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Qualcomm unveils new chip, free data for always-on PC push

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Apple Threatens To Drop Qualcomm Wireless Chips From iPhone
A sign is posted at a Qualcomm office on November 1, 2017 in San Jose, California. As Apple and Qualcomm remain locked in a lengthy legal battle over patents and royalties held by Qualcomm, Apple is beginning to design prototypes of iPhones and iPads that will use Intel modems instead of Qualcomm modems. — Getty Images/AFP

QUALCOMM, INC., the biggest maker of semiconductors for smartphones, unveiled a new chip, said Samsung Electronics Co. is already on board as a customer, and offered free wireless data for devices based on the processor — all part of a push to get its mobile technology into the computing market dominated by Intel Corp.

Samsung is committed to offering a computing device based on a new Snapdragon 850 chip from Qualcomm, the two companies said early Tuesday at an event in Taiwan. The new product, whose details aren’t being disclosed yet, will debut before the end of the year, they said. Samsung joins Asustek Computer, Inc., HP, Inc. and Lenovo Group Ltd. in offering computers running Microsoft Corp.’s Windows that are based on phone chips and include connections to cellular networks.

US consumers who buy machines with the Qualcomm chip beginning Tuesday will get free data service through Sprint Corp. until the end of the year. Those who’ve already bought the “always-connected PCs” based on the company’s processors will also be able to sign up, the San Diego-based chipmaker said. Similar offers with local carriers are being arranged in other countries.

Qualcomm and Microsoft are trying to nudge forward what they say is a long-term effort to bring the benefits of mobile technology to the laptop market, where growth has stagnated.

The new chip will move Qualcomm-powered devices closer to the kind of performance consumers get from notebooks that are powered by Intel processors. The data offer is aimed at getting people hooked on the benefits of having larger devices — not just smartphones — connected to the Internet all the time. Most tablet and laptop owners stick with Wi-Fi for their connections, and have been reluctant to take on additional subscriptions to get always-on service from their fuller-size devices.

The push to expand mobile computing so far hasn’t loosened Intel’s stranglehold on the PC chip market. The world’s second-largest semiconductor maker, behind Samsung, has about 95% revenue share in PC processors, and nine out of every 10 laptops are based on an Intel chip. The rest of the market is in the hands of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., which uses a similar technology to Intel.

Reviewers of laptops that are already on the market using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip have praised the machines’ battery life, which typically lasts all day, while saying that the performance lags behind traditional PC processors. — Bloomberg