Why Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite Is a Game Changer

The Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite is one of the advanced processors with NPUs (Neural Processing Units) coming to market this year. What makes it a potential game changer is that it starts from the deep understanding Qualcomm has of battery life, connectivity and mobile features that define it in the smartphone space. And with our ever-greater reliance on the cloud, particularly with the advent of generative AI, the time is almost perfect to challenge the mobile PC market with an optimized mobile part with the sustainability advantage of needing far less power to operate. 

This month, Google announced that its Chrome browser for Windows powered by Snapdragon is available, and this is on top of the other optimizations that Microsoft has built into Windows for the product. Now this offering isn’t for everyone. Gamers, media creators and editors, and engineers who are not yet largely working in the cloud will still prefer the more traditional platforms, but for those of us (and that includes me) who mostly live in Office 365 and don’t game on our laptops (I have a desktop gaming system with a Dell 49-inch screen), this should be the ideal solution. 

Let me explain. 

The Laptop Smartphone Convergence

Both smartphones and laptops increasingly rely on cloud services, especially for AI which isn’t yet working in hybrid form. This means the need for desktop processing power and capability is potentially reduced while the need for low latency, high-bandwidth connectivity is increasing. This change moves us from the priorities of the past where the network was the bottleneck, unreliable, or unavailable, to the network increasingly becoming the more critical path to getting things done. 

This means that laptops are moving where smartphones are, to always-connected devices less defined by local processing power and more defined by battery life and wireless connectivity. While there are still those, like engineers, who need massive desktop performance benefits that Qualcomm’s part won’t address, even they are increasingly working in the cloud because it’s a safer place to keep the data, the time and cost of moving extremely large working files is excessive, and  because it is generally easier to collaborate on a remote document than one that is local given you can more easily prevent contributors from stepping on each other’s contributions. 

Historically, alternative processors to X86 have faced significant problems with hardware compatibility requiring heavy emulation which can further degrade the performance of the solution. However, as companies like Microsoft and now Google write to Snapdragon natively, these performance limitations will be removed, and the result should be a far more competitive offering. 

So laptops based on Snapdragon X Elite should stand out as price competitive but with significant battery life and connectivity advantages over more traditionally configured laptop PCs. 

Transmeta vs. Qualcomm

Well over a decade ago, another company, Transmeta, attempted a similar challenge to X86 dominance and failed catastrophically. There were three reasons for the failure. First, it announced the product long before it was actually ready, which allowed Intel to create a more competitive challenger. Second, it lacked support from software developers which forced emulation and crippled performance. Finally, even though it started with a massive viral benefit, it failed to capitalize on it and under-marketed the effort. 

Qualcomm has Microsoft and Google’s support and will pick up additional support from others. It has proven itself capable of competing with and even beating Intel when mobile is the predominant segment benefit. It’s also far better funded, so it should be able to spin up a decent marketing program. This last is critical because buyers don’t like “difference” alone. You must market the differences in a way that buyers find compelling. While this last isn’t yet in evidence, the potential for success is night-and-day better than Transmeta’s was, putting Qualcomm far closer to success. 

Wrapping Up:

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite is a potentially serious game changer in the laptop wars to come. Ideally, when used in more aggressively mobile form factors like the Snapdragon focused HP Folio was, this product should stand out as uniquely attractive for those of us who want longer battery life and stronger security and, with the right stand-out, mobile-forward laptop form factors (like the HP Elite Folio), this part should be able to carve out and sustain a beachhead in the laptop segment which would be a god send for those of us who live or die on battery life and connectivity, both of which are areas in which Qualcomm excels.