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Is Windows AI Explorer Exclusive to Snapdragon or Open to All?

WoA there, Buddy!

Normally loth to comment on rumors, I find the Arm and AI confluence in the Windows world intriguing. On Twitter @thebookisclosed states he has found that Windows AI Explorer will require a Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite X processor (h/t to Windows Central).

On the AI side, as much as Intel has touted 2024 as the year of the AI PC and its processors’ AI accelerators (NPUs), these NPUs are weak compared with those in other PC processors shipping from AMD and Apple and forthcoming from Qualcomm. But why not set a minimum performance requirement instead of tying AI Explorer to a specific processor?

On the Arm side, Warm (Windows on Arm) has been a flop. Most of the blame rests on the processor, despite the last several years being the ideal time to attack Intel because of its poor execution. Times, they are a-changin.’ Intel’s getting its mojo back just as Arm-compatible PC chips are looking more serious. Qualcomm now has a powerful in-house core, other chipmakers are licensing Arm’s ever-more-competitive CPUs for PC processors, and other compatible PC-destined CPUs could be in development (h/t to Charlie).

Microsoft sees AI as a classic inflection, a time to make significant changes. The PC has become a dull affair compared with smartphones, even as advances in that whiz-bang pocket-size multitool have slowed. Windows Explorer and other AI-based functions could reinvigorate the PC market, at least triggering a one-time upgrade wave. Although accelerated by hardware, these are software functions. Given Microsoft’s software and AI leadership, it’s seeking to seize more control over the PC, both to advance the platform and to wrest it from others (***cough***Intel***cough***).

The open question is whether it’s better to pursue a “penetrate” strategy (i.e., quickly proliferating AI acceleration, reaping a modest margin from many end users) or a “skim” strategy (i.e., focusing on a single/few hardware platform/s, reaping big margins from a small percentage of end users). Endorsing only Snapdragon is the latter tack and stacks two contingencies: Arm acceptance and AI adoption. If either fails, both fail. On the other hand, if the AI PC is compelling, it could propel Warm.

Snapdragon image by tohamina on Freepik.




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