Qualcomm wants to enter the world of the PC with its Snapdragon processors. In recent months we have seen brands such as HP, ASUS or Lenovo already have laptops with Windows 10 and the Snapdragon 835. In this Mobile World Congress, the manufacturer of the chipset has announced with Microsoft an alliance with all types of operators around the world to expand its distribution and offer LTE connectivity in these ‘Always Connected PC‘, as they have called it.
We spoke with Miguel Nunes, senior director of product management at Qualcomm and the person in charge of bringing Snapdragon processors to the world of Windows 10 laptops.
What Qualcomm brings in laptops
We will continue investing in different products. New manufacturers and the next generation of chipsets have to arrive. The Snapdragon 835 is the beginning, we have opened an opportunity to expand the sector. You will have heard other chip vendors like Intel talk about the always-connected computer, but there are two differences. Qualcomm offers more battery and the option of always on. It does not take long to load, we do not hibernate the applications. It’s like the phone, you turn off the screen but it’s always there.
What about the performance? Can these laptops move photoshop, edit 4K or play heavy games?
It is not a gaming platform. You can run Photoshop, games … but maybe it’s not the best thing to edit very heavy files or play next-generation titles. Performance is difficult to determine because it depends on how you measure it. We can perform the same tasks, edit images, watch video or play. But we differ from the traditional in that we have a large number of engines, DPS, and a more efficient GPU. We do not depend as much on the CPU as it does on traditional PCs.
“Snapdragon for laptops is not a gaming platform, you can run Photoshop, games … but maybe it’s not the best way to edit very heavy files, we’re looking for maximum mobility.”
Does Qualcomm then only offer mobility? What are the differences between the mobile and the PC?
We do not need large CPUs. These consume more energy. Traditional x86 processors maintain more tasks and generate more heat. I always try to use the product since the user experience is similar. Why should the mobile and the PC be different? We want to converge the two ecosystems.
Will these Snapdragon processors for Chrome OS be available?
I’m sorry, I’m a Windows person.
“With the HP Envy, I get almost 48 hours of use, and with the Surface Pro 4, I hardly surpass half a day.”
Are the real 24h data? What difference is made to low-power Intel chips?
It depends on what you do. You get about 22 hours of video, but if you do something like that I want your work. When I’m in the office, my job is basically to answer emails, PowerPoint, spreadsheets, and Skype. Using that gets about 48h of use. With the Surface Pro 4, my other device, I can not get half a day.
How does the emulation of x86 applications work? Is the same level of fluency achieved? When will the limitations in software compatibility be solved?
We do not look at the benchmarks. They do not serve to explain the experience of use. In my case, I use Emulated Office and I do not notice the difference with the native one. The emulator is created by Microsoft and Windows 10 works natively on ARM. The developers must compile two versions, one ARM, and another x86, but they are two equivalent versions with a similar source code. We are not dealing with Windows RT where nothing worked.
“Developers must compile two versions, one ARM and another x86, but they are two equivalent versions with a similar source code.”
Is the Adreno GPU enough? Tell me about the collaboration with AMD.
It is not a Snapdragon. AMD is an ally and has a vision similar to our philosophy. We want to be allies and for example, we provide our LTE modems, but I am not perhaps the right person to talk about these projects.
Other technologies that affect the PC
On mobile phones, there is a lot of talk about artificial intelligence. How will it affect laptops?
Totally. Machine learning, algorithms … Snapdragons have many of these emerging capabilities. Computers are not different from mobile phones. However, it is the task of the operating system. It is not Qualcomm, but Microsoft. Each platform has a lot of research. Artificial intelligence is an example that everything happens faster in the mobile market.
Will we have the fast charge on these laptops? Why have many manufacturers not yet implemented Quick Charge 4.0+?
We offer a package of technologies, it is a question of the manufacturers that decide to implant them. In laptops we have mostly USB Type C and if we can make it work in mobile, in laptops too.
What about wireless charging?
It is simply that it is not popular. It is not technically impossible but right now it is not a priority for the sector. We will see if it is implemented in the PC world, but the changes as I say will move faster. In case it is implemented, others will copy. The lines between the protagonists of PC and mobile are becoming more diffuse.
“We will continue to work with everyone, we just hope they want us the same way.”
Samsung is betting on chipsets Exynos, Huawei with Kirin. Apple has Intel on its Macbook. Is it compatible to have a chip of your own and work with Qualcomm?
Yeah right. We will continue working with everyone. We want everyone. We are good people. We just hope they like us too. (Laughter) I think we have brought innovation to this market. We can bring mobile phone manufacturers closer to the PC. Qualcomm offers a truly mobile platform, the value is different for each one but we will work with everyone and you will see it.
“We’re not going to get a different model of Snapdragon with 15W, it’s not the core of Qualcomm.”
You commented that the version of Snapdragon 835 was slightly different in PC than in mobile. Will that difference increase? Will we see “M” versions at some point?
No, the value is exactly the same. The basics are the same. We always review our products, but right now we focus on efficiency. We are not going to get a different model of 15W. It is not the core of Qualcomm. We focus on mobility and the Snapdragon version for laptops is equivalent to the mobile version.
When will we see a 5G chip on a laptop?
We have announced the X50 chip with 5G inside. It is a basic technology because it will allow faster internet connections in any corner. The same changes that we will see in mobile will be in PCs. There is a lot of expectation.
Future expectations for Snapdragon in laptops
We always talk about high-end processors for laptops. Is it possible that we see 600 or 700 ranges in PCs? Will there be mid-range ARM laptops?
I think we will improve our action map as time progresses. Right now we have just started and we want to give a premium experience. But I’m not saying do not do it. We want to offer Gigabyte technology and our 800 range gives us everything we need for the catalog we are creating with other manufacturers. But we hope to expand it, with different prices, more possibilities, new players and create an ecosystem of options equivalent to the one we have in mobile. At the moment we are very focused on the products of Asus, Lenovo, and HP.
“We hope to expand it, with different prices, new players and create an ecosystem of options equivalent to the one we have in mobile.”
What are the expectations for 2020? What percentage of laptops will come with Qualcomm chipset?
We want everything. Realistically, we do not have numbers. There are no predictions although we believe that the market will grow and the products that are launched will be very successful. It is not an experiment, Qualcomm enters the PC world in a very serious way. The success of the mobile world we want to transfer it to PCs.
Will conventional tablets disappear if these highly mobile laptops become more popular?
The value that we offer with Windows can be transferred to any ecosystem. We focus on Windows but we are open to any system. At the moment the focus is on the business world. From there to expand to other sectors. I think of my children, where they do not understand a world without the connection. For them, we also want to develop this whole mobility ecosystem.