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Two ex-Googlers explain why Chromebooks don’t run on Qualcomm processors


There are a lot of Chromebook models on the market, but the vast majority use Intel’s various processors. We’ve seen some other chipsets used, but we’ve yet to see an option packing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors which are more than capable of running the lightweight Chrome OS. Why is that?

According to two ex-Googlers on Google+, the boiled-down reason is that Qualcomm doesn’t open-source or upstream the various drivers that enable operating systems to run stably with the company’s chipsets. The reason this becomes a roadblock is because Chromebooks are constantly updated for years after the release.

There has been some work to develop Chrome OS hardware powered by Qualcomm chipsets. However, due to the risk associated with the possibility of Qualcomm abandoning the hardware, it hasn’t ever progressed to the point of showing up on actual hardware.

One of the ex-Googlers further explains that Qualcomm prefers its business model on Android which, for the most part, is to “ship it and forget it.”

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 best 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 in summary, it’s very unlikely we’ll see a Chrome OS device powered by Qualcomm anytime soon. In the meantime, we’re still seeing expansion in what processors Chromebooks run on, such as the recent Acer R13 Chromebook which is the first powered by MediaTek.

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