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Microsoft goes Apple way to create own ARM-based chipsets for Surface PCs, Azure servers

Microsoft is believed to be developing its own ARM-based processors for the Azure Cloud services and later the Surface PCs.

twitter-logoShubham Verma | December 21, 2020 | Updated 17:39 IST

Highlights

  • Microsoft is said to be working on ARM-based processors for its Surface lineup.
  • The ARM-based processors will mostly be for Azure cloud services.
  • Microsoft is following the lead of Apple in making ARM-based chipsets.

Apple's ARM-based M1 chipset is creating benchmarks for the PC industry that is on its way to minimise the dominance of Intel-based chipset. The M1 chipset is holistically better in terms of several things but perhaps the most important thing it brings is cost-effectiveness. Now, Microsoft is developing its own ARM chipsets that will power the Azure cloud services but also the Surface laptops later. The new chip will work in tandem with Windows 10 to bring out the maximum results.

According to Bloomberg News, Microsoft's new ARM processors will soon be used to power the entire server network of Azure Cloud. Currently, Microsoft uses Intel chipsets for its Azure cloud services, as well as most of the Surface line-up. Although, Microsoft did show interest in moving away from Intel's chipset ecosystem when it co-developed the custom ARM-based chipset with AMD and Qualcomm for Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro X devices about two years back. Now, those ambitions seem to be getting real.

The Surface lineup is still pretty much powered by the Intel chipsets, much like how Apple has it. The latest M1 chipset will slowly percolate to different Mac lineup eventually but this transition might take some time. The transition involves bringing the entire architecture for both hardware and software to support ARM natively. But given how pushy Apple has been in getting some popular apps to come with native support for M1, it might not be that long. And this could come as a case study for Microsoft that could not make the ARM-based chipsets successful much.

"Because silicon is a foundational building block for technology, we're continuing to invest in our own capabilities in areas like design, manufacturing and tools, while also fostering and strengthening partnerships with a wide range of chip providers," Microsoft's communications chief Frank Shaw told The Verge. This statement not necessarily denies the current speculation and could be a confirmation in disguise.

Both Apple and Microsoft are gradually becoming self-sustaining where they are creating their own chipsets but this strategy poses a threat to Intel's business. Intel is the world's most dominant chipset maker for PCs and servers. Even though Intel's business is hurt with AMD's aggressive expansion into the market, the US-based chipmaker is the go-to company for most processors. Its Core series of chipsets is ubiquitous on Windows 10 laptops that are sold worldwide. But slowly, AMD is catching up with the Ryzen series.

Intel is also the market leader in the server chip business but AMD is slowly denting its business with the EPYC processors. Microsoft and other manufacturers have shown interest in making chipsets with AMD in the past to develop ARM-based processors that are practically more efficient in both performance and power consumption. Intel and AMD are in a growing rivalry but there is a third entity that has plans to fight both companies head-on.

Amazon launched the ARM-based Graviton2 processors for AWS. But even though ARM-based processors have proven to be more productive and cost-effective than the Intel chipsets, their presence in the server market is quite marginal. Microsoft and Amazon are likely to popularise ARM-based chips in the server market.

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