LIVE FROM QUALCOMM SNAPDRAGON TECH SUMMIT 2017, MAUI: Qualcomm was joined by vendor and operator partners to talk up the opportunity in always connected (cellular+Wi-Fi) PCs, which was described as “the next frontier for the Snapdragon platform”.

“The always connected PC is here, and it’s bringing the best of the smartphone design to the PC,” Cristiano Amon, EVP of Qualcomm Technologies and president of QCT, explained: “It will allow users to connect, to communicate, to collaborate, anywhere and at any time.”

Amon said the key features of always connected PCs are integrated cellular and Wi-Fi to deliver gigabit connectivity anywhere, alongside lightweight, attractive form factors and “most importantly, beyond a day of useful battery life”. Devices run the familiar Windows 10 platform powered by an ARM-based processor.

Potential changes in user behaviour, Amon noted, include the ability to travel without the need for power cords, and “you may also not have the need to carry your tablet with you; you just carry your PC”.

Qualcomm announced a partnership with Microsoft in late 2016 to offer Snapdragon-powered PCs. Asus, HP and Lenovo were subsequently named as hardware partners.

Network benefits
Terry Myerson, EVP of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft (pictured, left) pointed out always connected PCs offer a number of benefits for enterprises, stating the devices offer a potential “cultural shift, enabling teams to work effectively all the time, on the corporate campus, visiting customers, on the bus commuting, freeing a real constraint on the creativity of employees today”.

Myerson also said support for gigabit LTE networks will benefit enterprises by enabling them to take advantage of mobile operators’ network investments, while reducing the need for continued corporate Wi-Fi investments.

“Today, IT organisations are spending millions of dollars installing, updating and maintaining Wi-Fi antennas in every hallway, in every conference room, it just keeps coming. At the same time, all around us mobile operators have invested billions in building these fast 4G networks and are now embarking on building even faster 5G networks,” he noted.

“Just like IT is now leveraging massive cloud data centres, like Microsoft Azure, for compute and storage, with always connected PCs, IT can now ask how to leverage the massive network infrastructure and investments made by Sprint and Orange and AT&T and others to give employees better connectivity than we do today,” Myerson continued.

Gunther Ottendorfer, COO of Technology at Sprint, said: “We are very excited by the opportunity of the always connected PC. It will mean for customers great devices, it will need simple activation and we will provide that, and it will need the network of the future, which we are building.”

“We believe in anywhere, anytime access to unlimited data,” he added: “Sprint has been a pioneer in unlimited data, we have been selling unlimited for the last ten years and we look forward to the always connected PC, and we are prepared for that with our network design and our spectrum.”

Vendor plans
Jerry Shen, CEO of Asus, showcased what he described as “the world’s first gigabit LTE laptop”, named NovaGo.

The executive talked-up Asus’ early entry into product categories including netbooks, two-in-one devices, touch PCs and Ultrabooks, stating: “now it’s time to begin a new chapter. More and more, consumers expect to be mobile, to be productive, have entertainment, and connect anytime, anywhere.”

“There is growing demand for constant connectivity and true all-day battery life while on the go,” Shen continued: “Asus has a history of designing beautiful devices for both PCs and smartphones, so we are very well positioned to bring to life the benefits of LTE in this always connected PC,” he said.

From an LTE perspective, the device uses four-carrier aggregation and 4×4 MIMO to deliver gigabit speeds. It is also compatible with eSIM and NanoSIM.

The Snapdragon 835-powered device will also be competitively priced, at $599 in 4GB RAM/64GB storage version.

HP is planning a Spring 2018 launch for its Envy x2 always connected PC.

Kevin Frost, VP and general manager of consumer personal systems at HP, said the “whole concept of always connected is something that we hear from all types of customers is very important to them”.

“We’ve known that customers have valued it, and we’ve tried to do it in the past and never really got the right balance of all the attributes that customers care about. And that’s what’s so exciting about the Snapdragon 835 platform – it gives us the capability to do things we’ve never been able to do before.”

HP’s Envy x2 features a detachable design, “specifically because we know that customers prefer this design to be able to run around and go everywhere, serious work, serious play,” Frost explained. The machined aluminium device is 6.9mm thick and offers “over 20 hours” battery life.

Amon revealed Lenovo is set to join the category, with an event taking place at CES2018 in January.