Friday, 19 January 2018

The Always Connected PC

The Always Connected PC (ACPC) is Microsoft's attempt, in collaboration with major vendors, to innovate in the laptop market. Microsoft market the ACPC as a 'technology shift':
We are again at the beginning of another major technology shift: the ability to be connected anytime, anywhere with Always Connected PCs that are instantly on, always connected with incredible battery life.
Below is a summary of the ACPC's differentiating characteristics according to Windows Central:
  1. Instant on: Similar to smartphones and tablets, the ACPC doesn't hibernate and receives instant notifications.  
  2. Always connected: The laptop supports LTE and is always connected to the internet. 
  3. Long battery life: So far, the announced devices advertise a battery life between 20 - 22 hours. In addition, standby mode should last for weeks. 
The default operating system is Windows 10 S but there is the option to change to Windows 10 Home/Pro. It is not clear if all ACPC laptops are intended to run on ARM processors but, so far, the announced devices ship with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835. The Snapdragon 835 is specifically optimised for Windows 10 S, so it is not clear how the processor will work with Windows 10 Home/Pro. Will performance/battery life take a hit? Different ACPC laptops will be available soon so we will have a better picture after their release. I expect significant problems early on before Microsoft and Qualcomm (or others) work on solutions that improve performance and battery life.

The ACPC is here to stay

I believe Microsoft takes the ACPC seriously. This marketed "technology shift" reminds me of Microsoft's previous collaboration with Intel to release the Ultrabook. Similar to the Ultrabook, Microsoft has set minimum requirements for an ACPC device:
It needs to have 13-plus hours of battery life in use, and "weeks" of battery life when it's in sleep or standby mode. It needs to have an LTE cellular modem. It has to be thin and light. And it needs to run Windows 10 S by default, a version of the operating system released last year that maximizes battery life and performance
Right now, there are three officially announced ACPC laptops: Asus NovaGoHP Envy x2, and the Lenovo Miix 630 (a preview of the Asus NovoGo is available here). The Asus NovaGo starts at $599, the Lenovo Miix 630 at $799.99 and the pricing for the HP Envy x2 is yet to be announced. The pricing is high considering hardware specifications and I expect prices to go down as more vendors release their own versions of the ACPC. 

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