Ina Fried

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Qualcomm CEO: ARM-Based Chips Make for Visibly Better Windows PCs

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs says that while compatibility with older apps may initially be a concern with Windows RT machines, those worries are outweighed by the battery life and other advantages that chips like his company can deliver.

“You see physically the difference,” CEO Paul Jacobs said Wednesday during a meeting with a handful of reporters. “It’s not a theoretical thing. It’s right there in your face. This one over there has a fan and it’s thicker and it has this battery life and this one is thinner.”

If anything, Jacobs said, he is more convinced after seeing the first crop of Intel-based Windows 8 tablets.

Computers running both new flavors of Windows go on sale Friday, with Microsoft’s Surface PC the best known Windows RT machine, though it uses a chip from Nvidia. Qualcomm has designs with Samsung and Dell, though the ETA on Samsung’s model is unclear.

The biggest issue with Windows RT, Jacobs concedes, is the availability of apps, since, with the exception of Office, Windows RT runs only apps designed for the new-style Windows.

“Everybody knows it,” Jacobs said. “We’ve been focused on it. Microsoft has been focused on it.”

For his part, Jacobs said he is pretty happy with the app selection, though he concedes he personally wants a program for watching live ESPN programming.

“Yeah, I want WatchESPN,” Jacobs said.

Qualcomm has sponsored a contest to encourage developers to write Windows RT apps as well as, in some cases, help to fund their development. Jacobs said that Microsoft isn’t really being given the benefit of the doubt here, despite its long track record of attracting developers.

And over time, Jacobs said, all big software makers will have to rewrite their apps to have modern attributes such as touch support and the ability to remain connected to the network while using only a small amount of power.

Jacobs said that people should not assume a lack of interest in Windows RT just because there are only a handful of devices.

“There’s a lot of people waiting in the wings,” Jacobs said, but noted that Microsoft is still limiting the number of hardware makers that any one chip firm can work with. Qualcomm, for example, is working with Dell and Samsung.

“To be fair, they are trying to manage their resources,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs also doesn’t believe too many PC makers will be scared away from Windows RT just because Microsoft is doing its own tablet with Surface.

“I would say the manufacturers are already dealing with an environment in which some form of verticalization is happening,” Jacobs said. “I think it is probably fair to say some of it is driven by Apple’s success.”

Google, he notes, bought Motorola, so Android device makers have the same sort of issues.

For Qualcomm, it’s an opportunity to be in a place it has wanted to be for ages — inside PCs and tablets.

“We’ve talked to Microsoft for many, many years about ‘what do you guys think about porting Windows to ARM,'” Jacobs said. “I think the growth of the tablet market actually caused them [to make] the decision.”

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