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How Intel, Microsoft and the wireless carriers will finally realise the promise of an 'always connected' PC

Mark Hachman | Sept. 29, 2014
Upcoming PCs based on Intel's "Skylake" platform will come with built-in LTE support, connecting them to the Internet even when you're nowhere near a Wi-Fi connection or hot Ethernet cable.

Remember the "connected PC," that always-tethered-to-the-Internet machine that would put the web at our fingertips, 24-7? It was a noble--if failed--PC industry initiative long before the age of smartphones and tablets.

But now it looks like always-connected machines are finally on the horizon: Upcoming PCs based on Intel's "Skylake" platform will come with built-in LTE support, connecting them to the Internet even when you're nowhere near a Wi-Fi connection or hot Ethernet cable.

idf14 kirk skaugen core m
INTEL. Intel's Kirk Skaugen holds up Intel's "Core M" chip at the Intel Developer Forum last week.

Intel will begin circulating Skylake hardware reference designs to PC makers like Asus, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo in early 2015. And even the wireless industry is doing its part by working on data plans that support new types of LTE devices. It's an important development for the wireless carriers, as more and more public Wi-Fi connections are becoming available, providing alternatives to LTE in crowded areas. 

The upshot? Well, you may not see 50 companies join hands and declare that the age of the "connected PC" is finally, truly at hand. But, rest assured, the pieces are coming together. 

Intel: Wire-free PCs need LTE
Don't be misled: Intel needs this. Intel ships about 85 percent of all X86 chips each year, but its bread-and-butter device platform, the PC, is steadily declining in popularity. Intel needs a reason for customers to keep buying PCs, and it thinks it's found one: the "wire-free" PC. 

Every year or so, Intel ships a new microprocessor--one that's faster, more powerful, and more power-efficient than the generation before it. This time around, that chip is code-named Skylake. By itself, Skylake should offer even greater performance and power-efficiency than the delayed Broadwell chips, which Intel has just begun to ship.

But as attention turns to tablets and phones, fewer and fewer customers care about "speeds and feeds." Enter Intel's wire-free promise, which says you'll finally be able to leave all those annoying cords at home. If the plan bears out, you'll ditch your PC's charging cord, USB cables, the works.

Instead of physical cables, you'll use 802.11ac for connecting PCs to indoor Wi-Fi networks; WiGig for connecting PCs wirelessly to displays; wireless charging mats and tables to eliminate power cords; and, of course, LTE data connections for Internet access while on the road.

3 3G dongle
FLICKR/FSSE8INFOFor several years, this has been the way PCs connected on the road: via proprietary 3G and 4G dongles, supplied by carriers.

"If you want to have the best of a tablet and the best of a PC, we think you need integrated LTE," said Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's PC Client Group. 

 

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