Apple is expected to replace Intel chips that typically power MacBooks with ARM-based creations of its own, and we keep seeing rumors pointing in that direction. But while Apple hasn’t confirmed that it’s working on A-series processors that could deliver desktop-grade performance, its partner (and rival) Qualcomm has already launched a bunch of ARM processors that can run Windows.
The latest one is the Snapdragon 8cx that has been engineered specifically for notebook use. And that’s the platform Microsoft might use on an upcoming Surface laptop.
Windows Central’s Zac Bowden said on Twitter that the latest Surface codename to keep an eye out for is “Excalibur,” which is reportedly powered by an 8cx processor:
"Excalibur" is your latest Surface codename to keep an eye out for. It's an 8cx device of some kind :)
— Zac Bowden (@zacbowden) June 24, 2019
Just a couple of months ago, we saw a Snapdragon 8cx laptop at Computex 2019, meant to demo 5G connectivity on notebooks. Qualcomm, of course, is also pushing its 5G chips, which power several of the 5G smartphones that are available in stores, including the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G.
At the time, Qualcomm partnered with Lenovo on the “Project Limitless” device, although we have no idea when this laptop will launch. Microsoft, on the other hand, is already rumored to be working on dual-display and foldable devices, with a foldable Surface tablet/laptop expected in the first half of 2020. It’s unclear whether the Excalibur is related to any of these products. However, using a Snapdragon 8cx platform, complete with 5G connectivity on a foldable device, makes a great deal of sense.
Intel chips have powered all of Microsoft’s Surface models to date. Many future Surface laptops will likely continue to rely on Intel chips, but having Microsoft launch an ARM-based Surface would put even more pressure on Intel, as well as signal to other vendors that Windows on ARM is a real alternative.
As for Apple, the company is expected to deliver a novel 16-inch MacBook Pro this fall, although the laptop will probably run on Intel chips. Other MacBook lines will also see refreshes, but there’s no indication that an ARM-based MacBook will launch this year.