Microsoft and Qualcomm’s ‘Always Connected PCs,’ explained

A couple of days ago, Qualcomm and Microsoft announced they were collaborating on a category of computer called the ‘Always Connected PC.’ In other words, a PC that behaves more like a smartphone. That could have potentially massive implications for the way we use our computers, but there are some important drawbacks as well.

Let’s break it down.

What exactly is an Always Connected PC?

The ‘Always Connected’ bit is basically a marketing term Microsoft is using for a new batch of Windows PCs running on processors with ARM architectures – the same type of super-efficient chips on our mobile devices.

These PCs will have two primary claims to fame over the ‘x86’ type processors in current PCs: constant cellular connectivity, and ridiculously long battery life – over 20 hours on a charge. For comparison most Windows Ultrabooks are in the 12-hour range.

In particular, the company is partnering with Qualcomm, which makes the processing platform used in the vast majority of Android devices, including the Snapdragon 835 in the Galaxy S8/Note 8 (in the US), the Pixel 2, the OnePlus 5, the LG V30, etc.

It’s possible the company might work with other ARM partners in the future, but Qualcomm is getting the first go at it. The first couple of Always Connected PCs will use the same chipsets as those phones.

The idea is that by combining super-efficient processors with constant connectivity, PCs will be as convenient as our smartphones. With battery life over 20 hours, you won’t ever have to think about carrying a charger. Like your phone, they’ll instant wake from sleep. With constant LTE connectivity, you won’t have to scramble to find a hotpost.

How is that different from existing PCs with cellular connectivity?

Let’s be clear: Always Connected PCs won’t do anything you can’t already do with existing PCs, and there are already plenty of PCs on the market with constant LTE connectivity. But they might do some things better.

The smaller and more efficient processors allow for bigger batteries with lower power drainage; think of how powerful and efficient our smartphones are. It also means computers could get smaller and lighter while still providing solid battery life.