Windows Tablets Get Quad-Core Chips

Qualcomm has promised that its quad-core Snapdragon chips, designed to run Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system, will appear in tablets in the second half of next year.

The quad-core chips will be part of the Snapdragon S4 product line and are based on ARM architecture. The S4 chips, which will include single-core and dual-core options, will run at clock speeds between 1.5GHz and 2.5GHz.

Microsoft has said Windows 8 will work with ARM processors, and it has chosen Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Nvidia as its initial chip partners.

Qualcomm's Adreno graphics core will support DirectX 9.3 multimedia technology, which will be available in Windows 8.

A Qualcomm spokeswoman declined to comment on when S4-based tablets running Windows 8 would become available, but Microsoft has already demonstrated Windows 8 running on a Snapdragon tablet.

Microsoft hasn't announced a release date for Windows 8. However, Intel has said the OS will be released later next year, which could be around the time the S4 tablets are ready.

Snapdragon chips are already being used in HTC's Jetstream and Lenovo's IdeaPad U1 tablets. For its part, Qualcomm is working on 30 tablet designs with top device makers, the spokeswoman said.

The market is heating up. Nvidia has already shipped a quad-core ARM processor for tablets, and Asustek Computer recently announced the Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet, which sports a 10-in. screen and the Tegra 3 quad-core processor.

But there are questions about the need for quad-core chips, because dual-core chips might meet most tablet needs, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. Quad-core chips are used in less than 10% of the PCs on the market, and the tablet market might see the same rate of adoption, he said.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

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