Smartphone and PC makers may unite to build the PC of the future

Mobile computing's evolution may result in a convergence of smartphone and PC manufacturers on innovative mobile PCs that blur the lines between smartphones and PCs. For years, the PC's decline reflected how consumer-focused slate-shaped smartphones and tablets devoured portions of the PC market.

Still, as I wrote in 2016, the smartphone's iterative yearly advances reached a dead end in their pursuit of more PC-like functionality. The slate form factor combined with a light mobile OS limits their ability to encompass the scope of PC scenarios toward which mobile computing's headed. Thus, after 10 years, the inevitable plateauing of smartphone innovation is coinciding with the plateauing of the traditional PC market.

Consequently, both PC and smartphone manufacturers are seeking ways to evolve personal computing which, powered by innovations from Qualcomm, Intel and AMD, is increasingly mobile and driven toward more creative and diverse form factors.

Microsoft's creating context for convergence

Multi-purpose, context-sensitive cellular devices are the direction personal computing is moving in, whether one is looking at it from a smartphone or PC perspective. The rise of viable folding PCs and folding smartphone concepts, patents and prototypes reveal that both PC and smartphone OEMs are exploring a similar, potentially converged, future. For instance, Samsung and Motorola are exploring folding phones, while Microsoft's rumored Project Andromeda and Intel's Tiger Rapids concept are attempting to set a precedent for folding PCs.

These aren't haphazard developments. They're a gradual unfolding of personal computing's evolution yielded from Microsoft's intentional relationships with Intel, Qualcomm and others that pushed innovative form factors, processing power and (where applicable) cellular connectivity forward over the years.

For instance, a May 2018 report from analyst firm IDC shows that the only PC category that saw growth in the last quarter was 2-in-1s. This is critical for Microsoft's category-defining, form-shifting device efforts.

Microsoft's pattern-setting PC and mobile strategy

Surface Pro LTE

Surface Pro LTE (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft's Surface Pro, a single device that can be used for productivity as a laptop, media consumption as a tablet, and in studio mode for art, now combined with an always-connected LTE version, began setting a precedence that a single device can potentially do everything PCs and smartphones do separately. This is especially true when you consider the smartphone-like instant on, always-connected and improved battery life of Always-Connected 2-in-1 PCs.

Many observers perspectives are confined to an annual cycle of new devices and see Microsoft's mobile and PC strategies as distinct, rather than interconnected initiatives. It's important to note, however, that Surface-inspired context-conforming PCs and Microsoft's and Qualcomm's Always-Connected PC partnership is an unfolding interconnected strategy that takes time, and is establishing a new way for PC and smartphone OEMs to approach personal computing.

How Microsoft and Qualcomm are making PCs post-smartphone devices

A platform for convergence takes time

Qualcomm Senior Vice President and General Manager of Mobile Alex Katouzian said Qualcomm begins working with partners on new processor use cases three years before they're released. Thus, the 2016 announcement of Windows on ARM Snapdragon 835 was in motion since 2013, a year after Surface launched, and the Windows 10-optimized Snapdragon 850 (based on the 845) announced this year was in the works since 2015.

Microsoft's multi-year mobile investments, beyond the smartphone space, transcend the annual cycle of device releases. This has caused many to miss how Microsoft's not only attempting to bolster the PC market but is also trying to create a mobile computing platform where the strengths of PC and smartphone OEMs can converge.

With PCs moving toward the cellular roadmap, and smartphones moving toward innovative mobile PC form factors and more processing power, PC and smartphone manufacturers can bring their unique strengths to this converging space. Whereas PC manufactures would add their partnerships, distribution channels and more to PCs on the cellular roadmap, smartphone manufacturers bring their mobile expertise, consumer and carrier relationships and ability to scale to the PC space.

The evolving PC is connected, mobile and form diverse

Qualcomm said of its Windows 10 optimized Snapdragon 850:

The Snapdragon 850 combination of powerful AI architectures, multi-day battery life, and always-on, always-connected capabilities is expected to redefine what mobile computing means and introduce a new class of experiences.

Qualcomm's mobile compute platform encompasses a wide range of devices. But for the company that powers the smartphone market, whose goal is to bring more people onto the cellular roadmap, continued evolution of mobile computing is also a goal.

Folding PCs and folding smartphones may be just the beginning of a PC and smartphone OEM synergy.

Jason Ward

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!

  • Greatness!
    Evolution, and progress, are inevitable. Those who fear change, and doubt opportunity, will be left in the past.
    Case closed.
  • Kinda ironic, because what I just quoted above is exactly what has MS in thier current position with the consumer market, as we speak. 😂😆
  • Sounds like they do fear change if these devices will continue to be running Windows. Microsoft needs something truly new and revolutionary and that cannot come when they are stuck in the confines of the Windows operating system.
  • STFU while grown folks talking, troll.
  • Your response doesn't seem very adult at all. I had a valid point. Is it really a change when you continue to use a 25+ year old operating system?
  • You don't have a valid point. No one builds an OS from scratch anymore, they're all built on top of many decades old code. iOS and MacOs are built on a Unix based core, Android is based on Linux. Windows evolves constantly just like the other options out there, and it has a number of architectural advantages for adopting new device types, input modalities, and form factors, which only become bigger with the core os and c-shell work. To refer to Windows in the abstract as a 25+ year old OS betrays a deep ignorance of how software engineering works.
  • I think the most accurate word you used here was "Ignorance". Well said.
  • The platforms you mention may have been built off older operating systems, but they weren't beholden to them. Apple didn't have to worry about keeping support for Unix software. Android wasn't saddled with Linux branding or interfaces. There are no expectations. Those platforms just needed a starting point, otherwise they were free to create what they want. Microsoft doesn't have that luxury when they use the Windows brand, even on a mobile product. The negative connotations stick. Interfaces have to be familiar, software compatibility matters, people are going to buy it expecting Windows and will be upset when they don't get Windows.
  • AT least technically, MS did do exactly that however! Conceptually, the Windows kernel represents the same starting point for MS, which the Linux kernel represents for Apple and Google. WP8 and W10M were both built on top of the Windows kernel, in the same way Android and Mac OS were built on top of the Linux kernel. W10M, or more accurately WCOS (Windows Core OS) + UWP (without Win32) is exactly that new OS! Exactly as with iOS and Android, that OS also isn't beholden to the OS that preceded it. The only difference is that Google and Apple gave those OSes completely different names (Android, iOS), whereas MS couldn't stop themselves from also calling it Windows (WP, W10M). Some people still can't wrap their head around the idea that while W10M is dead, the bits and pieces that made up that OS are not. This OS will return under a different name. I'll call it Polaris for now. Simply put, Polaris = WCOS + UWP + CShell. W10M was the exactly same thing, just without the CShell app. The point is this: MS did do what you state they didn't. The differences were in naming, and that MS' product achieved no success while iOS and Android did. MS doesn't have to build something new. With Polaris they already have the technical foundation for what they need. The technical foundation just isn't the problem. The problem is that MS has no killer application to pair with that technical foundation.
  • Windows Phone and Mobile were saddled with the polarizing Windows name and were inferior to the competition. I agree that "something new" might just be branding, but they also need to create a competitive platform. If it supposed to be a PC, it will also be required to run legacy Windows applications if it is called Windows. They need to cut and run from the Windows name with any mobile device they hope to market.
  • How is Windows inferior when Android 4.x which is the same as Windows Phone and Mobile isn't being used in the Enterprise because it is loaded with bugs and lacks security
  • I told you years ago to stop making comments on my post. You persists, and now you complain about the results. Own up to your own mistakes like an "adult".
    I promise you the same results each time.
  • You always this miserable?
  • State what you disagree with instead of asking irrelevant questions.. We're trying to have a productive conversation here...
  • Yeah because telling someone to STFU because they make an opinion is CLEARLY a productive conversation.
  • Are you the guy that said always-on and hibernation mode are the same? Not the same Windows we had in the past tho, if you don't know it already.
  • I said my Surfacebook starts plenty fast enough, even from a cold boot. That won't be a selling point for ARM.
  • Change is long as it's actually an improvement. Change for the sake of change is simply waste. And, there's rarely full agreement on what an "improvement" is. Windows 8 WAS a vast improvement in my opinion. Most, however, didn't agree. Windows Phones were a vast improvement, in my opinion. Again, I'm in the minority. I'm clearly much more likely to embrace change than most. I would argue that what we have now, on ALL platforms is much less "changey". Renovation isn't the same as innovation. Evolutionary isn't the same as Revolutionary.
  • "Now, let's debate what change means, and the importance of that"... Ummm, no. Just stop. Lol
    It's not worth complicating.... Looking back at technology over the past thousand years and see that nothing has ever stayed the same. Fear not how change will come about, rather accept it as inevitable. This is fact. Stop panicking over "what ifs", or failures. Failure is inevitable as well.
  • I'm with you about liking windows 8/8.1 and windows phone. I do disagree with your sentence that change for the sake of change is simply waste. Let's start with the basic fact that nothing is static, not just talking about OSs, I'm talking about that AND everything else. Sometimes change isn't for the better, but we learn from that and continue to modify and improve things. Even before "windows as a service," things were always changing, just in bigger chunks at less frequent times. As you know, sometimes things come out too far ahead of the time so things may yet circle back to things that "failed" before.
  • The factor that many people fail to realise is how long the hardware tech takes to bake. Seamless folding screens are at least a decade off. God know how long fully natural conversation AI is off. AR won't meaningfully reach the consumer market in terms of adoption for awhile. IoTs take up is slow, and doesn't yet offer much. The great VR adoption is probably the closest. But in terms of MSFT, all their moves are preparatory, a roadmap - windows core and andromeda to prepare for the graphene screen, HoloLens to prepare for AR, mixed reality to prepare for VR, cloud tech for distributed computing. It's hard to know what the future holds exactly, but people need to stop expecting tech revolutions in short periods. It took us three decade to get from the invention of the mobile phone to the smartphone mass adoption.
  • Says the guy riding a Harley. last updated in 1903 I think. ha ha ha...walked into that one buddy!
  • Depends if people need their portable machine connected to the net 24/7, I have a laptop, which i use once in a blue moon, but it is not normally connected to the net because there is no need for it to be, Granted this desktop machine is, but once I get the other desktop up and running this one will be taken off the net. The problem is, too many companies want us to be connected 24/7 so they can get as much info as possible out of us, that includes Apple, Ms, Google and Amazon these days. That is why sometimes it is nice to go for a walk and switch off my phone.
  • But what if the PC of the of the future runs Android, Chrome OS or Fuchsia? I have a bad feeling about this..
  • What if it does? Nobody said the future of computing is Windows. This is a Windows based site. All this article is doing is looking at the future of computing from a Windows perspective.
  • Yep - you're just a miserable person. And you call others trolls.
  • Please... It's a technology site. Nobody is miserable. Quit being so emotional. If your feelings are hurt seek help elsewhere... On the other side,, who cares if you think they are miserable?🙄🙄
    Stay on subject, or log out.
  • You obviously do since you responded to him.
  • I doubt google would be pushing for PWA, or making their pixel device run windows 10, if they saw a strong future in chrome or android. Fuschia, perhaps that will be a player, but without the Linux base they are likely getting rid of, they have a shortfall in feature rich software. At least google, unlike apple are pushing for convergence. They'll be a player, at least for the foreseeable future, assuming someone doesn't enter with a strong competitor in the search market, in which case their whole profit model would be nerfed.
  • Even if that (how unlikely that is for now) happens there will always be alternative OS's to use like Linux variants or some business version of Windows or such or MacOs, so who really cares? Nothing lasts forever.
  • There are two different, though connected aspects that have always governed where this would go and how quickly. When I bought my first PocketPC (and iPAQ 3630), it was much better than the MORE popular Palm devices because it brought real computing POWER and programs that I actually could use between devices. What made this even more attractive was that the PRESENTATION was better, particularly because of the color screens. Smartphones have gradually added more computing power and better presentation over time, while adding other integrated features. It's laughable to act like bringing a "PC experience to mobile" hasn't been exactly what's been going on all along. It HAS. The challenge has always been miniaturization, battery and capacity. Chip makers have chased each other trying to pack more cores into a smaller, less juice-hungry and cooler-running chips. Memory manufacturers have been in a similar battle. And, typically, we see a time of amazing advances followed by a few years of relative stagnation because technology (and cost) reach a plateau until some brand new method is invented. WANTING to go somewhere with a design isn't the same as successfully being able to EXECUTE it and do so at a cost that your intended customer is willing to pay. But, as I said, it's not just about processing power. It's about presentation. I've seen some really cool tech in science fiction films that give us "expandable" mobile devices that are extremely easy to carry/wear but also can transform to a much more usable form factor when needed. NOTHING I'm seeing leaked right now excites me in the least. They're all ugly, bulky, large and two other things I can almost guarantee you: EXPENSIVE and EASILY BROKEN. I have yet to see a design that gives me all the benefits of my Surface Pro AND all the benefits of my Lumia, but in an expandable/transformable device that can be carried JUST AS COMFORTABLY as my Lumia. And certainly I'm not anticipating this would come at a cost that's worth the compromise. There will be early adopters. There will be the niche folks for whom a note-taking/sketching/whatever fold-up device can replace both their smartphone and their tablet. I just don't see the currently suggested technology to execute this Next Big Thing as being attractive to the overwhelming majority of consumers. Yes, absolutely, it will evolve, just AS IT HAS BEEN ALL ALONG. The progression is NOTHING NEW. I have watched it all happen. I'm saying the REAL technology breakthrough(s) needed to give us the next leap isn't here yet. For me, nothing I'm using now is worth giving up for a half-baked promise. The compromises are unacceptable. I won't be surprised, though, that in about 5 years that real leap will happen.
  • That stand/hinge on your Surface Pro would be as EASILY BROKEN as any Ultramoble the Surface team woukd make, and your Pro hasn't broke yet.. That's currently a non issues until proven otherwise.
  • Well I agree with one statement this gentleman did: Half-baked promise. I am seeing it too often on MS side, it's promise->fail. Even though I love new tech, I'm a bit fed up being a guinea pig for another experiment. Surface was a difference, because even though it was not so successful at the begining, they kept the hard work, they made people believe and realize this is actually great. Eat me alive, but where is Windows on phones? Tablets? Kinect? UWP (wtf actually is that, if the app could not be universal in the mean of running everywhere?!)? Where is Groove, Continuum and for the newest in row, Cortana? I understand, that some projects (like Google+) just don't work as expected. But when is it just too much? To me, buying Andromeda (or whatever it'd be called) seems like a HUGE risk after all of this.
    Anyway, there is a guy making W10 to run on L950XL. Not perfect, but made a good progress. If a single guy can make that happen, do not ever dare trying to say that MS just cannot. Or that it does not make any sense (what was that Andr... thing again?).
    When they were making Surface, they did the best work they could and did not give up. They grew on their faults and did they best again and again. That's what it should be - have a dream and make it happen! Or dreamers like me just see it's kinda not worth it trying that again.
  • I do agree with that Microsoft sometimes lacks commitment in pushing their technology or drops the ball at weird times, but why would it be a huge risk in buying an andromeda/note-like device? Essentially it's just a windows convertible laptop with 2 screens instead of 1+keyboard. Windows phone is a different story since it has a different OS that slowly withers away (but even that is still usable for now, and at least gets security updates).
  • Well that depends on what that will be... If it runs Store apps only, MS can just drop the ball again and after two years Andromeda might have a problem running new apps and soon even apps it used to run. Or there will be promises like Continuum (half-baked) and never pushed to usability... So basically You could stay with an almost unusable device because the promises could be broken again. That's my concern. WP is usable, but a shame when compared. I got LG K10 as my work phone, the cost here is like third of my Lumia and except of camera and display, the A phone does everything better. And by better I mean it's like day&night. Faster, more reliable. And that is what I am talking about, even though you can technically use it, it sucks. So much that everyone around thinks I must have some super old super low spec device that it just cant handle 'basic' tasks as their actually older low cost phones can. Some things just don't work as they should and guess what - never will, because MS dropped the ball. That is, my friend, my concern about Andromeda.
  • What if Apple drop their store? What if Google drop theirs?
  • Go and try some Android or iPhone for Yourslef, bud. If they do drop right now, their devices work just well now, that's the problem. It'll get slowly to the point when some things just stop working, but it wouldn't be a total car crash from the beginning. Nevertheless, how many times did thay do something like that and how many times did MS? I'm sorry to say that, but that's just the truth. MS needs to prove it can do it right as they did with Surface, that's all I am saying.
  • If you are worried about a future with MS then get out now, go play catch-up with a Chromebook or whatever Apple are developing. All technology has a risk, either you buy it or you don't, you can't predict what companies will cancel in the future.
  • I will never say never, but the apple and google would never drop their stores. Try again!
  • Hey it's Stevie the Chromebook king. How's life since you ditched all your MS systems? Thought you'd be off playing with your new Droid chums, or do they think you're full of sh*t too?
  • No. they don't. Hey Rodney. hows things going. As I have stated MANY times before. I use All platforms and am not a fanboy of any like some whiney little bit*hes such as yourself!
  • Just so you know...this was directed at you Rodney/bonze!
  • Ah I understand your concerns a bit better. I suspect these devices will have qualcomm procs and such can only emulate x86 apps instead of running them natively. However, I think emulation will at least have improved somewhat when these devices launch (compared to e.g. when Asus NovaGo was released). And perhaps most important since these devices will probably be meant as note taking devices etc, they will mostly depend on Office & inking & Skype & browsing software for which they will not drop the ball. Though I would keep my expectations to only non third-party software (with whatsapp being the exception) just to be on the safe side.
  • What I'd love to see is a complete comittment to the new device and idea. Not like "well, there it is..." But showing up it's really excellent, future-proof and that it's the deal, all-in. Otherwise it's a big NO THANKS, because we've seen that before.
  • Well, isn't it really all about marketing? I mean, MS has made some AWESOME products before that if were marketed properly would still be around, and doing fine. MS tends to not follow through on too many occasions. That I can't argue with.
  • Yes, marketing in some sort of way means commitment. They can make really good stuff, but they should keep on the good job. And finish what they've promised. Because if You promise something, do the marketing properly and then let it sink, You just make more money and leave more people angry...
  • I can demonstrate what I mean on my SP3. I have it for about 4 years now. It still gets the job done quite well, I never had to feel ashamed showing it to someone. I've never thought that it was a bad idea buying this great machine. For four long years and I guess it might hold for another year or two. But if it dies right tomorrow I will not say a word. It earned all my respect. I run into issues several times and after dealing with the warranty service I was always totally stunned by the proffesionality and commitment and thought to myself "Hell I should never ever buy different PC than Surface!". That's what it should actually be. First party, first class, absolute pride.
  • Graphene which is the real end goal, is strong enough to be used as bullet shielding. That's at least a decade off though. So these designs really are forerunners like the HoloLens, and not intended to be mass adoption products, but products for early adopters.
  • Once u tasted blood, u will not look back!!! Once u used to on the Go whole day without charging, having a notebook with desktop productivity tools yet wake up and stay on like a smartphone, there is no looking back!!!
  • ACPC will win mobility device of the year 2018
  • Would it be feasible to use in the same shell 2 cpu's, such as qualcomm's 850 and intel 15w cpu? I get the benefits of a always-on device but come on, losing all the processing power also kills the idea of a do-it-all laptop.
  • I think smartphone and pc maker will unite to build the PC'S of the future. we're already seeing this in the lats 5-7 years with nokia-microsoft tabelt, qualcom coming to the pc space, oems itteration their version of a surface pro competitor at a more affordabele price for mainstream markets. Two hindering milestones in this challenge is see is microsoft still behind on windows 10 fit and finish (there's innovation in features, but lack of leadership in the fit and finish) and what microsoft will invest to get apps and services to windows. I think these two aspects will be the limiting factors of getting the pc platform beyond average and consumer interest.
  • All I want is seamless connectivity across my devices for software, data, and cellular/telephony/ SMS. Windows and Office have delivered the data/ software merge, but for telephony I have to combine Skype for Business and a third party SMS via Outlook. Sometimes unwieldy, but it works fine. Would love for it to be native.
  • As long as it can also make phone calls and send text messages, both without a data connection.
  • Yes. That's what I hope.
  • I'm sure that the pc makers & smartphone makers can't wait to cozy up and share the profits once a new thing is launched. All of the play nice efforts by MS to put its software on iOS & droid devices and promote competing devices look like a weak way to save face from a battle that they gave up on way too early.
    Perhaps an earthshaking device is coming. Perhaps not. Either way, MS cried uncle on smarthphones.....and other cool stuff too early.
    What a doggone shame.
  • MS keeps moving on. Yes, sad about WP ....beautiful performance...what makes it tough is there are only two options...and I dislike either....but leaning towards Android.. ANYHOO.....Cortana - my god is it handy. Can't wait for cloud tech assistants to keep moving forward...Cortana is a UI for cloud processing....
  • As a user of both, I would seriously consider the iPhone if you want a smooth, windows phone like feel to your device vEEP vEEP. Android is still a choppy laggy experience. Even on the new devices.
  • These new form factors are great, and I'm loving seeing it! But what's so easy to forget is that these new form factors will take years to refine and may or may not catch on. The slate phone is the real world... today's world. Yes, I will celebrate Andromeda, as long as its two screens are thin enough that it doesn't feel like a literal brick in our pockets. But I would still love to see a Surface branded phone (yes just call it a phone)... but being Surface brand worthy... a phone that runs full Windows Core OS on it, and does Ink really well. Bundle it with a pen, and a leather folio TypeCover case with a kickstand in the back of the case for $799. Think mini HP Envy x2 meets Galaxy Note. While I applaud MS thinking about the future, that's great and all... but don't stop thinking about today. A great tech company needs to balance tomorrow with today.