Qualcomm this week revealed some ambitious plans for its Snapdragon S4 processors, highlighted by a demo at Computex that showcased the ARM-based System-on-a-Chip (SoC) running Windows RT.
The chip manufacturer also plans to move beyond the mobile device market with Snapdragon and into television, according to media reports. Qualcomm has designated a high-end version of the SoC, the new Snapdragon S4 Prime, for televisions and set-top boxes that promise to bring the "mobile experience" to TV, according to the company.
The S4 Prime is just one of four new Snapdragon products, each intended for different kinds of devices. There's also the Snapdragon S4 Pro, which Qualcomm says is powerful enough to throttle up ultrathin laptops as well as smartphones and tablets, the S4 Plus, a processor that's intended for the midrange to the upper end of the mobile device market, and the entry-level S4 Play.
It remains to be seen how Qualcomm's effort to brand its various Snapdragon flavours plays out with consumers - PC buyers may be inclined to learn precisely which variety of chip is powering their next machine. But so far, there's only murky evidence that those in the market for a new smartphone feel the same way.
Qualcomm's big news at Computex, however, was the announcement that Snapdragon is very much ready for Windows RT. Microsoft's next-generation Windows 8 operating system is set to be released later this year and with it comes RT, the first consumer OS from the software giant that's built specifically to run on a non-x86 instruction set.
Previously known as Windows on ARM, Windows RT delivers the Windows 8 Metro-style interface that Microsoft is banking on to finally start penetrating the exploding mobile device market after years of watching Apple (smartphones, tablets, media players) and Google (smartphones) dominate that arena.
Qualcomm built a reference tablet for Computex that sports a dual-core, 1.5-GHz Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 (apparently, the Prime/Pro/Plus/Play branding effort hasn't kicked in yet) to run the Windows RT Release Preview at booth demos, according to PCWorld. That SoC will be the first Qualcomm chip to be used in Windows RT devices when they appear, a company rep told the tech journal.
The MSM8960 package has built-in 3G and 4G LTE modems. However, those will have to find another spot on the circuit board when Qualcomm comes out with quad-core Snapdragon S4 chips for Windows RT later on, according to the chipmaker, because the extra CPU cores will be hogging up that space.
Snapdragon has proven to be a highly successful product line for Qualcomm-to the point that earlier this year the company reported that it's been unable to produce the chips fast enough to keep up with demand from mobile device makers.