Some people may have been surprised when Microsoft announced the Surface Go tablet would run on an Intel Pentium Gold processor rather than an ARM chipset. With Windows 10 on ARM devices starting to hit the market, the decision seemed to make little sense for the company's strategy. But it looks like the Redmond giant did want to include an ARM processor inside the device, but Intel stopped that from happening.
According to a report by Paul Thurrott, Microsoft had plans for the device to run Windows 10 on ARM, but Intel put a lot of pressure on the company to use its own processors instead. Microsoft wanted to create a device that was affordable, light, and quiet, and the Pentium Gold that's now inside the Surface Go was the only viable replacement for an ARM processor, seeing as it's both fanless and relatively cheap.
It's not all too surprising that Intel wanted to have their own processors on the Surface Go. While the Surface family is nowhere near the top sellers among Windows devices, they are likely the most well-known ones.
In many ways, using an Intel processor instead of a Qualcomm chipset may be advantageous to Microsoft and its customers. The performance is a bit more predictable and even across all kinds of apps, while an ARM chipset would lose a lot of performance using the emulation layer to run x86 programs.
That comes at the expense of battery life, however, as well the ability to stay always on. It also further tarnishes the reputation of Windows 10 on ARM, which hasn't been greatly received so far. By forgoing ARM chipset, Microsoft may have given the impression that it's not fully confident in its latest efforts.
That's not to say the company has actually given up on those efforts. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 should power new Windows 10 devices coming later this year, and rumors point to a significantly more powerful chipset from Qualcomm coming in the future, aimed at the always-connected PC market. Maybe by then, Microsoft will release its own ARM-powered device.