Qualcomm, Microsoft deal could explain lack of Windows on Apple Silicon

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Microsoft isn't making a version of Windows 11 compatible with ARM-based Apple Silicon because it has a secret exclusivity deal with Qualcomm, according to a new report.

Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider
Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider


ARM-based versions of the Windows operating system have reportedly only been made available on devices with Qualcomm chips because of a previously unreported deal between the two firms, according to XDA-Developers.

Sources told the outlet that the deal might expire soon, but there's no clear date for when that will happen. XDA-Developers notes that the expiration will allow other vendors to create machines with ARM-based versions of Windows.

Boot Camp is currently not accessible on M1, M1 Pro, or M1 Max machines. That's because there's a lack of Windows support, and there doesn't appear to be plans to bring an ARM-based version of Windows to Apple Silicon Macs.

Microsoft and Qualcomm have had a strong relationship over the years, XDA-Developers notes. Both companies announced Windows on Arm back in 2016, and Microsoft also sourced Qualcomm chips for its Windows Phones.

Qualcomm, for its part, has its sights set on competing with Apple Silicon. The company, through its acquisition of startup Nuvia, is aiming to take on Apple's proprietary silicon in the laptop chip space in "nine months.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    There is a lack of Windows on ARM for Qualcomm or any manufacturer. By that I mean that you cannot buy a released version of Windows 11 or 10 from Microsoft for any ARM device. Having said that, the Microsoft Windows 11 Insider Preview for ARM, which is pre-release software, runs just fine in a Parallels VM on an Apple Silicon Mac mini. Please note that there is no guarantee that Microsoft will actually release such pre-release software but obviously they could if they wanted to. (And it runs great!)
    argonautgregoriusmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 22
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,223member
    I wonder if MS is going to wait for Q’s chips? I mean Apple has systems out there now. MS could be selling Windows for them now. There’s no promise that even if the chips come out in nine months, that they will be in hardware within a year, year and a half. And that’s assuming the chips don’t get delayed, conceivably pushing the competition out to two or more years. That’s leaving a lot of money on the table. 
    edited November 2021 GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 22
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,012member
    marktime said:
    There is a lack of Windows on ARM for Qualcomm or any manufacturer. By that I mean that you cannot buy a released version of Windows 11 or 10 from Microsoft for any ARM device. Having said that, the Microsoft Windows 11 Insider Preview for ARM, which is pre-release software, runs just fine in a Parallels VM on an Apple Silicon Mac mini. Please note that there is no guarantee that Microsoft will actually release such pre-release software but obviously they could if they wanted to. (And it runs great!)
    Yep, W11-ARM runs fine on my M1 MBA (w/Parallels) and Microsoft is regularly updating it. Just need to signup as an Insider and it runs. Firefox runs fine as well. 
    gregoriusmnarwhalwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 22
    danoxdanox Posts: 1,182member
    Is Microsoft desperate enough to have the (full version of Windows) run native on a Qualcomm owned product? Will others want to have anything to do with Qualcomm when they can roll their own chip and avoid a FRAND Qualcomm scenario? Qualcomm is worse than Intel in that respect.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 22
    I think Microsoft is more interested in Windows 365 Cloud
    gregoriusmlorca2770
  • Reply 6 of 22
    It would be great if Qualcomm could approach M1 parity within 9 months. Competition helps Apple focus, Microsoft might fully embrace WOA, Qualcomm might create a profitable new business unit. Only losers in this scenario are Intel and AMD.

    Having said that, Qualcomm has its work cut out for it. They have good former Apple engineers, but will their M1 equivalent be ready next year? If Qualcomm delays, will Microsoft kneecap them by releasing Windows for Apple Silicon? Apple was forced into an agreement with Qualcomm for modems due to Intel not delivering 5G. Might Microsoft be forced into Apple's ARMs if Qualcomm can't deliver a good PC chip? Windows loyalists won't be pleased if Mac benchmarks smoke even Windows on Xeon benchmarks next year.

    Intel's chips are the most expensive component of a PC. Apple likely has more pricing flexibility now than its PC hardware competitors. It's not inconceivable that Apple could markedly increase its PC marketshare this decade if Microsoft's and Qualcomm's ducks don't align. (or something like that)
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 22
    danox said:
    Is Microsoft desperate enough to have the (full version of Windows) run native on a Qualcomm owned product? Will others want to have anything to do with Qualcomm when they can roll their own chip and avoid a FRAND Qualcomm scenario? Qualcomm is worse than Intel in that respect.
    I don’t know how much Microsoft wants to invest, but if Qualcomm can produce a decent PC chip, Microsoft might want to buy them out. That way it would own a piece of the cell phone market, and increase its control of the PC market.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 22
    Given how short-lived the Nuvia company was, I'm guessing they always planned for a quick buyout and payday from any of Qualcomm, Microsoft, Samsung, or Google. Impeccable resumés and exactly the ARM chip expertise those companies want. They were smart to bail from Apple, and California employment laws prevent Apple from doing much about it.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 22
    narwhal said:
    They were smart to bail from Apple, and California employment laws prevent Apple from doing much about it.
    Why? And what do California's labor laws have to do with it?
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 22
    narwhal said:
    They were smart to bail from Apple, and California employment laws prevent Apple from doing much about it.
    Why? And what do California's labor laws have to do with it?
    If they had equity in Nuvia then they may have enjoyed a huge buyout payday – probably vastly larger than the regular salary + bonus they'd have received if they'd stayed with Apple. That's likely the primary motivation to form Nuvia in the first place. It's potentially a second payday for staff who were originally part of PA Semi when it was acquired by Apple in 2008.

    As I understand it, California law voids non-compete clauses (which Apple and many other companies attempt to use regardless of enforceability) in employment contracts. Anti-poaching arrangements are also illegal.
    edited November 2021 muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 22
    narwhal said:
    They were smart to bail from Apple, and California employment laws prevent Apple from doing much about it.
    Why? And what do California's labor laws have to do with it?
    California Business and Professions Code Section 16600: “Every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.”

    Non-compete contacts aren't enforceable in California.
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 22
    DAalseth said:
    I wonder if MS is going to wait for Q’s chips? I mean Apple has systems out there now. MS could be selling Windows for them now. There’s no promise that even if the chips come out in nine months, that they will be in hardware within a year, year and a half. And that’s assuming the chips don’t get delayed, conceivably pushing the competition out to two or more years. That’s leaving a lot of money on the table. 
    If Nuvia manages to roll their own IP and put it out in a timely manner fine - but I'm sure what Qualcomm's hoping is that they walked out the door at Apple with Apple Trade Secrets and IP which would help them get a faster start - and that would result in litigation.

    Just because you worked on it doesn't mean you own the right to make it.

    Kinda funny: Microsoft's gonna roll their own chips but has no silicon experience, so they second their development to Qualcomm who also has no processor level silicon design experience - Qualcomm (like Samsung) mostly puts together SoCs using ARM reference cores, adjusts caches, and call it a day.

    So, Qualcomm acquires Nuvia in hopes that they can do what Qualcomm itself cannot - make high performance ARM ISA processors.

    The only players who do processor level silicon design for ARM as far as I can tell are ARM and Apple.

    Maybe Microsoft should've bid for ARM - but I'm sure sure a move would've piqued the interest of anti-trust authorities, and I'm not sure Qualcomm has the scope to make such a bid themselves.

    The folks at Nuvia did hold some key positions, but they're just a few people and the engineers in the Apple Silicon Team (capitalized out of respect) at Apple numbers in the thousands.

    One of the reasons Apple's been so successful in their silicon design has been purpose built silicon with a future product roadmap in mind - that's why they convinced ARM to create the ARMv8 ISA (64 bit ARM), designed the A7 for use in the iPhone 5s, deprecated the unoptimizable ARMv7 in iOS, wrote 32 bit mode out of iOS, and removed the ARMv7 logic blocks from their processors all in a few scant years. Who knows if Qualcomm will force Nuvia to include ARMv7 in whatever they create to prevent litigation from their legacy customers.

    Nuvia engineers working for Qualcomm may find that what allowed Apple to advance so quickly is missing at a standard chip manufacturer who has to support their legacy customers. They won't be getting their marching orders from a triumvirate of software, hardware, and silicon development managers with requirements for future products but from Qualcomm execs whose motivations are those of a smartphone SoC vendor.
    badmonkdanoxwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 22
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,807moderator
    narwhal said:
    Given how short-lived the Nuvia company was, I'm guessing they always planned for a quick buyout and payday from any of Qualcomm, Microsoft, Samsung, or Google. Impeccable resumés and exactly the ARM chip expertise those companies want. They were smart to bail from Apple, and California employment laws prevent Apple from doing much about it.
    There were reports saying they wanted to make server chips for 10 years, including under Steve Jobs and Apple declined as they were focused on consumers:

    https://www.theregister.com/2020/02/14/nuvia_apple_server/
    https://siliconangle.com/2020/09/24/nuvia-led-apple-veterans-raises-240m-build-better-server-processors/
    https://regmedia.co.uk/2020/02/14/williams_apple_response.pdf

    Qualcomm isn't in the server business but they said they will license Nuvia tech to other server companies:

    https://www.techspot.com/news/90290-qualcomm-reveal-first-nuvia-designed-laptop-chip-2022.html

    "Qualcomm won't be using Nuvia's architecture to make server or smartphone chips anytime soon. Instead, it will license Nuvia's core designs for other companies who want to build custom silicon for the data center."

    If Apple had agreed to make server chips (or license them), they would likely have stayed at Apple. ARM in the server space can make a huge difference over what Intel has been offering with 5x better efficiency but it's not a consumer product business and it's understandable why Apple has no interest in it. It's a shame they lost talented people because of it, especially when Qualcomm won't be directly making server chips either.
    marktime said:
    There is a lack of Windows on ARM for Qualcomm or any manufacturer. By that I mean that you cannot buy a released version of Windows 11 or 10 from Microsoft for any ARM device. Having said that, the Microsoft Windows 11 Insider Preview for ARM, which is pre-release software, runs just fine in a Parallels VM on an Apple Silicon Mac mini. Please note that there is no guarantee that Microsoft will actually release such pre-release software but obviously they could if they wanted to. (And it runs great!)
    Microsoft's custom ARM chip in their Surface products is a Qualcomm chip:

    https://www.notebookcheck.net/The-Microsoft-SQ1-is-a-custom-version-of-the-Snapdragon-8cx-with-2x-more-GPU-performance-than-an-8th-gen-Intel-Core-CPU.436786.0.html

    They made a build of Windows to run on this and this is the version of Windows that's officially not supported on other chips. If the exclusivity with Qualcomm ends, they can open the Windows license up. This won't change much for Mac users except more VM companies can officially support it but this doesn't go far enough for games as long as there's no DirectX 12 support. There's some comments here saying this is due to Metal:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/macgaming/comments/qhkhvz/what_can_we_do_to_help_codeweavers_bring_directx/

    DirectX 12 is supported on Linux in Vulkan/OpenGL but Metal doesn't support things like geometry shaders and different raytracing setups so Apple would need to add these or they find workarounds. They're saying at least 1-2 years before support is there.

    At least this increased hardware competition with Intel should make much better value computers all round so Mac users should be able to pick up cheap PCs to run Windows when they need to. Even now a 3060 laptop is around $1000:

    https://www.amazon.com/MSI-GF65-144hz-Gaming-Laptop/dp/B09FZPZJPD

    Qualcomm could make laptops around that performance level at an even lower price point.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 22
    Funny how Apple is so often accused of monopolistic practices -- but Qualcomm has been exploiting them for a decade without any serious repercussions.

    Qualcomm is evil.
    danoxgenovellewatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 22
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,684member
    DAalseth said:
    I wonder if MS is going to wait for Q’s chips? I mean Apple has systems out there now. MS could be selling Windows for them now. There’s no promise that even if the chips come out in nine months, that they will be in hardware within a year, year and a half. And that’s assuming the chips don’t get delayed, conceivably pushing the competition out to two or more years. That’s leaving a lot of money on the table. 
    I can’t imagine that Macs make up more than rounding error for Windows sales. That being the case MS doesn’t really have a choice except to wait for QC. Since everyone else is making x86 systems and people are generally locked to the OS is doesn’t matter too much for them. 

    I imagine this deal is better for QC than MS. They get a guaranteed OS for their processors, giving them a leg up on any other manufacturer. I’m trying to figure what MS gets out of the deal, though. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 22
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,368member
    I seem to remember the usual wrongheads on here making a lot of noise about how it was Apple's fault that Microsoft weren't licensing Windows on ARM, because Craig Federeghi didn't fawn over Microsoft in an interview.  It was obviously bunk then, though always good to see some more evidence.

    I wonder if Apple will be a beneficiary of Microsoft wanting to get in the ARM chip game themselves.  Presumably they'll need to be out of a Qualcomm exclusivity deal for that to happen, son no renewal, and then Microsoft would have no real reason to not license Windows for ARM, licensing is their favourite thing to do.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 22
    Pouring through Microsoft’s maze of licensing agreements, it seems that one of the requirements of the Windows license is that you are running on a supported processor. The exclusivity explains why only Qualcomm chips are listed as supported CPUs for Windows on ARM. 
    In my mind Apple Silicon would have to be added to that CPU list before Microsoft will sell you a license.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 22
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,405member
    DAalseth said:
    I wonder if MS is going to wait for Q’s chips? I mean Apple has systems out there now. MS could be selling Windows for them now. There’s no promise that even if the chips come out in nine months, that they will be in hardware within a year, year and a half. And that’s assuming the chips don’t get delayed, conceivably pushing the competition out to two or more years. That’s leaving a lot of money on the table. 
    Hmm. I wonder how much money we're really talking about? The question is how many BootCamp and VM installations of Windows are running on Macs?

    Apple Silicon leaving BootCamp support behind tells me that Apple isn't losing any sleep about running Windows clients on new Macs. Would Apple make such a move if it cost them a lot in sales. i.e., putting less money on the table? I don't think so.

    VMWare is effectively giving away Fusion for non commercial use. Would they do this is they felt that they were leaving a lot of money on the table by inadequately exploiting a vibrant market opportunity? I don't think so.

    Microsoft is on the other side of this equation. If Microsoft was losing its socks by failing to negotiate deals with Apple and VMWare to open up opportunities to sell more client licenses into Mac BootCamp and Mac virtualization host environments, I think they'd be scrambling to work out deals and get enabling technology figured out and licensed on their end. But we're not seeing any such thing happening, at least publicly. 

    On the other hand, in the development environments I've been involved with, virtualization platforms are very high priority, but on the server side. Rack based systems running source control, version management, build, integration, test, release, private cloud, and hybrid cloud based automation are heavy consumers of server based VMs running server versions of Windows. I don't know the price tags, but I'd be willing to bet that the server side is where companies like VMWare are making the bulk of their revenue and Microsoft is selling a lot of server licenses.

    It's not uncommon for some client side functions like coding and human driven testing to also be done primarily on VMs, and some deployments may be VM based as well, but the attention getting targets for Windows on Apple Silicon are probably keenly focused on what kinds of Windows server side functionality can be run on Apple Silicon. With this in mind, BootCamp may be considered an artifact of a bygone era and running Windows client VMs on Apple Silicon relegated to unsanctioned hobbyist fodder.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 22
    danoxdanox Posts: 1,182member
    Funny how Apple is so often accused of monopolistic practices -- but Qualcomm has been exploiting them for a decade without any serious repercussions.

    Qualcomm is evil.
    Which is why no one but the desperate will take Qualcomm up on licenses for anything, you can just get a license from Arm (do the work yourself) and sleep well.

    I think they are 3-5 years away, and without a in-house OS even further away.
    edited November 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 22
    narwhal said:
    narwhal said:
    They were smart to bail from Apple, and California employment laws prevent Apple from doing much about it.
    Why? And what do California's labor laws have to do with it?
    California Business and Professions Code Section 16600: “Every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.”

    Non-compete contacts aren't enforceable in California.
    You're still making no sense. Lots of unconnected threads.
    watto_cobra
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