Microsoft is expected to release new versions of the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop and Surface Go later this year and into 2020. While early rumors have suggested conservative changes to these systems, this latest report claims that Microsoft will challenge its long-time partnership with Intel and bring competing chips to Surface devices for the first time.
Microsoft is said to be testing multiple ARM-based systems and working closely with Qualcomm to create a custom 8cx chip (codenamed Excalibur) that's optimized for Windows and can act as a reference device for other laptop vendors. AMD, Intel's closest rival, may also get a chance to prove itself, with Microsoft reportedly bringing a 12 nanometer SoC (codenamed Picasso) that combines a Zen+ Core with a Vega GPU to one configuration of the next Surface Laptop.
The Petri report claims that Microsoft will start using ARM-based chips in the Surface Po 7 because its relationship with Intel is "on shaky ground." While we haven't been able to confirm this report, the past few months have seen Intel face CPU shortages while it's struggled to manufacture smaller, more powerful CPUs.
Based on what we've seen from Qualcomm-powered devices so far, ARM-based laptops don't offer nearly as much power as Intel CPUs, but they enable slim and lightweight designs, long battery life and integrated LTE connectivity, a feature mysteriously missing from the Surface Pro 6.
Microsoft will continue to offer Intel chips in its laptops, so you can expect to see Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs in the next Pro and Laptop devices. We're interested to see if Microsoft chooses older 8th Gen processors or opts for the new 10th Gen Ice Lake CPUs for its upcoming devices.
Apart from the new chip variants, the upcoming Pro 7 is said to have a similar design to the Pro 6 but will finally include a USB-C port (though no Thunderbolt 3). If you were hoping for something more radical change, then you might have to wait for Microsoft's dual-screen foldable Surface device, which is rumored to be arriving in the first half of 2020.
We have reached out to Microsoft for comment on these claims and will update this article once we hear back.