Qualcomm, the biggest supplier of chips for mobile phones, on Thursday pushed further into the PC market with a line of chips designed to power business machines.
Qualcomm’s “Snapdragon” processor chips historically have been at the heart of mobile phones like Alphabet’s Google Pixel phone and many Samsung Electronics Co devices.
Over the past year, though, Qualcomm adapted its chips to operate PCs running Microsoft Corp’s Windows operating system, making those machines start up more quickly and stay connected to the Internet constantly, much like a mobile phone or tablet.
But the chips Qualcomm used in those early PCs were essentially modified versions of the chips it sold for mobile phones. At an event in Hawaii on Thursday, Qualcomm officials said they have created a new series of chips called the Snapdragon 8cx that will be dedicated to PCs.
Qualcomm is calling the Snapdragon 8cx Compute Platform the world’s first 7nm PC platform, hoping it will allow for “new form factors in the always-on, always-connected category”. The Snapdragon 8cx packs the octa-core Qualcomm Kryo 495 CPU and the new Adreno 680 GPU, the company’s most powerful GPU yet. The memory interface is now 128 bit wide and support for second generation USB 3.1 over Type C and third generation PCI-E is now baked-in. This will let users connect up to two 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) monitors to their Snapdragon 8cx enabled devices, the Qualcomm said. Snapdragon 8cx supports Quick Charge 4+ and also features the Snapdragon X24 LTE modem.
The biggest difference is the new Qualcomm chips will support Windows 10 Enterprise, the version of Microsoft’s popular operating system that is sold to businesses. Previous Qualcomm chips supported only the consumer versions of Windows, making business customers less likely to purchase computers powered by them.
Qualcomm says Snapdragon 8cx is “currently sampling to customers and is expected to begin shipping in commercial devices in Q3 of 2019”.
Qualcomm’s move puts it in greater competition with chipmaker Intel Corp, which last year still derived more than half of its $62.8 billion in revenue from PC chips and dominates that market. Intel’s association with Windows PCs was so strong that the computer industry referred to them as “Wintel” machines for decades.
Qualcomm and others are also challenging Intel’s supremacy in the data centre business. Qualcomm’s chips are powered by technology from SoftBank Group Corp-controlled Arm Holdings. Several companies – including Amazon.com’s cloud division Amazon Web Services, a major Intel customer – are working to make ARM-based chips suitable for data centres.