsung have Windows PCs with Qualcomm chips.

Most Windows laptops run on x86 chips from Intel and AMD. But CEO Tsai said the biz saw a bigger market opportunity for Arm with Windows 11.

"The Arm architecture is also becoming more and more mainstream, but we're not going to just leave that market untouched," Tsai said.

MediaTek's chips are already used in Chromebooks, which run the ChromeOS, but that market is faltering on tepid demand.

"Yes, the Chromebook shipment has slowed down somewhat," Tsai said, adding: "Overall... we have concerns about supply/demand. But, in general, we are doing, I think, just quite well."

Windows 11 Arm laptops offer longer battery life compared to x86 laptops, and are positioned for continuous 5G connectivity. But Microsoft struggled to attract developers to offer native Arm applications, and many x86 and x64 applications that run on Arm laptops through emulation don't deliver native performance.

To remedy that, Microsoft encouraged developers to recompile applications for 64-bit Arm Windows devices; Hari Pulapaka, partner group program manager at Microsoft, reiterated this during a session at last week's Arm DevSummit.

More applications that run natively are arriving for Arm on Windows such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, and antivirus software from ESET, Sophos, and Symantec.

Tsai also talked up MediaTek's standing in the smartphone chip biz and is preparing to grow share with its new flagship SoC, which will be made using TSMC's 4nm process.

"We are now the largest smartphone SoC maker globally and we continue to gain shares across all regions of the world. In addition to our leading shares in several emerging markets, our Android smartphone market share in North America will also exceed 35 per cent in 2021," Tsai said.

All major Chinese brands have adopted the flagship chip, he added.

Overall, MediaTek reported [PDF] a net income of NT$28.4bn ($1.02bn) for calendar Q3 ended 30 September, growing by 112.2 per cent year-on-year. Revenue was NT$131.1bn ($4.7bn), up 34.7 per cent. ®

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