Intel tiger lake

Disclosure: Most of the companies mentioned are clients of the author.

There have been a series of potentially market-changing announcements this month (and some haven’t happened yet).  The two already public are Intel’s blended CPU/GPU called Tiger Lake, which could change the performance/battery life dynamic for mobile PCs, and the Microsoft Surface Duo, which is attempting to displace smartphones with a more productivity-oriented alternative.

There’s been no update on the Microsoft Surface Neo, but it’s the first product I know of that is expected to get the Tiger Lake combo, and it should be similar to the Duo – just larger. (And it may swap phone capabilities for similar functions via Teams and Skype.)

I think it is past time for a disruptive change to the mobile PC and smartphone ecosystems, so let’s explore that prospect this week. Because change is clearly in the wind. 

How we got here

The origin of the now-current clamshell laptop design pretty much goes back to the IBM PC Company, which made that design famous with their Thinkpad 775CD. (Lenovo now owns that brand and line.) It was meant to blend low performing power-hungry processors and wired network capability into something with battery life measured in minutes and performance that would make the slowest PC today seem blindingly fast then. The screen size was better than what preceded it, and given that 15-in.  monitors were standard, the size disparity between laptops and desktops wasn’t that great. But Thinkpads were wicked expensive, and without wireless connectivity, most buyers couldn’t justify the cost; sales were a fraction of the overall PC market. 

Since then, fast wireless has arrived, performance has come up sharply (as has battery life) and performance deltas between desktop computers and laptops are generally more connected to the GPU – where Intel has historically underperformed – not the CPU. The hardware is thinner, but that old clamshell design remains. 

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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