back to article Get ready for laptop-tab-smartphone threesomes from Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, Asus, Qualcomm

Qualcomm conquered the high-end smartphone world with its top-end Arm-compatible Snapdragon chips powering more than 120 smart mobes models globally. Now it's got a new quarry in its sights: the Windows 10 PC, and the x86 processors that typically power them. And also crappy Wi-Fi networks. Qualcomm wants to take smartphone- …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What are the chances that these won't come with an ME and that the cellular antenna and wifi will be fully controllable by those who purchase one?

  2. diodesign Silver badge

    They'll have the usual ARM TrustZone gubbins...

    C.

  3. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    Trade one bad for another?

    Though possibly only on the OS level I'd expect them to not follow wifi preferences in the same way iOS and Android can snoop on things.

    It seems too tempting to the manufacturers.

  4. ma1010 Silver badge
    Stop

    No, thanks

    And it will do it fairly slowly...so you'll want to grab universal apps from the Windows Store that run natively on ARM.

    Ay, there's the rub! Buy all your software - again. And you'll be doing it forever because Office 365 is "SAAS." They've got this "rent, never sell" in their heads, and it will never go away. But I'm not interested in playing that game - or paying endlessly for software.

  5. nijam Silver badge

    Re: No, thanks

    > They've got this "rent, never sell" in their heads, and it will never go away.

    Oh, the irony.

  6. Martin 47

    It’s a bit cold here in the northern hemisphere on earth at the moment, I wonder what the weather is like on whatever planet the people who come up with these ‘great’ ideas live on?

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    What planet are QC on?

    Well, QC are AFAIK, based in San Diego which is almost as far south in Southern California you can get.

    Most of CA is so divorced from the real world that is scares me almost as much as the current POTUS.

  8. Joe Werner

    Battery life and form factor are welcome

    But when traveling internationally (by plane) a lot I don't want the cell phone data connection and I want a decent hard disk (500 GB, at least) for work related data. No, lugging around an external HD is not my preferred solution. No, there are not enough power outlets at most airports.

    I find it intriguing, and hope Linux runs better on this thing than on my ASUS transformer...

  9. JustJasonThings

    Re: Battery life and form factor are welcome

    So buy a laptop. Just because a product doesn't fit specifically for you, doesn't mean it isn't a fit for anybody.

  10. Joe Werner

    Re: Battery life and form factor are welcome

    I would buy a laptop - it's just that they are too big and the battery is shite. The Samsung netbook I had was a perfect match, small enough to work on it while on the train or plane, full day battery life, enough storage, parts could be replaced (keyboard, battery, RAM upgrade). They just don't make them anymore...

  11. PeterM42
    Meh

    Re: Battery life and form factor are welcome

    As long as you have one (or 2) MicroSD card slots, a 256Gb (or 2) MicroSD cards should help with the offline storage problem.

    One thing seems missing? - the opportunity to switch over to Android so that the contents of the Google app store are available.

  12. Boothy Silver badge

    Re: Battery life and form factor are welcome

    Quote: 'One thing seems missing? - the opportunity to switch over to Android so that the contents of the Google app store are available.'

    Modern Chromebooks now have access to Android apps (although sometimes only in the beta channel atm), and some older models are gradually having this rolled to (dependant on device capability).

  13. wayward4now
    Linux

    Re: Battery life and form factor are welcome

    "I find it intriguing, and hope Linux runs better on this thing than on my ASUS transformer..."

    You beat me to it...

  14. Snorlax Silver badge

    So...

    Is this gonna be like Windows RT all over again, with zero apps except for Office and Skype?

  15. Zakhar

    Re: So...

    Exactly, it went so well with RT, they want to do it again.

    And that will be a lot of fun when the device reboots in the middle of phone call because it decides by its own will (or M$ will) that it has to do an update right now, and that it can't wait for another minute you finish your conversation.

  16. Paul Crawford Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: So...

    No, no!

    This new device will emulate the x86 so all those Windows-specific malware you know and love will also run. Slower, but still there...

  17. VinceH Silver badge

    Re: So...

    "Exactly, it went so well with RT, they want to do it again."

    I suspect they're going to keep doing it again, and again, and again, in the hope that the idea will eventually take hold. Because: The idea of recurring £££ (or $$$ depending which side of the puddle you're on) for software and services on the SaaS model is a little too attractive to them.

    Sod that.

    Also sod: the crappy keyboard these things will come with.

    Not to mention Windows 10.

  18. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    Re: So...

    > This new device will emulate the x86

    Only 32bit, not x86-64, and who does that any more ?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Running ARM gives you two times battery life. Except when running x86 code, it has to do three times as much work for each CPU instruction it's emulating. Doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

    Buying one of these you'd also be betting that Microsoft doesn't abandon Windows-10-on-ARM, like it abandoned Windows RT.

    And if you want a good choice of apps which run at full speed, you'll almost certainly prefer an iPad or a Surface.

  20. jmch Silver badge

    " if you want a good choice of apps which run at full speed, you'll almost certainly prefer an iPad or a Surface"

    An iPad or surface is likely to cost 2-3 times as much, though. This is aimed at a very specific type of consumer ("consumer" both in capitalist sense and also in an Internet/ media sense), and, dare I say, very far from the type of usage that the typical Reg reader will require.

    Just because it won't work for you doesn't mean its a terrible idea

  21. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

    . Except when running x86 code, it has to do three times as much work for each CPU instruction it's emulating. Doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

    No, it'll work fine. Emulation will only happen for user-space code. The kernel and all system libraries/DLLs will be ARM-native. For the majority of productivity applications, 90% of time is either spent waiting for user actions, or executing system library functions, so the perceived performance hit will be minimal.

    Now, If you're doing video-coding or protein-folding, or anything that does heavy computation, then sure, you're going to take a serious performance hit, but I think very few people buying laptops at the expected price-point of these devices will expect that kind of performance anyway.

    There's precedent for doing this: When Apple moved its systems from 680x0 to PowerPC back in the 1990s, this was exactly how they managed the transition, and for productivity apps, the performance was good enough that you usually couldn't tell a native PPC app (or "fat-binary", one with both 680x0 and PPC code resources) from a 68k one without looking at the resource fork.

    Actually, this is likely to be a better experience, as Apple's percentage of PPC code in System 7.x was barely 50% at launch of the first PPC systems. Successive system releases eventually got MacOS up to 100% PPC code, but it took a couple of years (68k MacOS was built in what I would politely describe as "its own special way" and that did include injecting pre-assembled 68k binary code in a couple of places; plus there were some instances of self-modifying code in the OS too for performance reasons).

    Microsoft has pretty much all of Windows plus its DLLs as ARM code already. What people refer to as "Windows Phone 10" is basically Windows on ARM without win32.dll, but win32.dll also exists in an ARM build, as this was how they got Office to run on the original Surface RT, despite it not being a "Metro/Modern" app.

  22. nijam Silver badge

    > Just because it won't work for you doesn't mean its a terrible idea.

    Just because it will work for some non-techies doesn't mean it's a good idea, either.

  23. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    "Running ARM gives you two times battery life"

    I'm not sure. The screen is still the big power consumer. And the OS, graphics processor, modems and comms code must add to that. It's quite possible that only 10% or so of usage would involve x86 emulation, so the effect on power consumption might not be that large.

    However, it's just another layer of complexity for someone to foul up somewhere, which from a security point of view is more worrying.

  24. Roland6 Silver badge

    >An iPad or surface is likely to cost 2-3 times as much, though.

    But unless these devices can run applications at least as well as the oldest still supported iPad (currently the iPad Air, released in 2013 and available secondhand for a little over £200), they will effectively be landfill - just like all the budget Win10 tablets today.

    From my experience, my inclination is to go with either an iOS or Android platform as these were developed from the ground up for mobile.

  25. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    > When Apple moved its systems from 680x0 to PowerPC back in the 1990s

    Yes, but the PowerPC was several times the performance of any 680x0.

  26. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

    Despite a >2x clock-speed advantage, the first 601 systems only had about 1.5 x the real performance of the 68040/40 it replaced; native code versus native code. Still a considerable jump, but not the "multiple times" that Apple touted. Benchmarks tended to favour the 601 as they could run within the generous 32k L1 instruction/data cache, but real applications running under an operating system never came close to that theoretical speed. Add the effort of emulating over half of the code within the OS, and the performance benefits of PowerPC really looked questionable: Bottom-left of the linked page here shows a benchmark of the 601 Macs against the 68040 Quadra line. Even allowing for an emulation penalty of over 50%, it's not pretty: https://archive.org/stream/MacWorld_9405_May_1994#page/n95/mode/2up

    Basically, Apple's customers bought the 601 series on a promise of future performance, but it was one that Apple never delivered, and I think it was the root of the problems that nearly closed the company later in the 1990s. 604 and then 740/"G3" were the CPUs that eventually came good and showed the potential of PowerPC, but by then most people had moved to Pentium-powered Windows 95 desktops. "Fool me once..."

    Coming back to Snapdragon, based on mobile benchmarks, the 835 is about 20% faster at integer workloads than the ~2Mhz Intel Core-m3 chips that are commonly used at this price-point. However, that might be understating the ARM chip's real performance potential: a processor running in a phone has a much more restricted TDP performance envelope - especially if the handset is water (and thus air) sealed. Give an 835 access to a bigger battery and the same cooling and ventilation as a laptop has, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it handily outperform the m3.

    There should be enough extra processing power to cover the emulation overhead, especially as a lot has happened in this field since 1994. The advent of Java with its bytecode runtime later in the mid-1990s spurred on major improvements in CPU emulation techniques. By the time Apple changed ISAs again in 2004, there wasn't the same gap between "PowerPC" and "native Intel" code, and what gap there was was much less relevant because, this time, Apple shipped a 100% native-x86 OS with their new Intel systems. Microsoft is in that position too - there's a 100% native ARM build of Windows.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like a rehash of the Atom based tablets and low end notebooks (Linx7 / HP Slate etc) which appeared a few years ago.

    At least those run x86 natively and Windows App Store is still poor / patchy.

    As for tying it in for 3G / 4G / LTE contracts, seems little sense. You overpay for the device and as data isn't as expensive to add onto phones it makes more sense to tether to a mobile device.

    For a standalone data connection a MiFi makes more sense than tying it to one device.

  28. Warm Braw Silver badge

    You overpay

    And you keep overpaying. That's the point.

  29. steelpillow Silver badge
    Devil

    Netbooks, sigh

    I know, let's call them "netbooks", this idea can't ever have been tried before...

  30. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Re: Netbooks, sigh

    If the pricetag is anywhere half a grand (sterling), it's not a netbook. IMO

    Netbooks were great. I still use my 2010 Acer Aspire One - Aging Win XP install it came with a long faded memory.

    These sound great. But if locked to Windows (whatever) or even Chrome or Android with patchy updates then forget it.

    I want to be able to put a decent OS like Arch, Void or Slackware on it.

  31. Nattrash
    Happy

    Re: Netbooks, sigh

    Hear, hear... Have a still alive and kicking ZG5 here that just refuses to die. Opened its guts so many times, to pop in a SSD, or give it a "new" RAM, wifi, or USB port (did I mention it has 3? Plus 2 SD slots? And a headphone jack?!) from Fleebay. New battery? Sure, China seems to have loads for silly prices. Crap, left the charger in my hotel room. Have to shell out another £3 to get a new one...

    And the ZG5 receives all humbly. And it just keeps running its up-to-date linux for as long as 32 bits will stay available. The missus loves it as her little Kodi box, and I just can't refuse it as a "let's do a quick dd if=/dev/zero 1st" option when (forced to) travel to dodgy destinations...

    Did I already mention that I love this little box..?

  32. wayward4now
    Linux

    Re: Netbooks, sigh

    "I want to be able to put a decent OS like Arch, Void or Slackware on it."

    I put Ubuntu on mine ...works a charm

  33. Anne-Lise Pasch
    Angel

    I hope all the kids buy one...

    Then they won't have anything good to learn to code on, and I get job security.

  34. wayne 8

    Laptops with built in cell connection have already come and gone.

    A separate hotspot allows a choice of carriers.

    A separate laptop/tablet allows choice of OS other than Windows.

    But then the majority cannot handle choices and buys what they are told to buy.

  35. jmch Silver badge

    "A separate hotspot allows a choice of carriers"

    Bit if you don't have a hotspot, no Internet. And if you do have a hotspot, you can connect to that preferentially over mobile data, same as with a phone.

    The only question is does it have a physical or software-defined SIM that can be swapped from carrier to carrier, or is it a fixed hardware SIM that ties you to the carrier? In the latter case I would share your concern

    EDIT: According to this article, they have nano-SIMs, so no concern:

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/12/06/always_connected_snapdragon_pcs/

  36. Sureo

    "binge watch TV shows for 12 hours straight"

    Get a life.

  37. kernelpickle

    Re: "binge watch TV shows for 12 hours straight"

    Apparently you've never flown over an ocean, or had a delay or layover that's lasted more than a few hours.

    When you've easily got that kind of time to kill, and have a hard time falling asleep on a plane--a device that can play streaming or downloaded content for that long is invaluable!

  38. Justin Case

    Re: "binge watch TV shows for 12 hours straight"

    >>Apparently you've never flown over an ocean, or had a delay or layover that's lasted more than a few hours.

    I prefer a non-battery dependent paper based entertainment delivery device instead of sitting there drooling whilst infusing whatever mindless pap comes out of the screen directly into my brain.

    Bookz Rool!

  39. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Re: "binge watch TV shows for 12 hours straight"

    Except (1) they're bulky and take up precious space, and (2) they're not self-limiting which means you have to use the overhead light which inevitably disturbs the passenger next to you.

  40. Randy Hudson

    Re: "binge watch TV shows for 12 hours straight"

    > I prefer a non-battery dependent paper based entertainment delivery

    Why is that medium so superior to video/audio? When Gutenberg made books a reality for common folk, I wonder if there were oral storytelling zealots who were just as annoying.

  41. Lusty Silver badge

    Re: "binge watch TV shows for 12 hours straight"

    "Apparently you've never flown over an ocean"

    Apparently it's a while since you have. Modern planes have entertainment systems with similar content to Netflix or Prime so you can watch what you want when you want and won't run out of movies or shows unless you're delayed by a month or so. Why would I want to drag my own screen on board, and why would I want to subject my seat-neighbor to a screen without a privacy shield and keep them awake? Seriously, try a modern plane, they really are quite good.

  42. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Re: "binge watch TV shows for 12 hours straight"

    "When Gutenberg made books a reality for common folk, I wonder if there were oral storytelling zealots who were just as annoying."

    Actually it was a very long time from Gutenberg to cheap books - roughly 400 years. For most people until well into the 20th century, books required a visit to a library. There's always a lot of people who oppose the democratisation of information because it hits their profit margins, but today a mobile phone that can hold hundreds of books costs no more than the equivalent of a library edition of a paper book in the first half of the 20th century.

    The worry is that the cloud and streaming is being seen as a way to reverse the process and extract more money for looking at stuff.

  43. FreeRadical

    More crap for the e-waste facilities?

    "These Snapdragon Windows 10 PCs...are not workstations, they are not software development machines...and they are not hefty gaming rigs. They are consumption junctions."

    Great, just what we need. A device built exclusively for using Facebook and Netflix. I don't know about the UK, but data plans for smartphones here in Canada are ridiculously overpriced. The last thing I need is to pay more for the "privilege" <sarcasm> of using Facebook or streaming the 10% of good content available on Netflix. Wifi works just fine for both tasks thank you.

  44. jmch Silver badge

    Re: More crap for the e-waste facilities?

    "I don't know about the UK, but data plans for smartphones here in Canada are ridiculously overpriced"

    Don't know about UK either, but in Switzerland you can at least get unlimited plans. Still outrageously overpriced, but reliable and good speeds, so if you have one then you don't need a fixed line at all.

  45. Def Silver badge

    Re: More crap for the e-waste facilities?

    Don't forget that EU+EEA based operators have to offer free roaming across all member states these days, so not having to rely on shitty hotel wifi (hello, Spain and Sweden) is only a good thing.

  46. Roland6 Silver badge

    Re: More crap for the e-waste facilities?

    >Don't forget that EU+EEA based operators have to offer free roaming across all member states these days

    It's not free and what is included in your normal monthly subscription and what additional usage will cost is determined by your plan...

  47. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Happy

    Re: More crap for the e-waste facilities?

    It's not free and what is included in your normal monthly subscription and what additional usage will cost is determined by your plan...

    In my case, absolutely 0 extra, my plan cost 17euro/month.

  48. Boothy Silver badge

    Re: More crap for the e-waste facilities?

    For comparison in the UK. One provider, Giffgaff do...

    £7.50 for 1GB a month

    £10 for 3GB a month.

    £18 for 9GB a month.

    £20 for unlimited* data.

    *it throttles speed once you hit 9GB, during the day/peak times.

    All the above are no contract, and full plans, so include calls at ever increasing minutes, and unlimited text messages. There are other plans, but that's a cross section from a minimal to max.

    Other carriers/providers are typically more expensive than Giffgaff (For example O2 charge £18 a month for 1GB, sim only, 30 day contract!).

    Curious as to how this compares with the US, Europe etc?

  49. TheFiddler

    Sounds a lot like most of the reasons I backed the Planet Gemini, only this thing is stuck with Windows and won't fit in my coat pocket. It'll be interesting if you can replace Windows on them with Linux and make them a potentially much more useful machine.

  50. inmypjs Silver badge

    Yawn

    What do you want to do with a weak computer that has no storage and expensive net connection that needs Windows 10 to do it?

    I predict a flop not quite as bad as Windows RT surface things did.

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