Dell's hybrid laptops: Intel + ARM, Windows + Linux

Dell offers stealth Intel-ARM and Windows-Linux hybrid laptops, but you'd never notice.

Brooke Crothers
Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
2 min read

Dell is offering Windows-Linux hybrid laptops that use both Intel and ARM processors. Though the user would never know it.

As pointed out in this EE Times report, entitled "Dell has dragged the Linux-ARM Trojan horse inside the Wintel PC," Dell is offering a processor-plus-OS subsystem separate from the main Windows-Intel system.

The goal is to give users instant access to e-mail without booting up the operating system and extend battery life by running Linux on a very low-power ARM processor. Basic ARM processor designs are licensed by U.K.-based ARM Holdings to companies like Samsung and Texas Instruments, which then manufacture the chip.

ARM slide indicating Linux running on ARM processor in Dell laptops
This ARM presentation slide indicates Linux is running on an ARM processor in Dell laptops. ARM

Warren East, president and CEO of ARM, highlighted this subsystem while discussing the company's 2008 financial results earlier this month. "(There are) interesting hybrid products where PCs are adopting ARM technology alongside Intel technology for functions such as the Internet and e-mail because that gives you much longer battery life as a user," East said during a 2008 earnings conference call.

Here's Dell ad copy for its Latitude ON feature: "Dell Latitude ON, a new technology that will enable near-instant access to e-mail, calendar, attachments, contacts and the Web without booting into the system's main operating system (OS)...on the Latitude E4200 and E4300, Dell Latitude ON uses a dedicated low-voltage sub-processor and OS that can enable multi-day battery life."

Hewlett-Packard offers an application called Quick Look 2 (PDF) but this works differently than Dell's system. HP describes it as giving the user "immediate access to information from your Microsoft Office Outlook program...by proactively capturing information and storing it outside your computer's operating system."