Microsoft, HP, Asus launch the great Windows on ARM, Qualcomm experiment: Here are the key questions

The pricing of Windows 10 S devices running on Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor sets up a few interesting questions. Here's a quick tour of the unknowns:
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Video: Microsoft's Windows 10 S Surface is a surprisingly traditional laptop

How much is always-on connectivity and battery life north of 20 hours really worth?

We're about to find out, as Qualcomm and Microsoft launched the first two Windows 10 PCs that run on the Snapdragon processor.

Asus and HP both launched systems. Asus launched a 2-in-1 system called NovaGo that'll start at $599 for 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. For 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, you'll pay $799.

Pricing on the HP Envy x2 will be determined closer to its spring launch.

CNET: Here are the first Windows on Qualcomm Snapdragon PCs | A closer look at what Windows 10 S can and can't do

That pricing as well as Windows on ARM set up a few interesting questions. Here's a quick tour of the unknowns:

Is the price right? I initially balked at the price. Mary Jo Foley said $799 was worth it for the LTE connectivity and battery life. The problem is that there are enough Wi-Fi connections to make Google's Chromebook a competitor to these devices. The current slate of Windows laptops will also cost less in many cases.


Are these devices consumer or enterprise? Microsoft and Qualcomm initially pitched these systems as consumer-first. But the features and always-on connectivity will make these 2-in-1s more interesting for corporate users. These devices, which aren't likely to be mass market hits, can be a good fit for information workers that work primarily in a browser, but anyone with a specialized app may need more.

How well will Microsoft's emulation work in practice? Microsoft has said that Windows S can run traditional Windows apps with emulation and that technique is one way to get reverse compatibility. However, corporate customers and consumers to some degree will have to check if apps will run on Windows S. Until these devices hit the field, it won't be known how well emulation will fly in practice.

(Image: Qualcomm)

Will Windows S put the Windows RT debacle to bed? Windows S isn't the first ARM-powered OS for Microsoft. Windows RT launched, received no traction and ultimately went away. Windows RT failed because the two variants of Windows confused tech buyers and couldn't run all applications. This movie storyline sounds a bit familiar to me. As a hedge, HP and Asus will ship their devices with Windows 10 S preinstalled, but customers can move to Windows 10 Pro for free for a limited time.

What's the competition? Always on Windows PCs have their appeal, but these Qualcomm-powered devices are likely to compete with everything from Chromebooks to traditional laptops to the iPad Pro -- not to mention Microsoft's own Surface line.

Bottom line: There are enough questions about these devices to curb or whet your sales enthusiasm.

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