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Qualcomm Broadens Challenge to Intel in Laptops with New Chips

Ian King

(Bloomberg) -- Qualcomm Inc. is under no illusions about how long it will take to make a dent in Intel Corp.’s dominance of the laptop market. But a new set of chips it’s offering will make it tougher to keep Qualcomm out of computers.San Diego-based Qualcomm, whose processors are the heart of most of the world’s high-end smartphones, is trying to carve out a niche for its technology with laptops that last more than a day on a single battery charge and are always connected to the internet. Current models, such as Microsoft Corp.’s Surface Pro X, cost more than $1,000. Qualcomm is now rolling out new chips that will allow PC makers to build machines that compete with budget systems retailing for as low as $300.

“We were not confused. We knew this market would take a long time,” said Qualcomm product director Miguel Nunes. “We still understand it’s going to take longer.”

More affordable devices will help, Nunes said. But Qualcomm and other interlopers need new ways to reach consumers if they’re to overcome Intel’s brand recognition and marketing spending. One thing that’s helping is the sale of Qualcomm chip-based laptops by mobile phone service providers. Like phones, they’re increasingly being offered on monthly installment purchase plans, making the devices more affordable, Nunes said. Carriers like the cellular component of Qualcomm chips which ties customers to their networks, he said.Corporations like the idea that the the machines they give to employees are always connected to the internet. Interest from that market has surprised Qualcomm. Knowing where the machines are and being able to update them all the time are advantages of a cellular link, Nunes said.Qualcomm’s attempts to get into PCs are part of a broader push to push mobile technology into devices outside of the smartphone market. Growth in smartphones has slowed as consumers have shown less interest in upgrading to devices that offer marginal improvements over existing models. Qualcomm is targeting PCs in particular where it believes chips based on mobile technology can offer huge improvements in battery life, promised but not delivered by Intel-based devices, and have them continually connected to the internet.“One of the challenges we’ve seen is that the computing industry was plagued by a lot of lies when you talk about battery life,” Nunes said. “Consumers don’t believe you.”Qualcomm-based devices go days without needing to be plugged in, he said. With coming fifth-generation networks, they’ll also get extremely fast data all the time, enabling them to take advantage of more powerful computing over the internet, he said.

The company is holding its annual conference in Hawaii. It has introduced new 5G chips for mobile phones, including ones that will enable cheaper handsets from early next year, and a new offering for virtual reality and augmented realty headsets.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian King in San Francisco at ianking@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Molly Schuetz, Andrew Pollack

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