Future laptops will be more like smartphones, but they will be larger, with more battery life, and more powerful. This is due to the reversal of the mobile computing trend in the past decade. In the past decade, our mobile phones have become faster and faster, and laptops and other personal computers (PCs) feel like they are dying.
For a long time, whether we are working at home or in the office, we have to make a choice: whether to start a heavy “brick” (laptop), with a noisy fan, a pixelated display, and something that will only last for a few hours. It inevitably had poor battery life and intermittent internet connection. Or you can reach into your pocket and turn on the mini supercomputer i.e. your smartphone that turns on instantly, stays connected forever, and is full of applications.
The reason why laptops survived is mainly that they are more suitable for heavy work compared to a smartphone. After all, their screens are larger and physical keyboards are more suitable for efficient and creative tasks. But when the new Pandemic hit, we found that these characteristics outweighed the mobile advantages of mobile phones and tablets, especially because we usually work at home, use Wi-Fi, and plug the power plug into a wall outlet.
In the past ten years, personal computer sales have been declining overall, and it is expected that this decline will continue in the foreseeable future. Data compiled by IDC, a technology market research company, shows that during the epidemic, personal computer sales increased by 50% or more each quarter compared with the previous year. Notebook computer manufacturers are seizing this opportunity to suddenly return to the spotlight.
Every major personal computer brand is integrating more technologies that make laptops the core of our lives. They use a power-saving but powerful processor and a clearer display, the thickness and weight are correspondingly reduced, and the battery life is longer. These evolving technologies make it possible to design more rear clamshell laptops, including “detachable” (tablets that can be inserted into the keyboard) and “two-in-ones” (with 360-degree hinges that can be folded into a tablet Shape of an ultra-thin laptop).
Perhaps the most transformative is that laptops will eventually connect directly to cellular networks, including 5G networks. “Netbooks” supporting cellular connections appeared briefly a few years ago, but never became mainstream, mainly due to the lack of cooperation between hardware manufacturers and wireless suppliers. The next transformation of laptops will be driven by changes in the behaviour of consumers, businesses, and schools during the epidemic, but it also coincides with the rapid development of technology entering the field of personal computers.
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Apple leads the trend
Technology consulting firm CCS Insight CEO Geoff Blaber (Geoff Blaber) said that longer battery life is directly related to the use of less electricity to support more computing power, and Apple is in a leading position in this regard. Over the years, Apple has been accumulating expertise in internal chip design, and at the same time set up its own design processor, first of all, designing a processor for the iPhone. These processors are based on the design architecture of the British microchip design company Arm and compete with Intel x86 technology, which has always dominated the personal computer and data centre industries, and until recently it also provided processors for Apple Mac computers. Apple used the same expertise to develop the M1 chip for the Mac.
Braber said that Apple’s chip performance “makes other companies in the industry very worried” and said the company “leads in today’s competition by several orders of magnitude.” For Apple, this means that many benchmarks of its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebooks, as well as the iPad Pro, have broken records. iPad Pro uses the same M1 processor and supports 5G. The M1 chip is now also present on the iMac, but Apple has not yet provided a touch screen for its laptops, although many other competitors are already doing so. Personally, we are averse to the idea of having a touchscreen on a laptop but to each their own.
Miguel Nunes, senior director of product management at chip giant Qualcomm, said that Apple’s strict control of hardware and software means that the company has to some extent pioneered the customization of microchips and has accelerated the entire industry’s customisation of microchips to better run our most commonly used software. This kind of customization at the hardware level makes software faster than just running on general-purpose chips, such as the general-purpose chips that have been the core of Intel’s business for decades.
Trigger a wave of competition
When it comes to promoting the mobilization of personal computers, Apple’s competitors are not sitting still.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro X is one of the company’s newer detachable products, running a processor based on the Arm architecture designed in cooperation with Qualcomm. Windows cannot currently run on these types of processors, largely because not many third-party developers write software for the versions of Windows used on this type of hardware, although the company has always encouraged this. Microsoft said that it will release a new version of Windows on June 24. Initial signs indicate that the new version of Windows will include a major redesign of the operating system to make it easy to use and unify in various processor types and personal computer designs.
Intel occupies approximately 80% of the notebook computer market, and almost all of the remaining share is occupied by its direct competitor AMD, whose chips are basically the same as Intel. There are also a small number of laptops equipped with Arm-based processors, using chips made by Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek and other companies. Intel responded to these changes in notebook computers and adjusted the design to maintain its competitiveness with Arm in the notebook computer field.
At the same time, Intel has created the “EVO Platform” certification for notebook computers using its latest generation processors. To qualify, the device must meet strict criteria: thin and light design, instant power-on, 9-hour battery life, and other reminiscent smartphone features. However, these specifications usually have high price tags. Chris Walker, Intel’s vice president of laptops and other businesses, said: “This work is already in progress, and then people’s demand for our critical EVO experience has accelerated greatly due to the epidemic.”
Braber said that personal computers are benefiting from the renaissance of web applications, which are programs that can run on a browser and do not need to be written for a specific operating system. But this is also one of the reasons why Windows computers and Apple devices may continue to lose to Google Chromebooks. For a long time, Google has always pursued the strategy of promoting users to use web applications through the Chrome operating system. Thanks in large part to the rapid adoption of the education market, Chromebooks have exploded in their share of personal computer sales in the past 18 months.
The Chrome ecosystem may appear on the most diverse devices and underlying technologies of all operating systems. Except for Apple, all major personal computer manufacturers use x86 processors made by Intel, but MediaTek and Qualcomm also have processing based on the Arm architecture. Device. The latter two companies both began to introduce chips dedicated to notebook computers, which are more powerful than the chips that have been sold to Android phone manufacturers for many years, and more chips are under development. Devices that have already installed this type of processor include the Lenovo Chromebook Duet and the Acer Spin 7. The former is equipped with a MediaTek chip, and the latter uses a Qualcomm chip to support a 5G connection.
Connectivity is not very good, yet!
Perhaps one of the most useful functions of a mobile phone is to connect to the Internet almost uninterruptedly through a cellular network, but this function may not appear on laptops as quickly as other elements of mobile computing.
The challenge is not to simply install LTE and 5G modems on personal computers. Patrick Moorhead, president of technology consulting firm Moor Insight&Strategy, said that operators have not yet figured out their purpose. He added that they worry that potentially data-hungry devices such as personal computers will overwhelm their networks.
The good news is that 5G represents an opportunity to adjust incentives so that individual buyers of laptops can more easily obtain data packages. Moorehead added: “All these operators are making all these capital expenditures, and they need to get a return on their investment in spectrum and equipment. We will fall into an oversupply of connectivity.”
A Qualcomm spokesperson said that for some time, Windows laptops have been able to connect to cellular networks without the need for physical SIM cards that consumers rely on to purchase smartphones. He added that at present, Microsoft Surface Pro X supports this “e-SIM” technology and allows data packages to be purchased through apps.
Despite the connectivity challenges, analysts predict that the recent upward trend in personal computer sales will continue. According to IDC analyst Jitesh Urani, who is in charge of smartphones, tablets and personal computers, the reasons include the unmet demand in the education market, and people upgrade their computers every four to five years instead of the usual from six to seven years. In addition, working from home means that employees need their own equipment, rather than sharing equipment like in a workplace such as a call centre.
Ubrani added that there are also behavioural changes that may support people buying personal computers, including the rise of the trend of mixed office and remote work, and the widespread adoption of Zoom Meetings, which have stimulated people’s interest in better webcams on laptops. As there will be more demand in the near future, the supply will have to increase to match up!
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