Since the first hands-on sightings of the Samsung Chromebook Plus, we’ve seen references to its processor listed only as OP1. We knew it was the Rockchip RK3399, but figured Google or Samsung, for whatever reason, just didn’t want to use Rockchip branding.
But something much bigger was at play.
Yesterday, Dieter Bohn over at The Verge posted a fantastic article about Google and its new OP1 initiative.
We’ll link it below, but what you need to know from that article is Google owns a new trademark for OP chips. This trademark is bestowed on ARM-based chipsets that are highly optimized for Chromebooks.
The article spends some time explaining ARM vs x86 chips, why they are perceived so differently, and why Google would be doing this.
I’ll make it simple. If you were choosing a laptop powered by Intel or Rockchip, which would you choose? Which would the public choose?
Easy. Intel. Why?
Sure, in many cases Intel chips are more powerful, but they are far less flexible. ARM chips, by nature, are cheaper, less battery hungry, and way more adaptable. But, because of the way ARM chips are made and distributed by so many manufacturers, the individual brands aren’t as familiar.
Off the top of my head, there are ARM chips made by Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, Nvidia, MediaTek, Rockchip, Helio, and I’m sure a host of many, many more. But they are all based on similar architectures. The difference is in the manufacturer’s ability to customize the chips for use in particular machines.
Here’s Why This Matters
With the new OP1 branding, it looks like Google is taking a new approach with these chips (You can see more on this branding at whatisop.com.). OP certification only goes to chips that undergo Google’s optimizations. With the right branding and execution, this could be very interesting.
When someone buys an iPhone or iPad, for instance, they likely have no idea exactly what ARM architecture is running in their new device. What they might know, though, is that it is the A9 or A9x chip.
With some simplified marketing, Apple has created a system that allows non-tech people to see a processor name they’ve created and know quickly which is faster. A8 or A9? Clearly, the A9 is faster and newer.
The same will be possible with OP chips. These ARM chips (made by whatever manufacturer necessary) will be tailored to the Chromebooks (and baseboards) they are made for, giving them performance advantages.
With the flexibility of ARM, Google and its partners can leverage all parts and cores of these chips to best function with Chrome OS. This simply isn’t possible with Intel chips.
Signs are Clear
What all this adds up to is a direction for Chrome OS that I’ve been thinking would happen for some time.
ARM chips will likely be the standard soon.
Think about Google’s track record with collaboration on Chromebooks. The Samsung Series 3, HP 11 G1, ASUS Chromebook Flip, and the Samsung Chromebook Plus all have ARM chips. Because of this, I’ve always maintained Google wanted Chrome OS to be an ARM-powered affair.
With Android apps now becoming the norm as we move forward, this is only becoming more likely.
To be fair, the latest from Samsung is the first one to really feel like ARM is coming into its own on Chrome OS. And that should be expected with the first OP chip.
As I’ve been working on the Plus, I’m honestly a bit shocked at its ability to handle so many processes well. Nevermind it runs Android apps like butter. This thing does just fine as a Chromebook in its own right.
And that shift is a big one. As we see Android apps continue to grow on Chromebooks, giving developers plenty of ARM choices makes the entire process easier and app development is then presented far less barrier to entry. If Google wants developers to make better big screen apps, they need to keep things as straightforward as possible.
Could we or will we see a future where Chromebooks are only ARM-powered? Who knows?
But what is clear at this point is Google is doubling down on ARM and Chromebooks. As they continue to get faster and more capable, this could be a great thing. ARM means less expense, longer battery life, and thinner devices. All wins in my book.
And if we get to just talk about processors with language like OP1, OP2, etc., I think that is a win for the general consumer as well.
Source: The Verge