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December 2, 2017

Microsoft job listing hints at Surface device with a Snapdragon 845 chip

by John_A

A job listing now pulled from the DICE career explorer website suggests that Microsoft may be working on a device based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor. The listing sought after a qualified individual for the role of hardware test engineer, and/or manufacturing engineer. The job was posted by ABAL Technologies, who is known for providing human resource services for Microsoft.

According to the company, the job focuses on wireless connectivity. “Develop, design, and implement RF solutions for the product and collaborating with the system EE, EE team, and ME teams to achieve stated product goals,” the listing said. “Responsible for the RF performance of the product including compliance with international regulations.”

Microsoft requires applicants to have hands-on experience designing, developing, and launching a high-profile mainstream electronic product. They must also show system engineering ownership of “complex” devices like smartphones and Xbox consoles, and semi-complex devices like Blu-ray players and smart TVs. Potential employees will work in Building 85 on Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington-based campus.

The listing hints to the possibility that Microsoft may be retuning to first-party hardware manufacturing using ARM-based processors. We already know that third-party Windows 10 laptops using Qualcomm’s ARM-based Snapdragon 835 processor are just around the corner, but the fact that Redmond is hiring individuals to test hardware based on the Snapdragon 845 hints to a possible first-party Windows 10 device for 2018.

The job listing points to two interesting technologies — first, a listing of a processor Qualcomm has yet to officially announce. The company is expected to reveal this chip during its second annual Snapdragon Technology Summit beginning December 5. Qualcomm will broadcast the keynote live from Hawaii on that date at 10:30 a.m. PT (1:30 p.m. ET), and will showcase “the latest innovations built into Qualcomm Snapdragon Mobile Platforms.”

Part of the reveal will likely be our first glance at the Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphones packing the as-yet-unannounced processor. The chip may be based on 7-nanometer (nm) process technology, a method of reducing transistors and components to squeeze them into small chips. The Snapdragon 835 is based on 10nm FinFET process technology, meaning the newer model will pack even more transistors and subsequently better performance.

The job listing also specifically calls out Wireless AX connectivity. Right now, the Wireless AC specification serves as the current standard for wireless connectivity. The next step up, Wireless AD, is slowly creeping into the mainstream market although it’s still heavily overshadowed by Wireless AC products. Wireless AX is still in its early stages, but that hasn’t stopped companies like Asus from jumping on the Wireless AX bandwagon and producing new hardware.

But with Microsoft embracing these two technologies, speculation points to new ARM-based Surface products in 2018. Microsoft returning to the phone arena seems unlikely given the company already acknowledged it will no longer build new devices based on Windows Phone. That leads to a possible Surface-branded 2-in-1 device with an ARM-based chip sold for a cheaper price than an identical unit packing one of Intel’s eighth-generation CPUs.

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