Microsoft is gearing up to launch a new generation of Windows laptops which will run for days on a single battery charge.
HP, Lenovo and Asus will be first off the starter's blocks with the thin, light and long-legged Windows 10 systems, which will be built around a beefed-up ARM smartphone chip instead of the conventional Intel Core powerplants.
The new platform – which Microsoft is expected to debut in December – is claimed to a ‘game-changer’ for laptops, although the units will be geared around day-to-day office-and-web productivity rather than more demanding tasks.
"To be frank, it's actually beyond our expectations,” says Microsoft program manager Pete Bernard of the Windows 10 ARM's multi-day battery life.
"We have hundreds of these devices being used on a daily basis in Redmond. It’s the kind of battery life where I use it on a daily basis. I don’t take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It’s that kind of battery life."
A Microsoft ARM-powered Surface tablet is also tipped to break cover, with other hardware partners to follow in 2018 if the platform takes off.
"We've had some conversations with other OEMs too, for future devices, that are very exciting about bringing their own spin," Bernard says. "Over time there’s going to be a portfolio of devices from manufacturers (bringing) a range of different devices at different price points."
The first series of Windows 10 ARM machines will run the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 silicon that's inside top-end smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel 2, but Qualcomm's product marketing head Don McGuire says there'll be a follow-up series of "mobile PC" chips.
"You'll see an evolved roadmap with mobile PCs in it more definitively than in the past (and) an evolution of different tiers of devices."
Second time's the charm?
This isn't the first time that Microsoft has tried to marry an ultraportable Windows machine with an ARM processor.
The original Surface tablet launched with both ARM and Intel systems.
However, the ARM machines ran a cut-down version of Windows known as Windows RT which was restricted to a small family of apps based on the App Store model rather than conventional Windows software. The Windows RT Surface turned out to be a laptop version of Windows Phone, and met with the same fate.
Microsoft's move could set the stage for Apple to introduce its own line of ARM-powered notebooks, although these would rely on an evolution of the company's own ARM chips which Apple custom-designs for its iPhones and iPads.