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Microsoft and friends need to explain why always-connected PCs make sense

So, why aren’t these things setting the computer world on fire? Well, a big part of it is down to marketing. Few people I’ve spoken to outside of the tech industry know what an ACPC is. And the differences between Windows on Snapdragon and Intel’s offerings further complicate matters. So how do you make sense of these machines for consumers and convince them to seek one out?

There’s a lesson to be learned from the initial wave of these laptops. For example, the ASUS NovaGo taught us that long battery life and a constant connection to the internet are blessings, but on Windows on Snapdragon (WoS) they came at the cost of performance and compatibility. The NovaGo held up fine for my on-the-go workflow, but certainly wasn’t a strong enough machine for photo editing or serious gaming. Not to mention, it didn’t support 64-bit apps. It’s a good option for people with the money to spend on a second laptop just for travel. But it’s not enough for the rest of the world.

While Intel’s systems have no compatibility issues and perform as well as their non-connected counterparts, they don’t last as long as the Snapdragon systems. And if you want blazing gigabit LTE speeds on the go, you may be better off with a Qualcomm chip. Intel’s radios just aren’t as fast.

Both companies addressed their shortcomings this Computex, during a week jam-packed with exciting PC news. Qualcomm designed a faster, more power-efficient chip specifically for PCs, and with Microsoft announcing ARM64 support at Build, the future of WoS devices seems bright. Better yet, Samsung signalled its curiosity, if not confidence, in the platform by confirming it’s making a Snapdragon 850-powered laptop.

Meanwhile, Intel developed a low-power display technology to extend battery life by four to eight hours. It also announced plans to sell 5G devices with Sprint by 2019. That latter bit of news could help bring Intel systems up to speed (get it), since hitting 5G speeds would be a massive jump from the company’s existing performance. This would theoretically put it on par with Qualcomm, which also has 5G devices in the works.

Clearly, we are making strides towards PCs that are powerful, long-lasting and always connected. But for the category to truly take off, it needs more than just performance and battery enhancements.

People can already keep their laptops online everywhere either via public WiFi, hotspot tethering or with some sort of dongle or SIM card slot. The benefits of built-in LTE just aren’t compelling enough on their own.





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