As Intel’s advanced nodes are chronically behind the schedule, and Apple’s in-house M1 chips adopted ARM’s architecture, mobile chip designers like Qualcomm and MediaTek, both also powered by ARM’s cores, have started to eye the market for desktop processors, especially when growth in the mobile sector has slowed.
Qualcomm, for example, has started releasing desktop processors compatible with Microsoft’s Windows operating system since 2017, alongside a series of partnerships with desktop computer brands such as Lenovo, Acer and HP. Qualcomm’s acquisition of NUVIA, completed this year, marks another step toward the market.
MediaTek, Qualcomm’s main competitor, has adopted a different strategy than Qualcomm.
Despite having already released processors for Chromebook as early as 2015, sales performance only improved as the pandemic drove up the global demand for laptops. According to an analyst, as of 2020, Chromebook already took approximately 15% of the laptop market, in which MediaTek supplied 7% of Chromebook’s processors. In comparison, Qualcomm only had a 1% share in the Chromebook processor market.
Despite the success, Chromebook’s lower price range and its lower demand for processing power have constrained MediaTek’s growth in the sector. Addressing the challenge, MediaTek has avoided direct competition with other leading chip design companies like Intel, Nvidia and AMD.
On the contrary, MediaTek opted to cooperate with them, taking a supplementary role in the desktop processor market via a variety of products. For instance, MediaTek has supplied its modem chipsets to Intel’s 5G laptops, and it is also collaborating with Nvidia to introduce the latter’s GPUs into Chromebook. The strategy echoes MediaTek’s preference to be “the second best” as it entered the mobile chip market, and will likely continue to characterize MediaTek’s future course in the desktop CPU market.