In a turn of events that I would have never expected, it looks like MediaTek has pulled ahead of Qualcomm to become the #1 ARM chip maker in the world according to a report by Counterpoint Research. With a reported total of more than 100 million smartphones sold with MediaTek silicon in just the third quarter of 2020, MediaTek edged past their chief competitor in the space – Qualcomm – for the first time ever.
There are multiple factors at play, here, but this is mostly due to the emergence of the low-end smartphone and the traction those handsets have gained in light of the global pandemic. As budgets are strained, more buyers are looking for affordable options that just work, and phones with MediaTek’s more-affordable chips inside have been a big part of that movement.
Why this matters for Chromebooks
As we’ve reported on multiple occasions, there are multiple Chrome OS devices in the works that leverage MediaTek silicon, and two of their recently-announced chips are being built 100% for Chromebooks. Hardware/software integration is crucial for ARM chips to be competitive in any device, so we are looking forward to seeing what MediaTek’s MT8192 and MT8195 chips will bring to the table from a more-integrated perspective as both of these SoCs are built with Chromebooks as the primary target.
After all, with Apple having such success with their own in-house chips in the M1 Macbooks and Mac Mini, it only makes sense for Google to seek deeper collaboration on Chrome OS devices with ARM chips inside. ARM provides far more flexibility from a hardware perspective than Intel chips do when it is leveraged properly, so if Google is serious about getting ARM-powered Chromebooks to really take advantage of all the processing power available, they need a partner that takes the segment seriously and cares enough to make chips that do all the things Chromebooks need.
For now – at least until Google decides to make their own chips – that partner looks to be MediaTek. Sure, we have the Snapdragon 7c Chromebooks coming (including a tablet I’m extremely excited for), but I think the better performers will likely end up being the devices that come with the highly-customized MediaTek MT8192 and MT8195 later in 2021. Being built from the ground up for Chrome OS, these chips should be positioned well to be great performers with fantastic battery life inside thin, light chassis.
With MediaTek clearly dominating in the phone space, there’s no real worry or pressure that they won’t deliver a solid product for Chromebook use or that it won’t be fully supported the way ARM chips need to be for longer periods of time. Instead, this growth that MediaTek is seeing means increased revenue, increased abilities, and increased notoriety for consumers. While many buyers may not know the name MediaTek at this point, it stands to reason that they soon will. With more money in the bank, more experience than ever, and a continuing improvement on what MediaTek already delivers, I’m extremely excited by what these MediaTek-powered Chromebooks will bring to the table in 2021. MediaTek has shown the tenacity to grow in the cut-throat smartphone market, so just imagine what they’ll do in the far-less-competitive Chromebooks space.