Enterprise Mobility & the Connected Worker Blog

Rumored ARM Chip Sparks Interest in 2-in-1 Computers

by Spencer Gisser | 07/09/2018


Rumors of the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 1000 could signify major changes for mobile computing. As smartphone processors become more powerful, some have reached the point where they can run systems more like personal computers than smartphones or tablets. Over the past several years, some companies have embraced this approach and have begun to offer devices with Advanced RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) Machine (ARM) processors, which are typically found in mobile devices that run operating systems beyond the typical reach of smartphones and tablets.

The Snapdragon 1000, as with other Snapdragon chips, is a system-on-chip in that it integrates all the components of a computer on a single chip. It is expected that the Snapdragon 1000 will have a far higher thermal design power (TDP), meaning that its components can draw more energy before overheating. The TDP is telling, as this is a crucial metric for running powerful software. With a sufficiently high TDP, Snapdragon chips can move further into running software intended for traditional laptops and desktop PCs. While we do not know other metrics of the Snapdragon 1000 such as core counts and clock speeds, the ability to safely draw more power will drive greater processing ability.

By leveraging ARM processors, device manufacturers open exciting possibilities for mobile computing. With sufficiently advanced processors, mobile devices could potentially run any operating system from any vendor, whether Windows 10 or High Sierra. As the processing power of ARM-based chips improves, more hardware vendors will debut ARM-based devices with full operating systems.

ARM-based devices enable always-on connectivity to LTE and 4G networks. Rather than relying entirely upon Wi-Fi for network connectivity, the latest generation of 2-in-1 devices can use WAN connectivity much like smartphones. With this transition, users will be untethered from Wi-Fi connectivity and can use their devices on the go. When 5G networks and devices become more widespread, we will undoubtedly see the emergence of always-on 5G connectivity. Always-on LTE and 4G enables workers to stay connected in remote job sites and on the go. Workers beyond the four walls do not necessarily have connectivity at their job sites. In field service, for example, workers are often dependent on unreliable connectivity at customers’ locations for such functions as scheduling, invoicing, and remote assistance. Mining and logging personnel often must access job sites spanning areas larger than Wi-Fi networks could cover.

2-in-1 devices, based on the availability of powerful chips made for tablets, straddle the line between notebook computer and tablet. The approaches to 2-in-1s are varied, encompassing phones that can run desktop software as well as tablets that can be used as notebook computers when paired with a dock or keyboard. These devices rely on chips that draw little power while providing significant processing ability. With the increasing prevalence of these chips from Qualcomm and Intel, many leading laptop manufacturers have introduced 2-in-1 form factors into their offerings. ASUS, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft all have developed innovative devices in this area.

ARM-based 2-in-1s are significantly lighter and sleeker than standard notebook computers. ARM-based laptops will be a hit for employees who frequently travel or move their laptop between rooms due to how easy these slim and lightweight devices are to handle. Unlike typical notebook computers, ARM-based devices do not require a fan. Without a fan, computers no longer need to include space for the fan or paths for air to travel within the device. Additionally, these devices would no longer bear the fan’s weight. ARM chips also draw significantly less power than traditional processors, enabling battery life of 20+ hours for many ARM-based 2-in-1 devices. ARM-based 2-in-1s are advantageous for enterprise workers who need to use lightweight laptops while on the go. By being able to function as a laptop while maintaining a form factor closer to a tablet, these devices provide a fresh intermediate form factor that in some respects provides the best of both worlds.

The Snapdragon 1000 will be just one in a line of ARM-based chips, but it represents a step towards overcoming one of the major hurdles for this technology. As the driving technology behind 2-in-1s advances, we will see increased adoption among these innovative devices.

Stay tuned for our upcoming report on notebook computers that will include in-depth discussion about ARM-based devices. View the 2018 Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices Research Outline to learn more.