Two of the first Microsoft Surface tablets featured ARM-based processors and shipped with the Windows RT operating system. But the Surface RT and Surface 2 are long gone, and every Surface device Microsoft has released since 2013 has featured an Intel processor.

This could be the year that changes. According to Petri’s Brad Sams, Microsoft is currently testing Surface Laptop and Surface Pro tablet prototypes featuring AMD and Qualcomm Snapdragon chips, respectively. Windows Central says its sources confirm Sams’ report.

It’s not yet clear if these devices will ever see the light of day, and Sams says Microsoft isn’t giving up on Intel altogether. But if the new device do make it to market, it could be a big deal for the wider PC market.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6 (with Intel)

AMD is already making inroads into the laptop and desktop PC space thanks to the company’s Ryzen processors which offer competitive pricing and performance when compared with their equivalent Intel chips.

A Microsoft design win would be big news, since Surface devices tend to be premium products that Microsoft pitches as offering best-in-class performance for Windows laptops, tablets, or whatever you want to call the Surface Studio. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more PC makers opt for AMD chips if and when Microsoft starts shipping some AMD-powered Surface devices.

As for the rumored Surface Pro tablet with an ARM processor, that may be even more important… for Microsoft, if not for other PC makers.

Microsoft have been pushing Windows on ARM for the past two years, but so far most of the Windows 10 notebooks and tablets to ship with the software have offered extra-long battery life, always-connected capabilities thanks to integrated 4G LTE and… pretty lousy performance.

Qualcomm says its upcoming Snapdragon 8cx processor should change that by offering Intel Core i5-like performance. But according to Brad Sams, Microsoft is working with Qualcomm on a custom system-on-a-chip code-named “Excalibur,” which may be better optimized for Windows 10.

Sams rightly notes that if Microsoft isn’t ready to ship first-party Windows on ARM software soon, it’s going to get harder and harder for the company to convince third-party device makers to do it… which could make the years of R&D that went into creating Window on ARM look like a waste.

This is a problem Microsoft hadn’t really had in the past. Historically the company was known only for its software and not for making PC hardware. But when Microsoft started making its own computers earlier this decade, it positioned the Surface lineup as the exemplar of what it thought a modern Windows computer should look like. And right now that lineup doesn’t include any ARM-based devices.

Sams says Microsoft may also have new Intel-powered hardware on the way including new Surface Book 2-in-1 laptops and a new Surface Pro 7 tablet with an Intel processor and a USB-C port (a first for the Surface Pro lineup).

The next Microsoft hardware event is expected to take place in October.

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13 replies on “Report: Microsoft’s next Surface devices could include AMD, ARM hardware”

  1. I am eager to see very thin ARM devices with the surface form factor. I like the surface pro very much, but find it a bit too bulky and heavy to use as a tablet. Windows would be great on a thin ARM device, although I’d like to see a more touch-friendly tablet mode (more like Windows 8.1!)…

    Given Windows 10’s current tablet mode, I’d almost rather have a powerful Android tablet in the surface form factor. I’ve wondered why we haven’t seen a good Android tablet with a surface-style kickstand since the old Jide Remix…seems like a natural fit to me.

  2. Do you know how much does a new battery to the Surface Pro costs?

    For a comparison, replacing an iPad’s battery costs $100 (even if it’s the top model 12.9″ iPad Pro) and for a MacBook Pro it costs $200. For a MacBook Air it’s $130. The Surface Pro is an interesting product for sure. But doing your computing on one just doesn’t seem like a financially sound decision to me.

    1. > Sorry, this comment no longer possible to edit

      And as usual, I’m unable to edit my typo 1 second after posting my comment.

      1. I ran in to this problem yesterday…couldn’t edit a single typo…and I hit the edit button within 10 seconds of posting. Doesn’t make sense…ESPECIALLY on this site…Liliputing has more typos than the rest of the tech sites I read put together. Brad…Love your site…but you know it’s true! Smile!

        1. Liliputing also has fewer editors than most tech sites you probably read — so please let me know when you see typos so I can fix them. 🙂

          As for the edit button, I’ll see if I can do some troubleshooting. The comment system is set to let users edit comments for up to an hour after they’re posted, but if that’s not working then I may have to do some digging to find a solution… I’m a full time journalist, but only a part time web developer (at best).

          1. Brad, why don’t you test it? It’s quite easy. you take an old post, for example the one where you announced the new commenting system, log out or fire up an Incognito window and see if you can edit a fresh comment you make? 🙂

          2. Oh, I’ve tested and confirmed that it’s not working. What I haven’t had time to do is figure out a way to make it work without completely messing up the entire comment system for all users. That’s still a work in progress, and honestly this isn’t a top priority. While it would be nice to let regular readers edit comments, I don’t want to make it too easy… Because that could lead to a flood of spammers posting reasonable looking comments and then later editing them to be spam when I’m not paying attention.

          3. Brad, thank you for making a functional (if not fully featured) commenting structure happen. I’ve had the same edit problem, but it’s been pleasant to find very little spam here. Good luck tinkering!

  3. Finally. This will put some pressure on the other manufacturers to come up with proper ARM implementations of Windows.
    Hopefully, this one will have 5G out of the gate.

    1. We don’t want/need either 4G or 5G on our tablets and laptops.
      The monthly costs are too damn high. Until they make it cheaper, mobile cloud computing/connectivity for your PC is going to be a rich man’s luxury (or a traveller’s necessity), but hardly essential to the layman.

      But I agree, we need more improvements/competition in the PC market.
      Having an overclocked Snapdragon, an underclocked Core M, standard Core i7, and an overclocked Ryzen-APU is the possible range.

      1. The cost is high only if you’re in the US and maybe a few other countries. So “we” should be replaced with “I”.

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