Nvidia and AMD to Develop Arm CPUs for Client PCs: Report

Arm Morello SoC
(Image credit: Arm)

Nvidia already commands about 80% of the discrete graphics processors for PCs, as well as most of the AI and HPC GPU market. But it looks like the company is ready to take on yet another major market: processors for client PCs that run Microsoft Windows, reports Reuters. AMD, which has historically competed against Intel on this market with x86 offerings, is also venturing into Arm-based CPUs for desktops and laptops, the news agency claims, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter. Both companies aim to introduce their Arm SoCs for client PCs in 2025.

AMD and Nvidia's decision to offer Arm-based CPUs will be a strategic move, in collaboration with Microsoft's broader initiative to enhance Arm-based processors for Windows PCs, aiming to compete more effectively against the Arm-based system-on-chips used by Apple in its Mac computers. 

In 2016, Microsoft selected Qualcomm to lead the initiative of transitioning the Windows operating system to Arm's instruction set architecture, traditionally used in smartphones due to its energy efficiency. Qualcomm was given exclusive rights by Microsoft to create chips compatible with Windows up until the year 2024. But once the exclusivity is expired, some big new players are set to enter this market. 

Microsoft’s involvement is crucial, as it aims to encourage and facilitate the development and adoption of Arm-based processors within the PC industry. This encouragement stems from a strategic vision to diversify the processor ecosystem beyond the established x86 architecture primarily owned by Intel. Microsoft's plans also seem motivated by the efficiency and performance demonstrated by Apple's custom Arm-based chips, which have significantly improved battery life and overall performance in Mac computers.

"Microsoft learned from the 90s that they do not want to be dependent on Intel again, they do not want to be dependent on a single vendor," said Jay Goldberg, chief executive of D2D Advisory, in a conversation with Reuters. "If Arm really took off in PC (chips), they were never going to let Qualcomm be the sole supplier."

Entering the domain of CPUs for PCs marks a significant expansion for Nvidia, though not exactly unexpected since the company already tried to address tablets and smartphones with its Tegra offerings in mid-2010s (but largely failed).

Re-entering the Arm-based PC CPU market is not going to be without competitive and technological challenges. AMD and Nvidia will be competing against established players like Apple and Qualcomm, which has been producing Arm-based chips for laptops since 2016 and 2020, respectively.  

Meanwhile, success in this endeavor involves overcoming substantial technical barriers. A key challenge lies in the existing heavy investments in the x86 computing architecture, which has been a staple in software development for PCs. Transitioning to Arm-based CPUs requires addressing compatibility issues, as code developed for x86 chips will not directly run on the Arm ISA, necessitating porting software from x86 to Arm.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • usertests
    There's not enough info to tell what AMD wants to do with ARM cores. If you want to get technical, they already ship an ARM Cortex-A5 core for the Platform Security Processor in Ryzen/Epyc chips. I didn't read the SemiAccurate article, is it paywalled?

    Nvidia, on the other hand, definitely has ambitions of challenging Intel and AMD's CPUs or APUs. Whether or not they will make that dream a reality is another story. One thing's for sure, Nvidia never needed to acquire ARM to make that happen. It's entirely possible for one of the licensees to make custom ARM cores.
    Reply
  • setx
    Those ARM shills again... Part of plan to make ARM look more interesting for investment?

    I see what MS wants from ARM (to threaten Intel), but what is there for AMD? Razor-thin margins? Paying more to ARM for nothing? Zen was developed as dual x86/ARM architecture but ARM part was abandoned later.

    Developing something for ARM now looks really stupid unless you are Apple that has special relationship.
    Reply
  • JamesJones44
    setx said:
    Developing something for ARM now looks really stupid unless you are Apple that has special relationship.
    I can't tell if you're joking or serious.

    How exactly does Microsoft encourage bringing on more CPU suppliers by sticking with an ISA that can't/won't be licensed? That is the whole point of shifting to ARM.

    As far as cost goes, what's the cost of sticking with exactly 2 vendors for every CPU that can run your software? Likely higher than licensing it from ARM who is getting pressured from RISC-V.

    At any rate Microsoft has invested heavily on this. All of their developer tools can output both ARM and x86/x64 binaries as of two years ago. They've made it easy for developers on their platform to simply support both (they are working on adding RISC-V too btw, though it's sadly a few years off still).
    Reply
  • ivan_vy
    nextgen Xbox 2028 will be ARM64 or Zen6...looks like AMD want to throw its hat in the AMD ring too.
    https://www.techpowerup.com/313802/leak-suggests-next-gen-xbox-planned-for-2028-amd-zen-6-rdna-5-considered
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    JamesJones44 said:
    I can't tell if you're joking or serious.

    How exactly does Microsoft encourage bringing on more CPU suppliers by sticking with an ISA that can't/won't be licensed? That is the whole point of shifting to ARM.

    As far as cost goes, what's the cost of sticking with exactly 2 vendors for every CPU that can run your software? Likely higher than licensing it from ARM who is getting pressured from RISC-V.

    At any rate Microsoft has invested heavily on this. All of their developer tools can output both ARM and x86/x64 binaries as of two years ago. They've made it easy for developers on their platform to simply support both (they are working on adding RISC-V too btw, though it's sadly a few years off still).
    But so far, the majority of the customers want x86 because that's the dominant ISA.

    ivan_vy said:
    nextgen Xbox 2028 will be ARM64 or Zen6...looks like AMD want to throw its hat in the AMD ring too.
    https://www.techpowerup.com/313802/leak-suggests-next-gen-xbox-planned-for-2028-amd-zen-6-rdna-5-considered
    That's speculation based on old leaked docs, things could have changed.
    And not going with x86 would complicate backwards compatibility which is a major feature.

    setx said:
    Those ARM shills again... Part of plan to make ARM look more interesting for investment?

    I see what MS wants from ARM (to threaten Intel), but what is there for AMD? Razor-thin margins? Paying more to ARM for nothing? Zen was developed as dual x86/ARM architecture but ARM part was abandoned later.

    Developing something for ARM now looks really stupid unless you are Apple
    I'm expecting RISC-V to eat into all of ARM's market in the long term.

    Everything that ARM had, RISC-V will eat up and take over gradually.
    Reply
  • JamesJones44
    Kamen Rider Blade said:
    But so far, the majority of the customers want x86 because that's the dominant ISA.
    Customers don't care about ISAs. All they care is that it works, is fast and if on battery has long battery life. If they could get better performance and better efficiency they are not going to care if it's ARM, RISC-V, x86, PowerPC, etc.
    Reply
  • vern72
    I bet Microsoft is going to put in design elements that will make it difficult to run Linux on that platform.
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    JamesJones44 said:
    Customers don't care about ISAs. All they care is that it works, is fast and if on battery has long battery life. If they could get better performance and better efficiency they are not going to care if it's ARM, RISC-V, x86, PowerPC, etc.
    When the software they want doesn't work on Windows on ARM, they'll abandon the platform for a x86 based Windows.
    Reply
  • setx
    JamesJones44 said:
    I can't tell if you're joking or serious.
    Of course I'm serious, but it looks you didn't understand my post at all. There are reasons for MS to like ARM, but there are no reasons for AMD to like and invest heavily in ARM.

    JamesJones44 said:
    Customers don't care about ISAs.
    When they run browser sure they don't.
    But when they want to run games full of DRM/anti-cheat e.t.c, specific software for work that doesn't work on emulators, some niche hardware... suddenly they care very much.
    Reply
  • ezst036
    My only question:

    Will AMD bring ARM CPUs to the AM5 (and I suppose future AM6, 7, etc.) platforms?

    ARM or any other isa needs motherboards. Being able to clip into a platform like the old Socket 7 days would be a huge boost.
    Reply