So, after our article went live a few days ago questioning the absence of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors in Chromebooks, a reply of sorts has shown up via Google+ from a former Googler on why we shouldn’t hold our breath on this possibility.
One difficulty is Qualcomm’s reluctance to open-source and upstream the various drivers that make up Linux support for the embedded devices. If Qualcomm doesn’t demonstrate ongoing support for their devices in the Linux kernel, then Google (or a Chromebook OEM) would be at significant engineering risk if an update needs to be made in the future. Qualcomm seems to prefer the business model of Android where they can “ship it and forget it”.
So What Does That Mean?
In a nutshell, ARM chips (like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon) require driver support for almost every part of your Chromebook. These things are called embedded devices. So, your display, trackpad, keyboard, speakers, ports, RAM, SSD, etc. all need driver support defined. Apart from needing definition for the original build and ship of a device, Google promises 5 years of support and updates for every Chromebook.
Qualcomm doesn’t play nice with open-sourcing those drivers, so it would be very difficult to retain ongoing support as the years wear on for a Chromebook.
With the Snapdragon chips, Qualcomm can simply play their cards close to the vest with Android devices because the majority of phones (where Snapdragon chips are utilized for the most part) only get updates for about 18-24 months.
Until This Changes, No Snapdragon Chromebooks
So, for the time being, it looks highly unlikely that we’ll see any Chromebooks rocking a Snapdragon processor. It doesn’t mean Qualcomm can’t change or things can’t work out down the road, but this is a pretty substantial roadblock.
The bright side for those of you looking for different processor options in your Chromebooks could be the coming addition of AMD. Just yesterday, Gabriel broke some news about a future reality that could include Chromebooks powered by AMD processors.
Regardless of Qualcomm’s or AMD’s future intents, there are tons of fantastic Chromebooks just on the horizon.
2017 is going to be an awesome year.