Intel stock stumbles on report Nvidia is building an Arm CPU for PC market

AMD also said to be working on an Arm-based PC chip

Intel's stock dipped slightly on Monday after a report that Nvidia was developing an Arm-based CPU for the PC market.

Citing unnamed sources, Reuters reports that Nvidia has quietly begun designing CPUs based on an Arm architecture specifically to run Windows. The development is apparently part of a broader effort by Microsoft to expand the operating system onto more Arm-based systems once its exclusivity agreement with Qualcomm apparently lapses next year.

Nvidia is no stranger to Arm-based CPUs. In the datacenter, Nvidia already challenges Intel and AMD with its Grace-Hopper and Grace CPU Super Chips. The latter boasts two CPU dies glued together for a total of 144 high-performance Neoverse V2 cores.

The chipmaker also has a long history of making Arm-compatible chips for handheld game consoles and tablets, like the Nintendo Switch. In addition Nvidia also licenses Arm cores for use in its low-power Jetson accelerators aimed at robotics and edge applications. Its Jetson AGX Orin modules, for instance, feature eight of Arm's Cortex-A78AE CPU cores.

In fact, Nvidia has made Arm CPUs for the PC market in the past. You may recall Microsoft's first Surface Tablet — not the Pro one — shipped with Nvidia's Arm-compatible Tegra System on Chip (SoC) and a custom version of Windows.

However, it's not just Nvidia. Reuters reports that AMD is also developing PC hardware that uses Arm's intellectual property, and systems from either vendor could hit the market as early as 2025.

It's no secret that AMD has considered developing chips based on the Arm instruction set. Former AMD CFO Devinder Kumar said in 2021 the company was open to the idea if there was sufficient demand from customers. It's also worth noting that AMD already employs Arm cores in several products, including its Versal FPGAs.

Intel's share price slid more than 3 percent in the wake of the news, before bouncing back slightly, while Nvidia and Arm's shares jumped 3.8 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively.

The market for Arm-based PCs has grown considerably over the past few years, fueled in no small part by Apple's decision to ditch Intel as a CPU supplier in favor of homegrown silicon developed under an Arm architectural license. With the launch of the refreshed Mac Pro earlier this year, all modern Macs now run on Arm chips.

As for Qualcomm, it has also spent years working to break into the PC and datacenter market. The company's chips are used in a variety of PCs, most notably in the SQ-series processors developed in collaboration with Microsoft for its Surface Line. Qualcomm also acquired Nuvia, a company founded by former Apple chip engineers, in 2021 to accelerate that endeavor. However, that deal later triggered a lawsuit between Arm and Qualcomm over allegations the latter was in breach of its license. 

Qualcomm is expected to share new details on its next-gen PC and mobile chips at its Snapdragon Summit tomorrow.

According to SemiAnalysis chief analyst Dylan Patel, Nvidia and AMD's experience in the PC space, particularly when it comes to graphics, could give the companies a leg up over Qualcomm.

"Nvidia would like to continue to leverage their investments into Tegra to dive into the PC laptop vertical with Arm based chips. Currently, the biggest challenge with Windows on Arm is not the Arm CPU, but instead the poor compatibility of Qualcomm's GPU drivers. Nvidia doesn't face this issue, so their Windows on Arm push is likely to be more successful," he told The Register.

"Likewise, the rumors indicate AMD is producing a semi-custom Arm based SoC with Microsoft for the surface lineup. AMD's GPU won't have driver issues either. It's clear Qualcomm's window is closing with their exclusivity running out and competitors entering the fray."

Arm and Nvidia declined to comment. ®

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