The future of Windows AI-driven features may feature “Qualcomm Inside.”

Microsoft may restrict a key artificial intelligence feature in Windows 11 to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite Arm processor.
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For years, AMD, and particularly Intel, have dominated the personal computer industry, even after Qualcomm introduced its first Snapdragon processor for laptops. Now, Microsoft may prioritize Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite processor and upcoming Windows features, leaving out AMD and Intel.

In May, Microsoft will host its annual Build conference in Seattle. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will deliver a speech at the event, “sharing our vision for artificial intelligence in hardware and software.” The demonstration is expected to introduce Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 5 to consumers, both featuring the powerful Snapdragon X Elite processor based on Arm architecture. Microsoft has already launched versions of these devices for enterprises with built-in Intel processors.

However, what’s interesting is Microsoft’s “software” version of the AI vision. The latest feature update for Windows 11 may introduce AI PCs, but Microsoft is moving more actively towards a future where artificial intelligence is more closely integrated into the operating system. Microsoft seems to have a more formal definition of an “AI PC,” which we know includes copilot keys and an AI coprocessor called the NPU.

But which NPU? We’ve always thought that Microsoft’s criteria for which processors are allowed in AI PCs were entirely unknown. But the first signs we’re seeing suggest that some processors may not qualify.

From Microsoft’s Build schedule, we know that they are hosting a session on building new AI PC features. The feature, reportedly called “AI Explorer,” may be an artificial intelligence version of the now-defunct Timeline feature, which could serve as an overarching search engine for finding key information. We don’t know if the Build session is focused on AI Explorer, but it’s a good guess.

Now, Twitter leakers claim to have found evidence in Windows 11 build 26100 indicating that AI Explorer will be limited to Arm64 CPUs, specifically the Snapdragon X Elite.

If true, this would be a significant endorsement for Qualcomm, and a rather embarrassing omission for Intel and AMD.

For years, Microsoft has been a staunch supporter of Windows on Arm, despite Windows on Arm PCs accounting for only a small fraction of Intel and AMD’s sales. But Microsoft hasn’t given up: they will host another session on “Next-Generation Windows on Arm” at the Build conference.

Microsoft promises, “Learn about exciting new experiences on Arm-based Windows this year, such as intelligent Windows applications leveraging the rich capabilities of NPUs.”

Microsoft has already provided NPU-driven features on laptops containing NPUs, whether from AMD, Intel, or Qualcomm, with the Windows Studio Effects app. The app includes video and audio filters and runs well. But it certainly isn’t “new.” This does sound like Microsoft has more NPU-driven experiences in store, likely including AI Explorer.

Will Microsoft’s decision to exclude AMD and Intel from AI Explorer stick? Perhaps not. After all, code is just code, and Microsoft can patch it or release updates. Intel promises that the upcoming Lunar Lake chip will triple AI performance, so Intel is clearly working to catch up.

This does tell us that Microsoft has confidence in what the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite can offer—perhaps more so than what Qualcomm has previously provided. Qualcomm has garnered unprecedented support from PC OEMs, demonstrating that the hardware industry sees Qualcomm’s claims as legitimate. Now, Microsoft seems to be joining in.

It looks like Qualcomm and Arm are on the offensive against Intel and AMD. In Microsoft’s envisioned future of AI, Qualcomm may have the upper hand.

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