In recent years global PC market growth has been relatively dormant and Computex 2019 provided vendors with the opportunity to showcase their innovations in an attempt to resuscitate a tepid market. Anticipation for Computex 2019 was evident in the record number of attendees at the event — the most in its 30-year history. This blog post looks at some of the highlights of the event — such as new design conventions, the battle of the chipmakers and 5G-enabled devices — and discusses the implications for the overall market.
Project Athena and Form Factors of the Future
The Intel-led “Project Athena” and its partners — including Acer, ASUS, Dell, Google, HP and Microsoft — aims to create a cartel of innovators to expedite technological advancements in the notebook space. The criteria for Intel’s innovation partners cover six key areas — instant reboot from sleep mode, minimum performance criteria, AI capabilities, battery life and fast charging, connectivity and design. (For more information on Intel’s Project Athena requirements, please see this link.)
Given these criteria, Intel previewed a slew of Project Athena 1.0 approved laptops in the form of the Acer Swift 5, Dell XPS 13, HP Envy 13in. and Lenovo Yoga S940. Separate from Project Athena, however, and what ultimately stole the show, was ASUS. The Taiwanese vendor showcased its futuristic new Zenbook Pro Duo laptop, which features a 15in. 4K OLED screen accompanied by a 14in. 4K screenpad. Similarly, Intel previewed its iteration of a dual-screen laptop in the form of the Honeycomb Glacier. Though Intel’s prototype is not expected to be released into the market, it does indicate where the industry is going with form factors of the future.
With the introduction of these new devices, do we anticipate a sea-change in the market? From a commercial standpoint, businesses want devices that maximise productivity. A recent Dell sponsored study suggests that dual-screen monitors significantly boost productivity over single-monitor configurations (to the tune of around 18%). With businesses continuing to focus on mobility, a 20in. dual-screen monitor does not cater to that requirement. To satisfy the need for enhanced productivity and mobility, screenpads coupled with notebooks with ultra-slim dimensions have been proposed.
However, if productivity from a dual-screen laptop can be closely matched with a dual-screen monitor, this form factor has the potential to revolutionise notebooks and provide a much-needed boost to the market. In the consumer market, the use case may be slightly less compelling for consumers unless we are talking about gamers. The multitasking capabilities of dual-screen notebooks will be attractive to gamers as vendors continue to expand the ever-growing segment.
Project Limitless: The rise of 5G PC’s
With 5G upon us, it was the perfect time for Qualcomm and Lenovo to reveal the first 5G-enabled laptop. The notebook, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx platform, offered a taste of what 5G has to offer at Computex. 5G’s impact on the PC market is contingent on the effectiveness and speed at which mobile carriers can implement the infrastructure globally.
5G-enabled devices are a very compelling proposition for the global business sector given the shift towards increased workforce mobility, but the caveat remains that businesses will begin the adoption of 5G PC devices only when they are confident that carriers can provide a consistent 5G connection that supports the productivity benefits that corporations require. It may be a while before PC vendors earn the fruits of their labour.
The Battle of the Chipmakers
The market consensus is that AMD’s latest Ryzen 3000 line introduced at Computex will threaten Intel’s dominance in premium devices. With AMD pressuring Intel not only in price but also in performance, this may push PC vendors into substantially increasing their AMD-powered portfolios.
Intel’s component shortage has also enabled AMD to gain market share. Whether that will be permanent remains to be seen, but AMD’s Ryzen 3000 range has increased competition in the CPU market. Though corporates are hesitant to use AMD chips for their devices, it may take some time for the commercial sector to embrace the second-largest PC CPU maker globally. Intel should also be on high alert as more major OEMs unveil Windows notebooks powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor/modem now that 5G is upon us.
We have seen plenty of new ideas at previous Computex events, and it will be interesting to see if some of these innovations become a reality in the mass market. Only time will tell.