I don’t know about the rest of you, but when it comes to ARM laptops, I just can’t see what possible advantage they might have. Sure, Qualcomm tells you they have some major key points that set them apart but does it really make any difference?
What are these key differences that Qualcomm shines at? First off, a S4 chip has a quad-core processor, built-in modem, and can allow for designs that are so small that they put the Ultrabook to shame. Not to mention, ARM has the ability to really stretch battery life to levels that are practically unheard of.
Qualcomm is desperately hoping that its system-on-a-chip architecture sets it apart from the current WinTEL landscape and that its integrated modem with 4G connectivity proves to attract business users that need to consume tons of mobile data on the go.
All of this boils down to a device that sounds pretty amazing, right? I’d agree, except one problem, this is ARM we are talking about. No, I don’t hate ARM, in fact it is without a doubt the superior choice when it comes to mobile processors for tablets and smartphones, despite Intel (and recently AMD) efforts to compete.
The problem is that x86 is not only faster but has full compatibility with millions of existing applications and drivers built for Windows. These applications and drivers have to be re-written from scratch to play nice with ARM laptops.
That wouldn’t be the end of the world for some companies, if not for the second point, if ARM laptops follow the same rules as Windows 8 ARM tablets than desktop mode will be a highly locked down environment that only supports a few Microsoft made applications like Office. This means that unless a fully Metro-made version of apps like Photoshop are created, well, you probably get the point.
The other advantage that Intel laptops have is that the are better protected from possible Windows 8 Metro failure. I know, Microsoft hopes that everyone loves their new UI and doesn’t want things like desktop applications and start orbs, but this probably won’t go as smoothly as they hope (at least that seems to be the case from what we’ve seen in the Beta testing community).
If it turns out that Metro is awful, Intel users have two choices – they can either use desktop mode exclusively and avoid Metro in Windows 8, or they can even downgrade back to Windows 7. ARM tablet users? They are stuck with Windows 8 and Metro, since most apps will exist only in Metro with limited desktop support.
Of course, most Metro complaints have been from the desktop and laptop testers, not those using tablets. Why? Because as a touch interface, Metro isn’t bad at all, most just don’t like its marriage to the desktop environment. So what can Qualcomm do to make sure Metro on its laptops isn’t that bad?
Require that all Qualcomm ARM laptops have a touchscreen, period. With a touchscreen, many of the problems with Metro go away, and if this is also a hybrid that ‘turns into’ a tablet than its appeal level goes up even further. The downside of course is that such a device will not come cheap.
If a touchscreen ARM thinner-than-ultrabook laptops could come in around $900-$1200 would you consider one? Do you think that ARM has a chance at becoming an active niche in the laptop (and desktop) world? Share your thoughts below.