Google optimizing Chrome for Windows 11 on ARM could be the shot in the arm Snapdragon PCs need

 Google Chrome on PC.
Google Chrome on PC.

What you need to know

  • Google Chrome now has a version that's optimized for ARM-powered Windows PCs.

  • The news comes ahead of the launch of the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite process, which will power several Windows 11 on ARM PCs.

  • Chrome is the most popular browser among Windows users, making native ARM support key to the advancement of Windows 11 on ARM.

Google just launched a version of Chrome that's fully optimized for Windows PCs powered by ARM processors. Up to this point, Windows 11 on ARM PCs have had to either run Chrome through emulation or use an ARM-optimized browser, such as Microsoft Edge. 2024 is expected to be a big year for ARM computing, thanks in large part to Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon X Elite processor.

Google quietly started testing a version of Chrome optimized for ARM earlier this year. The Canary Channel release excited many, since Chrome natively supporting ARM could deliver a significant boost to Windows 11 on ARM.

While Microsoft Edge is a fine browser and has had an ARM version for years, the reality is that many people will never switch away from Chrome. Over 65% of people on desktops use Google Chrome, according to Statcounter. For Windows 11 on ARM to have any chance of becoming mainstream, it needs Google and the Chrome browser on board.

"We’ve designed Chrome browser to be fast, secure and easy to use across desktops and mobile devices, and we’re always looking for ways to bring this experience to more people,” said Google Senior Vice President Hiroshi Lockheimer. “Our close collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies will help ensure that Chrome users get the best possible experience while browsing the Web on current ARM-compatible PCs."

Qualcomm shared that it's seen "a dramatic performance improvement in the Speedometer 2.0 benchmark" when testing the ARM-optimized version of Chrome on Snapdragon X Elite reference devices.

The year of Windows on ARM

Snapdragon X Elite cinebench
Snapdragon X Elite cinebench

Windows on ARM has been around for quite a while. It was first launched in 2017 and has improved gradually over time. Microsoft has put a lot of work into Windows on ARM but arguably the biggest improvement for the platform will come from third-party developers. No matter how good Windows 11 can run on ARM or how optimized Microsoft's apps are, the platform is dead until third-party developers embrace it.

Luckily for those who dream of a flagship Windows 11 on ARM PC, third-party developers are finally on board. Google's ARM-optimized version of Chrome is only the latest big-name app to get optimized for ARM. WhatsApp, Photoshop, 7zip, and many other apps are either already optimized for ARM or have ARM versions on the way.

In his piece explaining why you shouldn't buy the Surface Pro 10 or Surface Laptop 6 for business, our Senior Editor Zac Bowden explained why 2024 could be the year Windows on ARM comes into its own. Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon X Elite looks like it will compete with Apple silicon in terms of power and efficiency. Microsoft will fully embrace that chip with the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 (non-business). Third-party developers getting on board could be the final ingredient Windows on ARM needs after stewing for seven years.