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Qualcomm hints at Snapdragon-based laptops

Qualcomm hints at Snapdragon-based laptops

Intel's Ultrabooks - and their predecessor, Apple's MacBook Air - could get some serious competition in the form of ARM-based laptops powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4.

While Intel's Ultrabook spec gains weight, the competition is slimming down with mobile giant Qualcomm announcing plans to produce chips for ultra-slim Windows 8 laptops.

Qualcomm's a major player in the low-power high-performance chip market: it's ARM-derivative designs can be found in numerous smartphones and tablets, where the company's focus on highly integrated system-on-chip designs pay dividends for its customers.

It's relatively unknown in the world of laptop computing, however - and that's something the company is looking to change. As a result, its next-generation Snapdragon processors are going to be powering a new wave of ultra-portable laptops in the very near future.

Qualcomm's Rob Chandok has gone on record with PC World as stating that devices based around his company's Snapdragon S4 processor will be 'much lighter than what Intel calls an Ultrabook.'

Those are fighting words, but they come at a good time for Qualcomm: its next-generation Snapdragon S4 chip is making the move to a 28nm process size, at which point its quad Cortex-based ARM processors and multi-core graphics architecture can run at a significantly improved speed for a lower power draw.

Intel is also doing its part to help, giving its blessing to an extension of the Ultrabook spec that allows a 14-inch display and a much thicker body than first-generation products. With Intel blurring the lines between Ultrabooks and common or garden ultra-portable laptops, there's certainly room in the market for something even thinner.

But just how thin could you make a Snapdragon-based laptop? For a clue, we can turn to the nearest device on the market today: the Asus Transformer Prime. Coupled with its keyboard base station, the Transformer Prime is a handily laptop-shaped device using Nvidia's Tegra 3 ARM-based processor and measures just 8mm thick for the tablet portion.

While it's true that a laptop has a few components missing from the Transformer Prime's 8mm thickness - namely a keyboard and trackpad - it's likely that the device of which Chandok speaks could potentially come in at a thickness of around 10mm. With Intel's Ultrabook spec requiring laptops marketed as such to be no more than 18mm thick, that's a serious space saving to be had.

We won't be seeing a Qualcomm-powered laptop for a while yet, though: the company is waiting for the launch of Microsoft's Windows 8, which is the first mainstream operating system from the company to support the ARM instruction set architecture. With Microsoft still not providing a firm launch date, buyers would do well not to hold their breath.

13 Comments

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schmidtbag 3rd April 2012, 15:31 Quote
"it's likely that the device of which Chandok speaks could potentially come in at a thickness of around 10mm. With Intel's Ultrabook spec requiring laptops marketed as such to be no more than 18mm thick, that's a serious space saving to be had."

however impressive that is, i don't care about 8mm of extra thickness. in fact, i wouldn't care if i had a laptop that was 38mm thick (including the screen, while closed), as long as it wasn't too heavy. if the laptop can fit in a backpack, if i don't have to worry about it snapping in half, and if it can always perform at or near its highest potential then that is all i really care about.

i am excited to see this quad-core ARM cpu though, i like the competitiveness of ARM lately.
rollo 3rd April 2012, 16:07 Quote
Doesn't matter how good it is no native windows program's can run on arm

Most ultrabook owners use it for typing and excel stuff are they really gonna give up ms office for some arm program that may not be compatible with there work computers.

Not sure I care how thin a product is

1.5ghz quad arm
Vs
2ghz + intel quad

Apple MacBook air sales are not huge ( less than 5% of apples total profit ) not sure why snap dragon wants to be in a market with such few sales ( acer and Asus were both below 100k for there 2011 model from a revised down 300k, 600k total sales is still shocking )

375-400 mil laptops sold last year according to tech review less than 5% ultrabooks 4% of that to apple

Finding total sales for ultrabooks is hardwork
Gusseteer 3rd April 2012, 16:27 Quote
Fair point rollo, I won't be going down the windows on arm route because of the lack of compatibility with existing windows software.

But there have been rumours that Windows on ARM ships with Word and Excel. I bet Windows 8 for x86 and x64 doesn't come with Word and Excel!
schmidtbag 3rd April 2012, 16:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by rollo
Doesn't matter how good it is no native windows program's can run on arm

Most ultrabook owners use it for typing and excel stuff are they really gonna give up ms office for some arm program that may not be compatible with there work computers.

If you run linux, you can (eventually, it's still in development). In general, linux is far more prepared for ARM than windows.
Quote:
Apple MacBook air sales are not huge ( less than 5% of apples total profit ) not sure why snap dragon wants to be in a market with such few sales ( acer and Asus were both below 100k for there 2011 model from a revised down 300k, 600k total sales is still shocking )

375-400 mil laptops sold last year according to tech review less than 5% ultrabooks 4% of that to apple

Finding total sales for ultrabooks is hardwork

That's because macbook air is incredibly expensive for a piece of crap computer. Nobody wants to spend over $1000 on <$300 hardware. Also, a common complaint with it (as well as other netbooks) was the lack of a DVD drive which IMO is a stupid thing to complain about.

I don't think selling an ultrabook is that hard, but much like both you and I have said, there isn't really a compelling reason to have a device that is so ridiculously thin and probably fragile because of it.
Fruitloaf 3rd April 2012, 17:01 Quote
I'm really looking forward to hopefully a glut of transformer prime like laptops in the next few years. I really could do with something that was most of the time a tablet for comfortable light weight content reading but some of the time I need to switch to KB+mouse.

Android doesn't cut it at the moment in terms of desktop apps but I'm hoping that Win 8 or a *nix flavor changes that.
runbmp 3rd April 2012, 17:18 Quote
I don't see what's so ultra about ultra books, other than Ultra fragile, Ultra under performing, and ultra useless.

I think its reaching a point where its a tablet with a keyboard... and those well... don't get me started... lol
schmidtbag 3rd April 2012, 17:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fruitloaf
I'm really looking forward to hopefully a glut of transformer prime like laptops in the next few years. I really could do with something that was most of the time a tablet for comfortable light weight content reading but some of the time I need to switch to KB+mouse.

Android doesn't cut it at the moment in terms of desktop apps but I'm hoping that Win 8 or a *nix flavor changes that.

nearly everything (except for some proprietary stuff like adobe flash and skype) that works on x86 also works on ARM for linux. linux to me is very usable as a desktop OS (it's my main OS on all my computers except 1) and it has been ARM-ready for a very long time. Very recently, a lot of the android code has been merged into the main linux kernel, so you might be seeing android apps running on linux somewhat soon.
Phil Rhodes 3rd April 2012, 18:06 Quote
Battery life matters, once it gets below an inch thick the size really doesn't.
Bonedoctor 4th April 2012, 00:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag

I don't think selling an ultrabook is that hard, but much like both you and I have said, there isn't really a compelling reason to have a device that is so ridiculously thin and probably fragile because of it.

Actually there is a point. I have an averagely weighted Sony VAIO which I purchased as a sound compromise between a desktop PC and something I could live with for work when I'm not at home (inc database programming).

My wife has now started uni and wants a laptop for her requirements. She tried to use mine for a couple of days but felt "like her arm was being ripped off" by the end of the day.

So whilst you or I may not see a need, there is definitely one out there and we are actively looking at very lightwieght laptops at the moment. As for fragility, if you have a decent bag for them, you should do fine.
Paradigm Shifter 4th April 2012, 14:02 Quote
I don't believe it will be a terribly long time before Microsoft ports Office to ARM. If they're presenting Windows 8 on ARM, it makes sense that their other really 'killer' application would go with it - the only two things that keep me staying with Windows are a) games and b) Office. Linux can't do much on the games front (and no, don't point me at CrossOver) while DirectX rules the roost. I've tried various different linux Office-equivalents over the years, and they just don't hold a candle. For basic document editing Abiword does everything I need, and for basic spreadsheets Gnumeric does the same... but when working with complex documents, none of them hold a candle, unfortunately... as much as I'd like them to.
Gareth Halfacree 4th April 2012, 14:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paradigm Shifter
I don't believe it will be a terribly long time before Microsoft ports Office to ARM.
They don't need to: Office 365 made that unnecessary. In fact, it's now perfectly possible to do 99 per cent of administrative office tasks (Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, Excel) on any system with a web browser, regardless of operating system or - indeed - instruction set architecture.
GeorgeStorm 4th April 2012, 14:13 Quote
I use LibreOffice a fair amount since I'm not going to pay for Microsoft Office again. Find it works fine for my needs, the odd glitch here and there, but nothing groundbreaking, certainly nothing bad enough to make me want to fork out money.
schmidtbag 4th April 2012, 23:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonedoctor

My wife has now started uni and wants a laptop for her requirements. She tried to use mine for a couple of days but felt "like her arm was being ripped off" by the end of the day.

So whilst you or I may not see a need, there is definitely one out there and we are actively looking at very lightwieght laptops at the moment. As for fragility, if you have a decent bag for them, you should do fine.

I'm not sure what uni is (unless you mean university). No offense to your wife but unless your laptop weighs more than 10lbs, maybe she should either work out more, find a decent bag to put it in, or stop complaining and be thankful she's got someone nice enough to give her something to use.

I'm not saying you're wrong btw, because there is a point where laptops become excessively heavy or big. But, IMO, weight and especially thinness should not be the motive to buy a laptop. Size in general is a huge factor, but there is such thing as too thin.
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