Microsoft has reportedly built Surface Pro prototypes with Qualcomm ARM processors

Laurent Giret

If Microsoft’s Surface line had quite a big impact on the rise of 2-in-1 PCs, it’s quite interesting to see that the software giant let its hardware partners test the waters with Windows 10 on ARM PCs. We have yet to see a Surface PC with an ARM processor, but just like Apple is rumored to be working on ARM MacBook, it would be very surprising if Microsoft wasn’t interested in an ARM Surface.

As a matter of fact, the 10-inch Surface Go that Microsoft released last year wasn’t exactly the mobile tablet that Microsoft wanted to create. According to Paul Thurrott, Microsoft initially wanted to use a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor in the Surface Go, but Intel reportedly pushed Microsoft to choose the company’s Pentium Gold processor instead. This was probably a good call, a the performance of emulated Win32 apps on Windows 10 on ARM still leaves a lot to be desired.

If a cheaper ARM processor makes a lot of sense in a product like the Surface Go, Microsoft has reportedly created Surface Pro prototypes powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. This new information comes from Brad Sams, who mentioned it in a post about the release of a Firefox beta for Windows 10 on ARM today:

The latest chips from Qualcomm, the 8cx, haven’t caught on in a big way but as both Microsoft and Qualcomm continue to push forward, there is no doubt that they are making serious progress in terms of performance at the chip and OS level.

So much so that Microsoft has prototype Surface Pro devices floating around that use Qualcomm chips instead of Intel’s hardware. The company has considered replacing the low-end Pro devices with Snapdragon chips but so far, has yet to ship any products that do so for various reasons.

Sams wrote a book about Microsoft’s Surface hardware last year, and it included some interesting details about upcoming Surface products. Speaking about the Surface Pro, Sams said back it November that it “will get heavily updated in Q4 of 2019 with thinner bezels, new color options, USB-C, and a few other enhancements.”

Considering that Qualcomm’s ARM processors seem to be evolving much faster than Intel’s or AMD’s offerings, a Qualcomm-powered Surface PC running Windows 10 on ARM seems inevitable. Microsoft may not want do this first with the Surface Pro, which remains its most popular Surface device, but an ARM chip would be good fit in the Surface Go 2. That being said, this should only happen if the emulation of Win32 apps gets better with the latest Qualcomm chips.