Qualcomm launches PC with handphone chips

By BLOOMBERG

SAN FRANCISCO • Qualcomm Inc is taking another stab at breaking into the market for personal-computer (PC) processors with a range of new devices it says will stay connected and run all day on one battery charge.

The world’s largest mobile-phone chipmaker showed off laptops from Asustek Computer Inc, and HP Inc using Microsoft Corp’s Windows software at an event on Tuesday in Maui, Hawaii. The slim machines will have wireless connections via mobile phone chips that ensure they’re always receiving data and sip battery power in a way that enables them to go days between charges, Qualcomm said.

Convincing consumers that they’re getting something new that isn’t available already in PCs will be key to breaking Intel Corp’s hold on a market where more than 90% of laptops ship with its processors. Qualcomm argues that smartphone processors are now powerful enough to run computers that cover the vast majority of most users’ daily needs and provide advantages over devices that use Intel chips.

“We’re not trying to create a PC that basically is designed to compare to what the PC is today,” said Cristiano Amon, the head of Qualcomm’s chip business. “What we’re thinking is how can we make the PC more like a smartphone.”

The PC push is one of several initiatives from CEO Steve Mollenkopf that aim to parlay Qualcomm’s dominance in mobile into other areas. San Diegobased Qualcomm this year started offering server processors and is aiming to expand into the growing market for chips used in vehicles through a pending US$47 billion (RM191.29 billion) purchase of NXP Semiconductors NV.

Those efforts may struggle to move forward if Broadcom Ltd’s attempt to acquire Qualcomm succeeds. Broadcom CEO Hock Tan, who has led his company’s central role in industrywide consolidation, has quickly improved profitability in his targets by cutting projects that aren’t related to their main businesses. Broadcom has offered US$105 billion for Qualcomm in an approach that so far Qualcomm has spurned.

With the new laptops, Qualcomm is seeking to address common pain points for computer users, including unreliable WiFi connections, complicated log-ins and expensive data access at hotels and other public places. A laptop with a cellular connection should be able to get fast data over the latest modem and remain connected anywhere a phone works, Qualcomm said. It’s enlisting phoneservice providers such as Sprint Corp to help promote the products. The Asus machine will go on sale for US$599 (RM2,438) and be capable of going 30 days on standby between charges, its CEO Jerry Shen said at the Qualcomm event.