People before business. Business before technology. Technology making people’s lives better.

ARM processors may not be a familiar term, but they are likely a part of your daily life. While only a fraction of people own computers built with the ARM processor, most of us carry one in our hands every day. This is the same type of chip that has powered our cell phones for many years.

Why does this matter to the business or personal tech user? This means that we will have more powerful tools with less power consumption. It also means we need to understand the importance of not buying technology that will age out in a faster cycle. Added features, longer lifecycle, less power consumption, and more extended use per charge are good things to consider.

We will look at how the market is shifting and see how that helps us understand the advantages and how to make better choices about what we choose for technology in our next purchases.

Why is now a special moment?

This week, Microsoft held its annual developer conference, Microsoft Build. One core theme was no surprise: AI. However, there was an unexpected twist in the mix. Microsoft introduced a new standard for personal computers that run Windows, labeled Copilot+.

The hardware that they announced was able to compete with Apple’s personal computers, which have been packing the M Series processors. What makes the M Series processors unique was driven by Apple’s pivot away from Intel to their ARM-based processors. These impressive processors pack powerful processing with less energy consumption. Microsoft uses Snapdragon processors to drive Windows PCs to equal or pass the M3 chips in current Apple personal computers.

The special moment is not that Windows hardware can compete with Apple’s offerings. What makes the moment special is ARM’s reach in the top two personal computer systems. The Intel/ARM style processor has just lost its position as king of the hill. What Intel did decades ago to the Motorola processor is echoed in what ARM chips are doing to the AMD/Intel market today.

This is the story of personal computer processors unless something happens with Intel/AMD to recapture the market.

Motorola > Intel/AMD > ARM

To ARM or not to ARM, That is the question.

This doesn’t mean everybody should stop buying Intel/AMD computers today or in the near future. Many applications will not run on the different core chip processors. As consumers, we need to recognize that, if not today, shortly, this will be a better deal in most cases. It is a vital question today, and we have yet to pick an immediate best broad market choice. It depends on your situation. What changed is that we did not suggest that most people stop and answer if they should get the new design or not just a week ago.

The consumer is not the only one who needs to pay attention here. Hint: This was announced at the key annual developer conference for the world’s largest operating system for personal and individual business computers. If your solutions do not run on this platform, your sustainable value will fade in proportion to how long you wait to ensure they will work on the new systems.

Microsoft will try to achieve some magic under the hood to make as much Intel/AMD-targeted software run as possible. Trusting Microsoft to solve this problem is a bad business or career strategy. Wasn’t it Ronald Regan who said, “Trust but Verify”? The wisdom of that statement wasn’t aimed at technology or business, but it is wisdom that applies, and we should engage with it.

Who are the players?

The Raspberry Pi was the first well-known player in the personal computer market. ARM chips rose to fame and were funded by the mobile market. As mobile devices gained more power, the chance of entering the personal computer market rose.

While the Raspberry Pi came first, and Microsoft had been playing with ARM-based laptops, they had yet to gain a strong footprint in the market as a personal computer. Apple was primed to be the game changer because the iPhone and the iPad were based on robust but low-power consumption ARM-based chips. Apple also wrote the operating system that ran on the chips. They had the ideal opportunity to be the first mover to gain traction in the ARM-based computers of the future.

Microsoft had the vision before Apple made the dream something the market accepted. Apple opened the eyes of the market at large, but none of us expected the whole next generation of Microsoft to be based on Snapdragon processors. When Microsoft announced hardware ready to run Copilot+, they posted solutions on their site from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung. 

HP claims a battery life of 26 hours, while the rest claim 22 or less. The lowest is 14 hours. LOL, are we calling 14 hours of battery life low battery life? I remember when we were amazed that a laptop could run for two hours without running out of power.

What about the AI?

Oh, yes, the AI. We know not all the hype is real, but we also know this is the next generation that will move us beyond “Hey Google,” “Siri,” and the better-than-nothing level of AI we have settled for. The next-level AI, like all of Microsoft Copilot solutions, all of Google’s Gemini solutions, and all the AI outside those two, will deliver value far beyond the legacy voice assistants we have used for years.

The new processors have processors inside processors. What started as multiple processors inside a single computer chip working together has become a mix of different types of processors inside a single chip. The Snapdragon describes its AI-oriented chip section as an NPU chip. I cannot quickly translate what this means other than potential, but this chip can execute 45 trillion operations per second. It does this with energy performance that doesn’t make the battery claims impossible.

To research that further, go to Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs page. Apple has yet to share what is next, but their conference is coming up in a couple of weeks, so we will see how that mixes in shortly.

When Apple hits the stage and shares “One More Thing” in its AI rise to fame, we can be confident it will depend on ARM chips to make it happen.