Dual-screen Windows ARM devices powered by Qualcomm could be coming in the near future. Miguel Nunes, Senior Director of Product Management at Qualcomm where he leads the Windows strategy and products, has indicated to indianexpress.com that the company can offer “a great solution” to address the power demands of dual-screen devices. Although Miguel did not directly admit to ARM-based Windows 10 dual-screen PCs in the works, he did say they were “working on a lot of cool things”.
At the moment, it is not clear who all are working on the first first-generation of dual-screen Windows ARM computing devices. We don’t even know how a dual-screen Windows ARM device will look like — will it have two foldable displays that could fold in half and put in your pocket similar to the rumoured Microsoft’s “Andromeda” project, or will it appear like Asus’ Project Precog recently showed off at Computex 2018?
Miguel said the market is ready to embrace new form factors and change is on the anvil. “You will see a transition of form factors and one of the advantages Qualcomm brings to the industry is the amount of integrations. If you look at Snapdragon 835/850 platforms compared to an Intel [x86] processor, we are about 30 times smaller from the design standpoint. So you can imagine if you reduce the design by 30 per cent we can start to do a lot of interesting things with the form factor. I think you will see innovation in form factors and in the future as well… dual-screens and all kinds of form factors because we were able to enable that,” he explained.
But don’t expect these upcoming devices with new form factors to replace a standard PC design anytime soon. “I think one of the key things for different form factors is that you have to get the user experience right. Obviously, that takes time. I don’t think one will replace another form factor and neither will you see the coexistence of different form factors depending on what people are trying to do; depending on the value of those of form factors. I think you will see an evolution,” Miguel added.
However, he clarified that there are some things manufacturers should consider before they rush to produce dual-screen computing devices. “Dual-screen devices are going to be challenging from the battery standpoint. We have a great solution for those products.”
“Dual screen devices should become a trend in the stagnant PC Market which is in a desperate need of disruption and innovation,” Navkendar Singh, Head – Mobile Devices Research: India & South Asia, IDC India, told indianexpress.com on mail. “It allows for a better experience, more content consumption, and creation and can help PCs differentiate from smartphone onslaught with their bigger, better screens. Form factor, mobility and performance will drive new use cases and experiences for these devices and thus present a strong opportunity for the next set of growth for all market players.”
The San Diego-based Qualcomm, best-known for producing mobile processors used in most new smartphones, wants to make a deep impact on the PC market in the years to come. Towards the end of last year, Qualcomm and Microsoft showed off new 2-in-1s from Asus and HP with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chips that use ARM’s architecture. The platform was introduced as Always Connected PCs, with a promise to have lower battery consumption and always-on 4G LTE connectivity.
“This has been something in the works for at least four to five years. We have been monitoring the PC segment and how the computing market is working. Qualcomm has also worked closely with Microsoft on different programmes Windows RT which we kind of forget about or the Windows Phone programme,” Miguel said.
Miguel is of the opinion that innovation in mobile can definitely help innovation in the PC industry. “For the most part, the PC used to lead innovation from process knowhow to feature set. Now, mobile has definitely overtaken the PC industry.
”With changing consumer habit of how we consume, buy and use technology, Qualcomm might have a good shot. Battery life and connectivity are the two key important factors for the modern day consumer. Qualcomm sees these factors as a good entry opportunity through the Snapdragon mobile platform,” Navkendar reasoned, but with the rider that PC markets dynamics and ecosystem play is very different from the smartphone space.
However, reviews for the “always-on, always-connected” PCs powered by Qualcomm have not been all that great. Miguel’s response is that people should remember what always-on stands for. “The battery life is phenomenal and the performance is something extremely subjective of what you are trying to do with the device. You cannot compare an ‘Always connected PC’ with a Surface Pro laptop with an Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. You have to look… it is a mobile platform and it handles the mobility part really well”.
Qualcomm recently introduced the Snapdragon 850 chip for ‘always connected’ Windows 10 PCs at Computex 2018. The company claims the 850 processor has 30 per cent improved performance, 20 per cent better battery life, and 20 per cent faster peak gigabit data speeds compared to the Snapdragon 835. Qualcomm says one can expect to see the first devices to use the Snapdragon 850 before the end of the year from multiple partners. So far, Samsung is the only vendor which has confirmed the launch of a Snapdragon 850 device. “Most vendors haven’t chosen to announce the devices yet and we have to let them decide when they will announce. Our partners who were on the Snapdragon 835, expect those vendors to embrace the category,” he said.
Qualcomm sees its Always Connected PCs platform will reinvent the PC market which has been on the decline for years with no recovery momentum. Miguel attributes this to the lack of innovation. “If you have a PC at home and your PC cannot leave your house, people aren’t going to do much with it,” taunted Miguel, adding that Always Connected PCs will bring back growth in the PC market. However, he accepted that it will take some time to beat Intel which has been lording over the PC segment for 30-odd years.
“The processor game will see a strong focus of attention by all OEMs as the user expectations from a PC perspective is shifting towards powerful, intelligent, performance, long battery devices. And processors will be the key in delivering these expectations,” Navkendar said. While he added that Qualcomm has a strong value proposition with its connected platform offering for PCs, he primed it by adding that Intel still has vast market experience and expertise in the PC market.
International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that convertibles notebooks currently contribute only 2 per cent to the overall PC market in India right now but are expected to grow at around 40 per cent by 2020 annually. Affordability, mobility, and performance will be the key factors driving the growth of convertible notebooks in India.