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The 'always-connected PC' is coming, but its full cost remains unknown

PC vendors and chipmakers are eager to make your next PC an "always connected PC,” with built-in cellular connectivity ready to step in when Wi-Fi isn’t available. It all sounds great on paper, but one question remains unanswered: How much will you have to pay?
The basic premise is simple enough: Open your PC, and boom! you’re connected to a cellular data network. It worked for the original Google Chromebook Pixel, and for many corporate PC users whose employers foot the tab. But now, helped by chipmakers Qualcomm, AMD, and Intel, as well as some early partners like Asus and HP, the PC industry seems poised to bring connected PCs to mainstream consumers using an "eSIM" model that allows them to buy data from any carrier.
Qualcomm leads on always-connected PCs
The engine driving always-connected PCs, surprisingly, isn’t Intel—though Intel has begun publicly maneuvering to respond. Instead, smartphone chipmaker Qualcomm used its recent Snapdragon Technology Forum in Hawaii to explain how it plans to break with the traditional metrics of price and performance to push an alternative: connectivity and battery life.
[ Further reading: Our picks for best PC laptops ]Qualcomm plans to take the Snapdragon 835 (and, though, it didn’t announce it at the time, the Snapdragon 845 as well) and make them the foundation of a new breed of always-connected PCs. The new Snapdragon Mobile PC Platform offers all-day battery life (from about 22 hours or so of active use to a couple of days' worth) and instant connectivity through the integrated LTE modem.
Qualcomm is betting that consumers will prefer long-lasting PCs at the cost of some performance. It’s a somewhat risky tradeoff, but one that hundreds of millions of smartphone users have already adopted.
Three PC vendors are already in: Asus announced the Asus NovaGo ultrabook at $599 and above, and HP revealed the Envy x2 Windows tablet for an undisclosed price. A Lenovo always-connected PC will be announced at CES, Qualcomm executives said.
Qualcomm executives said they expect Snapdragon PCs will be manufactured by traditional smartphone vendors as well. In some sense, that’s already happened, said Asus chief executive Jerry Shen. "Asus has a history of designing beautiful devices for both the PC and smartphone,” he said. "We are well positioned to bring to life the benefits of LTE.”
Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, recalled how he didn’t plug in a Snapdragon-powered PC for a week. "I’m seamlessly connected wherever I am: at work, commuting, visiting a customer at a hotel, at the airport—I’m always connected,” he said. "It feels like the natural way to work with all of my team, all of my partners.”
Microsoft helps along Intel, too

Given its attendance at the Qualcomm event, Microsoft seems to view always-connected PCs as a sort of target of opportunity: More PCs mean more Windows licenses, and potentially more revenue. Microsoft's dabbled in connected PCs with an LTE version of its Surface Pro tablet, but now seems ready to usher along the rest of the industry, too.

At its Taiwan Windows Hardware Engineering (WinHEC) conference in early December, however, Microsoft began putting its own spin on always-connected PCs. It introduced the concept of Modern Standby, referring to a PC that essentially remains connected to the Internet (either via WiFi or cellular) even while the PC is asleep. To enable this, Microsoft plans to add support for eSIMs to the next version of Windows, due sometime in spring 2018.

The eSIM is a new twist on the SIM card you're already used to using with smartphones. As a Microsoft presentation at WinHEC noted, SIM cards today are usually bundled with the laptop (or smartphone) at the time of purchase, configured at the store, and are unable to be changed later without physically swapping out the tiny card. On the other hand, eSIMs are built right into the device itself, but the profile—whose carrier it’s assigned to, basically—can be purchased online and downloaded right to the card. It’s much more convenient than trucking a PC or a phone to a store for the carrier to configure it.

Source: Pcworld.com
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