Qualcomm has a secret exclusivity deal for Windows on Arm, but not for much longer

Qualcomm Building
(Image credit: Jejim / Shutterstock)

The next Windows laptop (opens in new tab) you purchase may not have a processor (opens in new tab) from Intel or AMD but could feature an Arm-based chip instead.

According to a new report (opens in new tab) from XDA Developers, the reason that only Qualcomm SoCs are currently found in Arm-based PCs is due to an exclusivity deal between Qualcomm and Microsoft for Windows on Arm.

The two companies first launched Windows on Arm (opens in new tab) back in 2016 in an effort to create laptops with all day-battery life and some of the first Windows devices to feature Arm chips from Qualcomm included the HP Envy X2 (opens in new tab) and the Asus NovaGo (opens in new tab).

XDA Developers also spoke with people familiar with the matter who said that Qualcomm's exclusivity deal with Microsoft for Windows on Arm is set to expire soon though an exact date for when this will happen has yet to be revealed.

Expanding beyond Qualcomm

At a recent Executive Summit held by Mediatek, the Taiwan-based chipmaker confirmed its intention to make Arm-based chips (opens in new tab) for Windows PCs.

Speaking at the summit, VP of corporate sales and business development at Mediatek, Eric Fisher reportedly explained to attendees how opening up Windows on Arm to other chipmakers could affect the long running Windows/Intel or Wintel partnership, saying:

“Apple has shown the world that it can be done. The Wintel partnership that’s gone on for so long has to be under some pressure, and when there’s pressure, there’s an opportunity for companies like ours.” 

In addition to Mediatek, Samsung's Exynos (opens in new tab) processors and even Apple's M1 chips (opens in new tab) could all eventually be used to run Windows on Arm once Qualcomm's exclusivity agreement with Microsoft expires.

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Via XDA Developers (opens in new tab)

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.