‘The most disruptive thing in computing since Windows 95’: how Qualcomm won Computex 2024 before it even started

An illustration of a figure celebrating atop a winners podium, holding aloft a large trophy with the Snapdragon X Elite badge on it.
(Image credit: Qualcomm / Shutterstock / Viktoria Kurpas)

Big industry events, like Computex 2024, currently underway in Taipei, rarely have a clear-cut victor. Sure, sometimes one of the big dogs in the tech world unveils something that blows us all away, but more and more frequently, each new expo ends up devolving into a mess of samey competing products, while companies save the juicy stuff for private events where they don’t have to worry about someone else stealing their thunder.

Well, Qualcomm already had its thunder stolen by Microsoft – or perhaps it would be more accurate to say it gift-wrapped those thunderclaps for the Windows creator, since it was Microsoft that revealed the new slate of laptops equipped with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X Elite chip at its ‘AI Era’ live event just a few weeks ago. As such, Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon’s keynote speech at Computex had no fresh reveals.

And yet, Snapdragon X Elite is such a big deal that I’m willing to declare Qualcomm the unequivocal winner of this year’s Computex – but probably not for the reason you’re expecting.

In the Copilot seat

You can watch the Qualcomm keynote in its entirety now on YouTube, but for those who don’t want to sit through a 78-minute-long video, I’ll sum up: Qualcomm has partnered with Microsoft and six other laptop manufacturers to bring us a new wave of ‘AI PCs’ featuring the new X Elite chip, which will enable the freshly boosted capabilities of the Copilot+ assistant in Windows 11.

“It's the most disruptive thing in computing since Windows 95,” Amon said at a Q&A session a day after the keynote, referring to the version of the OS that crystallized the virtual desktop formula we know and love today with its taskbar and start menu. It’s a reasonable comparison – at least, assuming that Copilot+ really does become the inflection point for a new way for us to use Windows. The potential is certainly there, and X Elite enables it.

A photo of Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon delivering his keynote speech.

Cristiano Amon had a lot to show off in his keynote presentation – and several other industry CEOs guest-starred, too (Image credit: Future)

It’s all good stuff (even if I’m a tiny bit scared of Copilot’s capabilities), but here’s the thing: Qualcomm isn’t really the only company doing this. Amon claimed in his keynote that “Snapdragon X and Copilot+ are the only platforms capable of unlocking the potential of next-generation AI,” which is technically true, but only until AMD’s AI 300 chips and Intel’s Lunar Lake chips arrive in laptops later this year. Qualcomm has the jump on them, but at the end of the day, Intel and AMD aren’t being muscled out of the CPU game.

So the AI powers offered by Snapdragon X Elite aren’t the truly exciting thing here; what’s exciting is that Qualcomm has managed to pull off inserting itself into the processor market in a big way. Seven OEM partners for a chip launch designed to put you on the map is an impressive number – Microsoft, HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, and Samsung have all joined forces with Qualcomm to make the X Elite chip the new biggest thing.

Healthy competition

I’ll be honest – I’m a bit of an AI skeptic. There aren't even that many people actually using AI tools right now, and it’s hard for me to get excited about Copilot+ and the power of generative AI because of my myriad concerns, but seeing Qualcomm insert itself into the CPU arena with such confidence has me genuinely pumped.

I had similar feelings when Apple ditched Intel to reveal the M1 MacBook Air, running on its own silicon. The M1 was a tremendous leap forward, but I knew it would remain locked within Apple’s tightly controlled hardware ecosystem, so I couldn’t get overly hyped about it. But the real takeaway from this year’s Computex is that with Snapdragon X Elite, AMD and Intel finally have some real competition, and that’s excellent news.

Snapdragon X Elite

Qualcomm hopes that this Snapdragon X Elite badge will capture the same attention as the iconic 'Intel Inside' badges of laptop yore (Image credit: Qualcomm)

Okay, it’s perhaps not such excellent news for our old friends Team Red and Team Blue, but it does stand to hugely benefit the consumer. More competition drives the competing parties to (hopefully) work harder at producing better-quality products, and I’ll allow myself a small moment of hope that this theory works in practice. No longer can Intel rest on its laurels as the king of Windows laptop processors – Snapdragon is coming for the crown, and it’s not messing around.

As for the future of X Elite, that’s potentially even more exciting. Amon was cagey when asked about a potential second-gen chip, saying “I can’t disclose the evolution of the X Elite, but you should expect significant improvements in performance across many factors.” Considering that this is Qualcomm’s first major effort to break into the Windows laptop game, I can’t wait to see what comes next – especially in a third or fourth generation when Snapdragon gets updated to a new architecture.

I suppose we’re going to need a 'Team name' for Qualcomm now. It’s a tricky one… the Qualcomm logo is blue, and the Snapdragon logo is red, but those are both taken. Team Q, perhaps?

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Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.

Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.