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Watch Out, Intel: Qualcomm Puts Smartphone Chips in Laptops
By Mike Freeman
Posted: December 6, 2017 10:00am PST

Qualcomm and Microsoft are taking another shot at using smartphone chips in personal computers -- promising 20 hours of battery life and full use of Windows 10 software.

Qualcomm announced at a technology conference Tuesday in Hawaii that three computer makers -- Asus, H-P and Lenovo -- would roll out 2-in-1 laptops powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips in the spring of 2018.

The devices, which include Gigabit LTE cellular connections, always on capabilities and long battery life, are expected to be priced from $500 to $800.

The move marks the second try by Microsoft and Qualcomm to use smartphone technologies in laptops -- invading turf now dominated by Intel.

About five years ago, Microsoft rolled out the trimmed down Windows RT operating system for tablets that was compatible with ARM-based smartphone processors from Qualcomm and others.

But devices running Windows RT failed to gain traction with consumers, in part because it didn't support some popular programs such as Adobe Photoshop.

These latest 2-in-1 devices are capable of running the full-blown Windows 10 operating system and support Photoshop and other popular software.

"The Always Connected PC is here, and it brings the best of the smartphone to the PC," said Qualcomm Executive Vice President Cristiano Amon. "It will give you a gigabit LTE experience anywhere in a light, fan-less, portable design with beyond 20 hours of battery life. It changes the definition of what you should expect in a PC, and it is on the Windows 10 platform."

Qualcomm and Microsoft first announced that they were working together to bring smartphone chips to portable computers about a year ago. Snapdragon-powered devices won't have the processing horsepower of some PCs running Intel or AMD chips.

But Qualcomm and Microsoft hope the tradeoff in longer battery life -- more than 20 hours compared with seven hours -- coupled with Gigabit LTE connectivity and instant boot up, will attract consumers this time.

"Windows 10 Always Connected PC are the evolution of personal computing and feature the next wave of innovation that will deliver connectivity and battery benefits," said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft.

Asus is launching the Snapdragon-powered NovaGo, a 13-inch display 2-in-1 that promises 22 hours of battery life. Prices range from $600 to $800 depending on the amount of memory.

HP is rolling out the Envy x2 2-in-1 computer, which claims 20 hours of battery life. Pricing is not yet available.

Lenovo will unveil a Snapdragon-powered device in early January at CES, the annual consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas, according to Qualcomm.

In addition, chip maker AMD, which trails Intel in the desktop/notebook computer processor market, said it has partnered with Qualcomm to deliver 4G LTE connectivity with it processors designed for notebook computers. The two companies have not announced any customers yet.

Qualcomm, which has been fighting Apple in court on patent fees and faces a hostile takeover battle launched by Broadcom, has been trying to diversify its business beyond smartphones. It recently launched a new data center processor and is attempting to buy automotive and secure payment chipmaker NXP Semiconductors. Last year, $3 billion of its $22.3 billion in revenue stemmed from non-smartphone products -- up 25 percent from the prior year.

Qualcomm's shares ended trading Tuesday up 13 cents at $64.69 on the Nasdaq exchange.

© 2018 San Diego Union-Tribune. Syndicated here under contract with YellowBrix, Inc. All rights reserved.

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