After smartphones, tablets and cross-over gadgets such as Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1 with detachable display, Android and ARM technology could make its way inside notebooks by year’s end.
The vast majority of all-in-one chips powering today’s tablets and smartphones incorporate CPU designs from UK-based ARM Holdings, a fables semiconductor intellectual property firm headquartered in Cambridge, England. For example, chips from the likes of Qualcomm, Nvidia and even Apple all incorporate CPU designs licensed from ARM Holdings. Now that power-savvy mobile chips with two and four processing cores and flashy graphics are a reality, notebook vendors are taking notice.
We’ve previously heard whispers that Apple has a MacBook prototype designed around the iPad 2’s A5 chip which contains two ARM-designed processing cores. Not content with being left behind, first-tier device makers such as Samsung, Toshiba, Acer and Asustek plan on bringing ARM-powered notebooks to the market by the end of this year. From DigiTimes:
The sources pointed out that ARM-based systems using Android were already launched under the smartbook name two years ago with Toshiba and Lenovo both launching products in the retail channel. However, due to weaker than expected demand, the related products were soon phased out of the market. Asustek has already made plans to launch a 13-inch ARM-based notebook adopting Nvidia’s processor with Android. The sources pointed out that there are already several brand vendors reportedly set to launch ARM-based notebooks with prices lower than US$299 to compete for market share and the vendors’ processor choices include Nvidia’s Tegra, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon and processors from Texas Instruments.
There’s a lot to look forward to…
First, ARM-based chips for mobile devices have always been designed with power requirements in mind so they need less watts of power than Intel’s Core-branded processors which are predominantly found in notebooks today. Also important: Mobile chips typically combine multiple components on a tiny piece of silicon, including the processing and graphics cores, RAM, the memory controller and the logic binding them all together. Thanks to this power-savvy and compact design, engineers can theoretically design notably thinner and lighter portable computers that are more power efficient than today’s notebooks. And we aren’t even mentioning Android and the 150,000+ apps that scale from three-inch smartphone screens to 10-inch tablets all the way up to 40-inch television sets. So yes, ARM-based notebooks that run Android software should easily strike a chord with a lot of consumers familiar with the platform.
Pictured above: The Apple-branded A5 chip with two processing cores from ARM, used in iPad 2. Apple apparently has a notebook prototype in labs that runs this chip.