Qualcomm is mostly known as a mobile brand, and for good reason. Their ARM-based CPUs power many of today’s hottest smartphones and tablets, and the company is using that success to bring further innovation to market. The next generation of its speedy Snapdragon line, for example, is going to bring quad-core CPUs to bear, running at 2.5GHz with quad-core GPUs.
The new chips will offer devices 1.5 times current performance while using 65% less power than today’s ARM cores. While the quad-core chips are undoubtedly stealing the headlines – see above – the company will be producing one- and two-core variants. All of them will be targeting mobile devices, but as the chip architectures start to mature, companies are setting their sights higher.
Qualcomm’s chipsets, compared to a traditional device, don’t take up very much room. They also pack a lot into those small spaces – in addition to that CPU, there’s Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, FM radio and more. Built on a 28nm manufacturing process, these guys sip power compared to x86 CPUs.
The problem to date, however, has been software. With most of these chips offering compatibility with Linux or proprietary operating systems, their use in the consumer and business space has been limited to special installations.
That might change thanks to Microsoft. Windows 8, which Steve Ballmer has come out and said is the riskiest product bet yet, was recently revealed to have an ARM-compatible fork in the works. For the first time, some of these efficient CPUs could be partnered up with a powerful, user-friendly, non-mobile OS.
Given the recent resurgence of the CPU race, Qualcomm and their brethren should have Intel and AMD worried. It’s no longer just the chip giant and the underdog; NVIDIA will soon be making their own CPUs as part of the expanded Tegra lineup, and they’re out for blood. So while your Dell desktop today runs Windows 7 on a Core i7, your Dell microputer in 2016 might be running Windows 9 on a six-core ARM CPU.
If nothing else, the new competition will force traditional chipmakers to work harder, to innovate better and to prove their worth in the market. As usual, competition in the tech industry is nothing less than great for the consumer.