It has been interesting to watch the progression of portable computing during recent years. While businesses and consumers typically want devices which are smaller and lighter, manufacturers are faced with constraints surrounding battery life and connectivity, among others. Microsoft®, Qualcomm™ and some of their OEMs may have reached a game-changing compromise. Thanks in part to increases in cellular speed and availability, the “Always Connected PC” (ACPC) is becoming a reality, and may greatly reduce the need for traditional WiFi. In a major departure from the past, the ACPC can run Windows™ applications on power-efficient ARM® processors, resulting in extremely thin LTE enabled laptops with as much as 20 hours of battery life (or more!) while always being connected via cell signal, rather than WiFi.
According to Microsoft, the first two ACPCs will be from HP® and Asus™, and will be available early this year. If the performance claims prove to be accurate, the initial offering from Asus will provide 22 hours of active use and 30 days of standby!
Always Connected PCs will ship with Windows 10 S preinstalled, but users can replace that with Windows 10 Home or Professional, and run all Win32 applications. This is a significant departure from Microsoft’s first attempt at Windows on ARM. In 2012, Microsoft released the Surface™ RT tablet, which offered a scaled down version of Windows on an Nvidia® Tegra® 3 ARM processor. Unfortunately, while the Surface RT was available with an LTE cellular modem, it couldn’t run most Win32 applications and users couldn’t upgrade to other versions of Windows.
The big question for the ACPC seems to be one of performance. Windows 10 had to be recompiled to run on ARM, but if Always Connected PCs provide the promised battery life and continuous connectivity without having to rely upon WiFi, users will likely tolerate modest sacrifices in performance.