With Windows 8 we now have the power of ARM support, which should take Windows beyond traditional desktop/laptop environments due to the highly mobile nature of ARM. While many companies are considering tablets that operate on an ARM processor and utilize Windows 8, Qualcomm is hard at work on the first Snapdragon-powered ARM Windows 8 PC.
Qualcomm is already working with Microsoft to ensure that computers running on the next-gen Windows 8 will be able to run smoothly on its high-powered chips, which sacrifice a little power for more energy efficiency and the ability to always remain connected. Qualcomm’s offerings for Windows 8 will start arriving sometime after September of 2012.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips combine application processing with a cellular radio, which is typically found in popular smartphones, tablets, and other similar mobile technology. Despite the fact that ARM usually isn’t found in the standard PC world, Qualcomm thinks it could certainly have a place there by directly competing against x86 processors such as those by Intel.
Critics seem skeptical about the effectiveness of an ARM-based desktop PC, and I am personally inclined to agree. Windows 8 machines running on ARM will NOT work with traditional x86 programs that were made for Windows 7, XP, and other legacy versions of Windows. This means no Photoshop, Office, or even a desktop mode at all.
This Metro-only design works fine for tablets and even possibly netbooks, but will it really work well for a PC?
Qualcomm’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Mollenkopf doesn’t believe this will be a real problem. Many of the key applications will be re-written for ARM, he claims and many other popular programs are not available in the cloud and can be accessed via a net browser.
The cloud is starting to have real potential for applications but it certainly doesn’t offer the power of desktop applications- at least not yet. What about major application vendors re-writing their software for Metro? Considering most ARM Windows 8 machines will be consumption devices like tablets, I just can’t see major productivity programs making this switch but I can’t say what the future will bring for sure.
Mollenkopf also notes that both the iPad and iPhone don’t offer legacy software support and yet this hasn’t stopped them from being runaway successes. Of course these are smartphones and tablets, not PCs. If Apple makes a successful iOS-version that runs on its desktop machines and doesn’t offer OSX software support, then there will be merit to this comparison.
As it stands, comparing iPads to ARM PCs is like comparing apples to oranges (pun intended).
Earlier today, Qualcomm expanded its portfolio of Snapdragon chips. The company said it has expanded the capabilities and performance of its S1 chips, the designation it uses to mark low-end processors. The company said the chips will help the company take advantage of the growing demand for smartphones in emerging markets, where people view their handset as their sole connection to the Internet.
Unless some business really gets behind Qualcomm that means that a desktop/laptop PC running Snapdragon will find it hard to find customers in the business sector and will be stuck catering the casual crowd. The casual crowd spends good money and this isn’t necessarily a bad decision, but if the Snapdragon PC is in fact a desktop machine I find it hard to believe it will find mass success.
When ATOM came out it was catered towards the casual netbook crowd, but it was also offered in desktop machines. Atom is useful for small desktops but considering it cost as much as a more powerful desktop PC, it really hasn’t taken off that successfully when compared to netbooks.
So can a dual-core ARM processor that often conducts a high premium really compete against traditional PCs? Only time will tell if success can be achieved. What do you think of a Snapdragon PC? Is this a recipe for success or doomed to fail? Share your thoughts below!