Anirudh RegidiDec 09, 2016 14:36:23 IST
The PC space seems permanently on the verge of dying out; but nobody seems to be able to make that killing blow. The latest attempt at nailing the PC’s coffin down comes from Microsoft, which now seems intent on pushing Windows 10 to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform.
What’s going on? Has the PC really lost its charm? Is Intel quivering in its boots at the announcement?
To be honest, I think not. PCs aren’t in as much demand as they were a decade ago, that’s inescapable. But this is also because we’re seeing the proliferation of mobile devices and a decline in the need for high-performance computing, at least, the traditional kind of high-performance computing that a PC offers.
Not all of us regularly edit video, create animations and render 3D objects. What most of us want from a PC is a browser, video playback, maybe an office suite and great battery life. The ability to edit images is always a bonus and of course, you can’t ignore the convenience of simply plugging in a pen-drive and dealing with local files.
I’m not including gamers here as using the words “low-power” and “PC gaming” in the same breath is anathema.
Of course, if you don’t need a traditional PC, then, by extension, you don’t need traditional Windows, and this must be worrying Microsoft. The company’s announcement that Windows 10 will soon be supported on the upcoming Snapdragon 835 platform, I think, stems from that worry.
Mobile chip makers like Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung have always offered platforms that are way more efficient, in terms of power consumption and heat, than anything Intel has to offer in that category. In fact, if Geekbench scores are anything to go by, the current Snapdragon 821 knocks the socks of the best Intel Atom in the market today.
Clearly, Qualcomm has capable chips. There’s a drastic difference between how data is processed by Intel’s and Qualcomm’s chips, but functionally, both platforms offer the same capabilities.
4K video playback? Check. All-day battery life? Check. Power to run Windows? Check. The ability to run Photoshop? Check. Support for desktop web-browsing standards? Check…and much more.
Effectively, you have the option of choosing an upcoming platform (Snapdragon) that’s possibly more efficient and faster than the traditional offering (Intel Atom) and has the potential to be found in a great variety of form factors. It also doesn’t hurt that Qualcomm has a great deal of expertise in the Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity space.
With so much to offer, there’s no harm in targeting the former, is there?
All of this seems to be making a strong case for Qualcomm here, but I don’t see any reason for Intel to panic either. The low-end PC space has always been lack-lustre and I don’t see that situation changing anytime soon. There might be greater variety, but I doubt we'll see much else.
If you’re looking for even a moderately powerful system, Intel’s Core M chips are easily twice as powerful as anything ARM has to offer, and they’ll still deliver all-day battery life. If you’re looking for a true, budget contender, then an ARM-based offering (the Snapdragon 835 in this case) might be worth looking at.
Low-end PCs haven't had that transformative, iPhone-moment.
Intel is still a one-trick pony, but that trick has, and will continue to, earn the company billions in revenue. Until something finally comes along to dethrone x86 that is.
Quantum computing, anyone?