Processing the Future
With the release of Windows 11, it is a bittersweet reflection on how far we have come from early days of Windows and our $2,000 family PC, we used to share as children. Flexing at the time what was a cutting-edge Intel Pentium 4 processor, the internet was our oyster. As the years went on, each generational leap of processing power would catapult us into the future. Until now a typical CPU of a personal computer has been a centralised super calculator, requiring a whole sequence of other silicon chips to compute and provide the complete experience we look for as users.
A CPU alone can fetch data from memory and in turn perform arithmetic or logic-based processes on that data. To perform such procedures a CPU is reliant on memory to hold data, an audio chip to decode music, a graphics processor to draw images on your display and hundreds of smaller essential components to provide a functional user interface. This method of computing has weathered the test of time and has been the staple for personal computers globally, until now.
We are on the cusp of a new generational leap in personal computing technology with the release of Windows 11, the operating system framework is very much purpose-built to house and operate on the next generation ARM chipsets. The application of ARM based chipsets has typically been limited to mobile devices, which in comparison to a fixed workstation has several limitations one of which being processing power and the other being physical real estate for more battery space or other supporting hardware.
The ARM chipsets in comparison to conventional CPU’s have what the industry is referring to as a system-on-a-chip or SoC for short. The significance of this new way of computing and processing is exactly what the name suggests, it integrates almost all the components into a single silicon chip. Along with a CPU, an SoC contains a GPU, memory, USB controller, power management and wireless radios. Making the possibility of building an entire machine with just a single SoC a reality.
Aside from the advantages of a compact form factor, the use of a SoC chipset provides great computing abilities for a significantly low energy consumption trade off, as well as creating more room for batteries, freeing people, enabling users to achieve new applications on the go for longer.
Until now SoC’s have been ideal applications for mobile phones, tablets, and small wearables. As technology advances, the processing capabilities of mobile devices and laptops come closer and closer to that of a fully built PC powerhouse. Users in the future can look forward to such products that completely unlocks the way we use and think about computers. Where previously a static workstation was necessary for large scale rendering and encoding heavy functions, SoC systems running on the new ARM based chipsets will facilitate such heavy functions in mobile friendly formfactors. Sadly this may sound like the nearing of the end for the world of tricked out custom-built PC’s, but will surely lead to new frontiers in the way we use technology.