Qualcomm and Microsoft have just announced the continuation of their partnership to make sure that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chip can power Windows RT 8.1 tablets and computers efficiently. Windows RT is a version of Windows that has been compiled to run on ARM’s architecture which is used in the vast majority of all mobile devices today. We have covered Snapdragon 800 before, and for a quick refresher, it features four cores that can run up to 2.2GHz and will integrate the latest graphics technology from Qualcomm. Snapdragon 800 also embeds a 3G/4G LTE modem, which would provide wireless broadband connectivity without requiring more space on the motherboard design.
Qualcomm has not announced a formal launch date for Snapdragon 800, but it has said that devices will be available “later this year” which typically means “October”. In all likelihood, volume production should ramp up very soon, if it has not already started.
Microsoft’s first ARM Tablet was the Surface RT, which has an excellent industrial design which I still consider it to be the most “productive” tablet of all, but its Tegra 3 processor didn’t have quite enough muscles at the time, and things could eventually get slow (especially during app and email updates).
There have also been RT tablet designs using Qualcomm’s S4 processor, but unfortunately, they too lacked the muscles to make the Windows RT experience truly great (to be fair, Windows RT is a little heavier/slower than Android or iOS). The user interface was extremely smooth and I have to give Microsoft all the credit for that, but simple things would sometime take longer when compared to Android or iOS systems.
The Snapdragon 800 design is significantly faster than the Qualcomm S4 or S4 Pro, and I’m very much looking forward to see by how much it will improve the Windows RT/Metro overall experience. I really liked using the Surface Pro and wished that I could experience a similar responsiveness with a lower power envelope, and longer battery life. It is not clear if an eventual Microsoft Surface RT 2 would use a Snapdragon 800, or a Tegra 4 chip, but we haven’t seen any announcement from NVIDIA so far. Which one are you betting on?