Apple’s launch of its M1-powered Macs and MacBooks has definitely sent ripples in the computing market. It showed what the ARM architecture is capable of, going beyond smartphones and tablets, and it put Intel and AMD on notice. Those, however, aren’t the only ones that might have felt threatened by Apple’s growing reputation in the semiconductor space. Qualcomm doesn’t seem to be fazed, and it isn’t even rushing to rival the Apple Silicon, at least not until 2023.
Apple has, of course, been making its own ARM-based chips for years, but its A line of processors has been utilized solely for iPhones and iPads. Those have already been regarded to be superior to Qualcomm silicon of the same generation, but their exclusivity to Apple’s devices doesn’t directly affect Qualcomm’s business. The M series, however, takes things a bit closer to home, casting doubt on Qualcomm’s ability to outdo Apple in the larger computing market.
Qualcomm has dabbled in that section of the market, with the likes of the Snapdragon 8cx and the custom Microsoft Surface SQ2. In both cases, performance has been deemed wanting, especially since they’re used in devices meant to run the heavyweight Windows. The chipmaker isn’t giving up, but it isn’t scrambling to one-up Apple either.
At its investor day event, Qualcomm reportedly dropped very vague dates for systems-on-chip (SoC) that would compete with the Apple M1 but that run inside Windows PCs instead. Those chips will arrive in 2023, and hardware vendors will be able to get samples about nine months before that unknown date. The chips are expected to be designed by Nuvia, a startup founded by former Apple A chip designers that was recently acquired by Qualcomm.
It will be interesting to see what Qualcomm will come up with, but the timetable alone could be worrying. Within that time, Apple might already have launched an Apple M2 that will widen its lead even further. In the meantime, Qualcomm is also working on improving its mobile technologies, putting a heavy focus on its Adreno GPUs to deliver true desktop-class graphics to smartphones, including features like everyone’s favorite ray tracing.