What you need to know

  • Qualcomm and Lenovo had a roundtable discussion about the future of the PC.
  • Topics relating to work-from-home, the NUVIA acquisition, the role of 5G, and why the PC is here to stay are discussed.
  • The 30-minute chat is part of a new series with Qualcomm focusing on ARM technology in different markets.

The PC has never gone away — see strong demand for gaming rigs over the last decade – but in 2020, remote work, schooling, and new technologies have certainly accelerated the need for not only more computers but lighter and more mobile ones.

Qualcomm has a unique role in the PC industry, sitting between AMD and Intel while offering something unique: extremely thin, always-connected devices. In a new roundtable discussion hosted by Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies, Inc., the company sat down with Lenovo to talk about trends in the industry, why connectivity and security are increasingly important, and how 2020 changed everything.

The new series is expected to hit on all topics related to Qualcomm. But, the first episode kicks off focusing on the future of Windows PCs, especially in the growing always-on, always-connected segment.

Lenovo Flex 5g PerformanceLenovo's Flex 5G is the first 5G laptop of its kind.Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central

The chat involved Alex Katouzian, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Mobile, Compute and Infrastructure for Qualcomm; Miguel Nunes Senior Director, Product Management for Qualcomm; and Tom Butler, Executive Director of Commercial Portfolio, Intelligent Devices Group for Lenovo (who we've interviewed before on its ground-breaking Titanium Yoga laptop).

The 30-minute discussion hits such hot topics of how 5G will transform work (and problems it will solve, especially with hybrid work scenarios). AI, which mainly was a buzzword a few years ago, also gets brought up. Katouzian notes:

Today, we have real-time translation both on text and in voice on the smartphone which I think would be very influential and necessary on the PC because you're doing video conferencing with multiple different countries. Imagine if you could actually understand what they are saying - and maybe in their own voice, as AI algorithms become more sophisticated.

Katouzian, at around the 12-minute mark, also brings up Qualcomm's recent $1.4 billion acquisition of Nuvia, a purchase that is expected to help the company radically accelerate mobile chip performance. Of course, the effects of Nuvia's chip designs will not be realized in Snapdragon products for another "two to three years." He does confirm, however, that Nuvia's tech will be in consumer products and not server tech, as some have suggested.

Qualcomm Lenovo ChatSource: Qualcomm

Another choice discussion is how smartphone technologies are working their way into PCs. Nunes goes on to mention how "It's audio, camera, AI, connectivity. It's all the things we have that we love about our phone." Such a topic has been an issue for laptop webcams, which are still even in 2021, often much worse than they should be – an issue that companies will hopefully address later this year.

Lenovo's Tom Butler addresses a lingering question about how demand for PCs is expected to continue instead of just being a blip in 2020:

We see three key areas that are driving the PC space and are going to continue to sustain the demand. The first is the maintaining of a hybrid environment. Secondly, we're seeing more of a trend of one PC per person versus one PC per household. The third thing that is really driving us is IT spending is on the rebound."

We see sustained demand in the future for PC in cloud requirements. And it's really driven by this resurgence of the PC being the centerpiece. No longer is it just sort of an anecdotal use from the home, but it's now become the device we're all going to many hours of the day to make these connections, whether it's for education, work, or for social connection as well."

Finally, around the 28-minute mark, Katouzian leans heavily into the idea not just of a connected PC but a PC that smartly interacts with our smart devices, including phones, headsets, glasses, TV, and even our car. and "all of them have to interact." It is an issue Apple can solve due to its tight horizontal and vertical integration, but one that is a struggle for everyone else. But it does raise the question: if you have a Snapdragon processor in your phone, your PC, and your smartwatch – why don't they do more at the chip level to interact? Hopefully, we will see some answers from Qualcomm and PC makers to this question in the coming years.

The latest Qualcomm-based mobile PC to launch is the HP Elite Folio, announced earlier at CES 2021. The pull-forward convertible PC is a game-changer in design, and we'll be reviewing it soon.