Following poor Always Connected PC reviews, Microsoft appears to distance itself from Qualcomm and ARM

In the wake of criticisms of the performance of Windows 10 on ARM-based Always Connected PCs (ACPCs), Microsoft's Windows general manager Erin Chapple downplayed the position of these devices in the category during a techradar interview. "We're about choice in the ecosystem and working across our partners," she said, as she stressed that ARM-based ACPCs are not the only devices in that category. As a provider of tools others use, this spin sounds consistent with the company's mission.

I say "spin" because Microsoft's messaging beginning in December 2016 regarding its new cellular PC category has been inextricably intertwined with the company's partnership with Qualcomm and Windows 10 on Snapdragon ARM processors.

The partnership's a synergy of Microsoft's evolving of Windows for the modern age of connected computing, and mobile industry leader Qualcomm's mission to bring more people onto the cellular roadmap. Microsoft's cellular PC messaging, beginning with the category's December 2016 introduction, has had an almost unwavering focus on cellular PCs based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon ARM processors. Not until the unflattering reviews of ACPCs did we see Microsoft widen its focus to Intel devices that don't have all of the smartphone-like benefits Microsoft made the highlight of its ACPC marketing.

Microsoft introduces ARM-based ACPC category

During a December 2016 WinHec keynote, Executive Vice President of Windows and Devices Terry Myerson shared that more Microsoft customers have been asking for innovation in the mobile PC space. He touted Microsoft's work with long-time partner Intel to make the PC more portable with sleeker designs. He also conceded Microsoft needed to create opportunities for the Windows ecosystem and add new capabilities into Windows 10, including:

  • Connectivity always being within reach.
  • Easy selection of data from a choice of carriers through the Microsoft Store.
  • Purchasing data with a Microsoft Store account.
  • eSIM rather than exposed SIM slots to enable connectivity without compromising design.
  • Activation of plans directly from the device.
  • Being informed about data usage.

To complete this enhanced mobility solution, Myerson introduced mobile chipmaker Qualcomm as a new PC silicon partner. Windows 10 PCs on Snapdragon ARM processors with integrated cellular, improved connectivity, better battery life and support for x86 Win32 apps were the beginning of Microsoft's cellular PC category.

And Microsoft has marketed "Always Connected PCs" as a proper name for a PC category (rather than "always connected PCs" as a device description) that possesses specific smartphone-like qualities: instant on, always connected and all-day battery life.

Microsoft and Qualcomm the architects of an always connected future

Qualcomm's multi-device, multi-generation commitment

Qualcomm Executive Vice President Cristiano Amon joined Myerson at WinHEC 2016 and stressed Qualcomm's commitment to Microsoft and Always Connected PCs:

We're committed to this with multiple chipsets and multiple devices. We're committed for the long term and actually may drive together the transition of the PC with 5G speeds and immersive use cases.

Amon praised Windows 10's full compatibility with ARM and emphasized that the Qualcomm-influenced infrastructure that created the smartphone ecosystem could be leveraged for this new ACPC category. When Myerson asked for Amon's long-term vision beyond the initial devices, Amon replied, "we can take all those [smartphone] use cases straight to the PC."

How Qualcomm and Microsoft are making PCs post-smartphone devices

Microsoft promises and delivers ACPCs by 2017

In a May 2017 video (above) Qualcomm Vice President Don McGuire continued the ARM-focused ACPC narrative which began in December 2016: "We continually look for ways to redefine the mobile experience for customers, which is why we developed the Qualcomm Snapdragon Mobile PC platform.

Chapple recently said, "We [Microsoft] don't equate 'Always Connected PC' with Qualcomm." This PR statement, meant to diminish the uninspiring ACPC's association with Qualcomm, is inconsistent with the narrative that continued with Myerson at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Summit in December 2017. Myerson said, for example:

Last year at this time…we painted a new vision for connected computing with built-in LTE connectivity, devices that are instantly on and battery life that went beyond hours into days and weeks. Today we delivered on the promise that we made then.

Myerson defined ACPCs as modern Windows 10 devices with thin, light, elegant designs, touch, pen and ink, Windows Hello, instant-on, and always-connected with a week of battery life. Not all PCs with cellular capabilities fit this definition, though the ARM-based ASUS and HP devices Myerson introduced were supposed to.

Andromeda, folding PCs and Microsoft's vision of personal computing's future

As Qualcomm defends ACPCs, Microsoft wavers

As reviews of the first generation ACPCs have challenged Microsoft's and Qualcomm's claims for the category, Qualcomm has stood its ground through three videos that "prove" instant-on, improved battery life and better heat efficiency.

Conversely, Microsoft pivoted away from the Qualcomm-focused narrative that has framed ACPCs since the category's introduction. Chapple did concede that the Windows 10 April 2018 Update should improve the performance of current ACPCs.

None of this is to say Microsoft hasn't invested in the ACPC category beyond Qualcomm (though a focus on ARM-based devices may be in preparation for Project Andromeda). Instead, it's an indictment of the company's tendency to back away from commitments. Whereas Qualcomm defended a narrative that drove the category since 2016, Microsoft quickly distanced itself from Qualcomm.

Dear Microsoft, please don't treat your partners like you treat your enthusiasts.

Related: Microsoft CEO admits abandoning consumers was a mistake

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

242 Comments
  • They did it again.
  • In those famous words, "Told ya so"... I hope they dont get any bright ideas to do a portable xbox. Window mixed reality is in the crosshairs...adjusts scope....
  • Ironically Xbox is what could have saved Arm PC's but MS is so utterly clueless and still clings to the dead Windows Phone hybrid strategy. Store in Win10 should be best of Win32 desktop Windows with native Arm/x86 software. Arm PC's should have launched with software recompiled to work from the Store. Xbox should be separate like Steam that covers Films/TV like having a virtual Xbox console in the PC, also Arm/x86. Arm PC's level the playing filed as Steams existing huge library is useless, giving Xbox on Arm PC's a chance to grow. Future hybrid Arm PC Phone's could runs premium games too the one thing MS has that Apple/Google do not. Instead they launched a platform with no game support.
  • Hey, Microsoft... the best way to get consumers interested in your cellular platform is to have a PHONE!
  • That didn't work out so well the last 3 or 4 times.
  • Because they don’t eat their own dog food. Visual studio not a UWP. Office apps, still lagging behind the win32 versions. Control panel, still exists. How can devs take Windows seriously when MS themselves never finish it. I got a new MacBook Pro this week. I can take screen shots natively and reside the image before using it. Built in. MS have the coding chops for this, but just don’t have it. User experience is still lacking. They still struggle with internal “wars” such a broken company. Good devs lost in a sea of politics. Shame as there are some great people within. Sat Nad still not sorted it. Crying.
  • sadly, you just don't know how to capture screenshot in Windows? Seriously...
  • They ate so much dog food they became accustomed to the taste and ended up with products that taste like dog food. That's the problem, poor quality, dog food nobody wants to eat.
  • Lol at the comment of not being able to take screenshots in Windows natively... As far back as XP there was the snipping tool. It amazes me how many ppl never discovered it. Personally now of days I'm liking the built in double tap on my Surface pen.
  • dev: why take it seriously if there's no user? We have win10, iOS, Android 3 OSes on the market already, now a 4th (3rd mobile) OS called WinPhone?
    user: why take it seriously if there's no dev?
    And there's iOS and Android.
    How do you break the loop?
  • That was the problem, can't build up any momentum if you keep rebooting the darned thing.
  • Jason! Are the words of one employee a total representation of the stance an entire company has on a product?
    ......
    This question is for Jason, not you typical dirt bag cockroach troll.
  • Hey Rodney, when that position is Microsoft's Windows general manager, her words carry a lot of weight representing the company's position. It should be noted that my focus in the piece is that her response in the techradar interview, from my perspective, downplayed the role of Qualcomm in the ACPC category. It didn't indicate (nor do I say in the piece) that Microsoft is abandoning the relationship. I actually think its critical to Andromeda and the whole "mobilization" (if I can use that word :-)) of Windows 10 and is something both companies are committed to for the long haul. How Qualcomm and Microsoft are making PCs post-smartphone devices https://www.windowscentral.com/how-qualcomm-helping-microsoft-make-pcs-more-smartphones My gripe was that when Qualcomm Snapdraogn-based ACPCs were specifically challenged, rather than quickly defending a relationship that has been aggressively pushed by Microsoft, Chapple in my opinion, responded more like "well there other devices in the category" rather than immediatly showing the level of commitment to Qualcomm that has reflected the push to that point.
  • Best article I've ever seen you write, but only because it calls out MS better than anything else I've seen on WC. I only wish I could be in a place where I was saying that about a more inspirational article.
  • So you want microsoft to no include Intel or AMD into the ACPC ambit because Qualcomm would be miffed.. lol.. stop being juvenile.. ACPC was never designed with QC in mind. Intel failed to deliver their mobile chip.. if they do why shouldn't they be considered under this umbrella.. lol.. how desperately are you trying to mark this whole effort as a fail when it is only a first gen product.. something that runs 2 days..
  • Gigantasaurus, no, I never said that. What I said is that since the specific Qualcomm-based devices were in question, not the whole category that included other partners, an immediate response that references other partners doesn't reflect the level of passion/commitment Microsoft has shown for the Qualcomm /ARM relationship to that point. And nowhere, absolutely no where in this piece do I state, infer or suggest this effort is a fail. A careful read shows: I. An opening with a focus on the words of Chapple that I feel downplayed the role of Qualcomm in the ACPC category. II. A body of text that presents evidence Microsoft's pushing of the ACPC category with a predominantly Qualcomm ARM focus, beginning with the 2016 introduction of cellular PC category with Windows on ARM. As I note in the piece this led to the broad defining of the Always Connected PC as a proper name for a category of PC with smartphone-like qualities (not 'always connected PC' as a product description). III. I close with a return to Chapples response that didn't seem to reflect the passion and commitment that Microsoft had poured into the Qualcomm/ARM relationship. I acknowledged that there are other partners in the category, but Chapples response to the challenges ARM-based devices have faced downplayed a relationship that Microsoft has used as the 'mascot' for the category. So, no I don't think the category is a fail at all, nor the relationship between Microsoft and Qualcomm. The piece was very specific in its criticism. To have extrapolated from that the notion that I am marking the effort a fail is a gross misunderstanding of what I wrote. In fact, I included a quote from Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm's VP, where he expressed multi generational and multi device support for ACPC going into the future, when Terry Myerson asked him what he saw going forward. And I fully expect to see more ARM-based PCs in the immediate and distant future, and Andromeda category devices based on ARM as well.
  • Ahhh, I see. Thanks Jason.
  • ""Dirt bag cockroach troll"" sounds like you're lonely
  • ""Dirt bag cockroach troll"" sounds like you're lonely
  • Baby bottles are in isle 3 Rodney. The resident bitchfanboy
  • "WoA isn't currently our focus."
  • When did we hear that before? They always say this 1 year before killing something. It's a cryptic way of saying. We are going another direction. (once again).
  • Which makes you wonder, why the f*ck did you water time and resources on it instead of on mobile, where you actually had a chance before you gave up!?
  • Those guys need a re-education Imo.
  • Dump the ACPCs and bring back Win 10 mobile....
  • But no one wanted W10M either...
  • Windows 10 Mobile had almost 10% market share in the EU and some places like Italy had 14%, yes I know it was mostly the lumia 520 cheap phone but so what … you can't start with a 1000 dollar phone unless you Apple.. people did like windows phone it was the developers and Microsoft that messed it up by paying developers to make stuff than everyone wanted a hand out, Including Verizon... it became a bribe to sell a phone on Verizon they wanted something in return. like MS CEO said, we are not paying for extortion anymore.
    anyways
    people did like windows phone the look the feel but the apps were not there ..and some didn't realy care ...
  • Lumia 520 ran Windows Phone 8 (.1) and not Windows 10 Mobile.
  • Many people still like Windows Mobile 📱
  • Not Many people still like Windows Mobile. TFTFY Really, not enough to make it fly as a product.
  • Nobody wants it now.
  • I want it and I want now!
  • It's my money and I want it now!!!
  • I want WP8.1, but not this unsupported abandonment.
  • Hi Dan, Do you think MS put forth the effort in mobile, or was it a change in leadership that decided it go away?
    Would Ballmer have kept a mobile device? Thoughts? Thanks, Mr. V
  • OMG!!! Let it rest, already. Lol. Use the search button in the top right corner, if you want to stroll down memory lane🙄🙄🙄
  • i'd rather ask it in a forum......
  • Wow. Down voting the executive editor. I never thought I'd see the day. WC readers have grown.
    Wonderful.
  • That is an inaccurate statement.
  • "No One" is inaccurate...Win10 mobile still has millions of followers worldwide!
  • While Android sells a million+ per day, Microsoft was struggling to hit that number per month. Compared to Android, no one wanted Windows phones.
  • Win10 mobile fans are not in competition with Android!!! All we want is continuous support of OS from MS in spite of lack of apps.....
  • They are supporting it, for the next year or two at least. They've stopped selling the handsets, so I imagine security patches end in another year or two.
  • That isn't support. Security updates are the last thing Windows 10 Mobile needs.
  • That isn't how business works. Fans have nothing to do with it unless there are enough to support the platform. There isn't.
  • Doesn't mean that it's not desirable. I still miss mine. Android with Squarehome is alright though.
  • My grandma drove over her 650 last week, so I got a "used" 950 on ebay for $104. It arrived in 48 hours, and it was brand new! Now I'm using my old continuum dock to project it on a sideways 40 inch TV, so she can see messages and live tiles from anywhere in the room. (Continuum in phone mode, not desktop mode) Win10 mobile gains another follower!
  • phone mode? wtf is that
  • No they had not. Took me some time to realize but mobile was long dead before for Microsoft
  • "We are committed to WoA"......
  • Windows on Arrival.
  • WoA Feature 2 'coming soon'
  • "If no one else makes WoA devices, we will."
  • How many fails until this Nutella goes?
  • You're categorizing fail incorrectly. Stock is doing great. Nadella is the first Wall Street CEO and it shows.
  • Typical shareholder response, he is not popular among users of Microsoft products and that's the key NOT Wall Street.
  • 95% of all people using MS products don't even know who he is and couldn't care less.
  • The same users who were dumping their 920s when 950s were being introduced and switching over to the iphones and androids.. fickle users!! I remember people dumping mobile en masse when some stupid app decided to withdraw support, like the chase bank.. MS cant depend on this fickle bunch
  • That is why they need to make fantastic hardware and software to complement it. That "fickle" bunch aren't going to stick around for Microsoft's mediocre experiences.
  • Who says windows on arm is a fail.. Andromeda will be a windows on arm!! lol.. they are building a base people would want to buy..
  • Which is why Andromeda is likely to fail...
  • Performance would be more forgivable if the price wasn't astronomical. Sure, there's a tiny argument to be made that ACPCs compete with the iPad Pros of the world, but iPad Pros have amazing performance relative to the OS that's running it. Maybe these ACPC OEMs should have taken a harder look at their product and realized the performance isn't up to snuff so maybe drop the price and lower the build quality to compensate.
  • True that, the only reason I would consider ARM over anything else would be the lower price it SHOULD have.
  • Agreed, the price should be lower. Especially on a first gen product.
  • The Alarm system repairman showed up yesterday. He had an iPad to create the invoice and accept my payment. Let's just say it took him more than 30 minutes to get the invoice and payment recorded. As I watched, the software froze and then dumped all the info he put into the form. Not a ringing endorsement for the iPad.
  • Sounds like a software issue. Windows never has those.
  • Sounds like you're making up excuses for Apple... Let's be honest : no OS is perfect.
  • But that's the point, iPad fans would have you believe it is flawless.
  • If thar company could make a decenr iPad app, what makes you think they could make a decent Windows app?
  • Same issues with Windows 10 Mobile regarding apps. But people will always blame the OS no matter what it is.
  • Just because the processor is cheaper, does not mean the overall cost of producing a device will fall significantly. Plus price has more to do with the value proposition versus the cost of manufacturing. The iPhone cost less than $300, so why can they sell it for $1000? People value the device enough to pay a huge premium. Obviously, an ACPC needs