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Firefox browser helps make Qualcomm-powered PCs more useful

A new browser version aims to reduce power consumption to help laptops extend battery life to days, instead of hours.

A laptop powered by a Qualcomm processor instead of the usual Intel chip brain

A laptop powered by a Qualcomm processor instead of the usual Intel chip brain.


If you have that rarity in the PC market, a laptop powered by a Qualcomm processor and not the more common Intel chip, you can now use the Firefox web browser on it.

Mozilla on Thursday released a beta version of Firefox for computers based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips for laptops. The nonprofit hopes its browser will graduate from beta test to release quality in the next two months.

Qualcomm processors are widely used in phones, but the chipmaker is pushing hard to get everyone to use its processors in personal computers, too. Qualcomm's sales pitch, in a nutshell, is that you'll enjoy the long battery life and mobile network access core to the power-sensitive phone market.

But there's not much point if the software you need hasn't been adapted for Qualcomm, whose chips are members of the Arm technology family. Mozilla's Firefox is a step in fixing that problem -- especially since web browsers are a gateway to so many tools we use on computers, from Microsoft's Office Online to Google's Gmail.

Low power consumption is a priority from the project, and Mozilla built better power monitoring tools into its software as a result.

"One of the most compelling features of Windows laptops using Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset is the battery life it enables, measured in days, rather than hours," said Chuck Harmston, Mozilla's senior product manager for the Firefox Arm project. "We've been working hard to take advantage of that, offloading discrete tasks to small chips to use less power ... This was a big project that spanned the Firefox organization, touching almost every part of the browser."

Microsoft Edge for Qualcomm PCs also on the way

Microsoft is helping to make Arm-powered PCs a reality, too, most obviously with Windows 10. But one of its top priorities for its new version of Edge, newly rebuilt on Google's open-source Chromium browser foundation, is a version for 64-bit Arm chips.

The browser is the result of a Mozilla-Qualcomm collaboration announced in December. The work, which Qualcomm didn't pay for, fits in with Mozilla's effort to give people more power over how they live their online lives.

"People having the ability to control their online lives is an important part of our mission, and Snapdragon support ensures users will have the chance to experience Firefox at its best," Harmston said.