Qualcomm’s investor day took place last week, and its CEO Cristiano Amon made comments that I disagreed with, even though the results with Qualcomm were the same or better. Amon says everything is happening on mobile, but I don’t think that’s accurate.
Instead, I argue that things are becoming connected to the cloud. I also suggest that this ability to connect to the cloud favors Qualcomm more than the mobile aspect of this trend because the cloud is a centralized resource. This changes the importance of the processor at the edge to the modem at the edge.
Most cameras and sensors released en masse are non-portable. However, they don’t have wires, meaning Qualcomm’s market-leading connectivity technology is becoming more important than processors in devices that increasingly use this cloud processing power.
Let’s talk about this trend and what it means to you. Then we’ll end up with my product of the week, the Lenovo ThinkVision M14t Mobile Display.
Mobile vs. cloud
This cloud focus is not to say that mobile is unnecessary and growing, but when we look at solutions like advanced driver assistance systems (Qualcomm just announced a major ADAS deal with BMW), a lot of things involve cars and mobile devices. But some of the disadvantages of this solution are remote charging (most advanced autonomous vehicles will run on electricity), road sensors, stoplight sensors, weather sensors and cameras; They’re all not mobile.
This cloud focus doesn’t mean processors will no longer be needed, but the growing bandwidth demand of this cloud advancement seems to be a driving factor in new innovative projects.
Remote cameras use AI to selectively send a subset of data so that bandwidth is not crossed when there is too much data. However, the problem with selection is that important information can be lost.
For example, if the AI in the camera is set to alert only and send videos when not the employee is within range of the camera. What if an employee showed up at an armed factory area and was upset about being fired, badly judged, or because they were bullied? The camera doesn’t send videos because it recognizes employees and doesn’t recognize the threat.
So you start looking for a gun, and the employee appears with a stick or knife; the system may not flag the incident until someone is harmed and may not have captured the event so that security or police can respond in a timely manner.
I had an experience like this recently with my Arlo camera. They are set to flag people who come close to our house, but our cats have escaped and those placed to flag people do not catch cats, which can be problematic.
Let’s take another example I met at Amazon.
Over the past few years, Amazon has received a lot of complaints about slow delivery, but reports show that everything arrives on time. When a forensic analysis company is dispatched, they discover that a central distributor, which is not allowed to deliver directly to the end customer, is actually shipping to those customers and the shipments are constantly delayed.
Amazon isn’t aware of the problem because central distributors aren’t allowed to do this, so their automated data reporting system doesn’t flag behavior. Information not sent to the company is important for diagnosing and troubleshooting.
Qualcomm’s modem capabilities increase the bandwidth available, so we need to be selective with the data sent that will be reduced. This reduction will also reduce the amount of unintended deviations in the solution, resulting in better results.
Decisions made based on biased results are more likely to be wrong. When you’re stuck in bandwidth, that bandwidth-releasing technology is on an important path, giving Qualcomm a significant competitive advantage.
Since moving away from a large computer, we have tried to go back, possibly because the terminal is more like a TV than a PC, and the user is less involved in taking care of the TV than the PC. With large computers, service processes, software updates, and hardware updates are all handled centrally.
Whether it’s for gaming or productivity, the market is now exploring Windows Virtual Desktop, where your operating system and apps run in the cloud. The advantages of this method reflect the advantages of large computers and terminals. You can access the performance you need without upgrading your PC, and all maintenance processes are handled by the cloud service provider.
This is increasingly focused on the cloud to shift focused performance from pure performance to battery life on endpoint devices.
Qualcomm-based laptops have an advantage because they are designed to optimize battery life rather than absolute performance. They’re still fully capable of offering productivity apps, entertainment apps (though not top-level games) and whatever you do on the web. For anything that requires performance, you use cloud services that offer the advantage of almost unlimited capabilities that have little impact on battery life.
As we enter this new world of cloud connectivity, Qualcomm’s focus on reducing power consumption will increase their advantage.
One of the latest trends is multiverse and digital twins. But to make digital twins truly functional to simulate, these twins must be maintained in sync with their physical siblings.
This important connection will require the instrument to measure the physical aspects of the world copied to ensure this synchronization takes place in a timely manner. However, it will also require users to wear some portable image interface to experience some of the AR overlays that the metaverse promises. In 2007, HP offered a kind of metaverse experience demonstration called Roku’s Reward. It remains one of the best demonstrations of the connection between real and virtual into a fascinating experience.
The headphones needed for this experience, like the Occulus Quest, also use Qualcomm’s solutions to deliver high performance and high-speed connectivity along with long battery life. Both the quality of the experience and the accuracy of the metaverse will depend on Qualcomm’s technology.
While portability is trending, the more important events benefiting Qualcomm are the shift to remote processing, boosting its position at the top of the modem market, and emphasizing a processor focus on power per watt.
The company is well positioned for this new future that includes moving from a distributed, fact-based world to centralized computing, an augmented virtual world defined by AI, and the synthetic model of the future.
Lenovo ThinkVision M14t USB-C mobile display
The ThinkVision M14t mobile display at $384 isn’t a cheap day. However, it was shown to be capable of performing a convenient operation when I tested: I could sign documents from a desktop without a touch screen (making signing with a mouse is very bad).
This screen is touch-activated and it comes with a pen. It has a resolution of 1080, a 14-inch form factor, and a 16:9 orientation so you can stream full-screen streaming video while working on your laptop screen.
Users who will get the most out of this device will be those who need to interact with the screen while using a desktop or workstation or laptop that does not have tablet functionality. This group of users will include artists, reviewers (using pens), digital document scoring teachers, and lawyers or contract administrators reviewing digital contracts.
If you want a second screen, there will be fewer choices, but you can interact with it as if it were a tablet if you needed something capable of that. The base allows you to switch from horizontal to vertical if you want to orient the verticality of the document you’re reviewing or the drawing you’re creating.
Another use of this screen is that the current generation of smartphones has USB-C, which allows you to expand the screen with the full touch on the smartphone to 14 inches. Depending on how you use this screen, you can leave your laptop at home. With a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, your phone can act as a computing device connected to Windows Virtual Desktop in the cloud.
As discussed above, this cloud use case could be how we work in the future. ThinkVision M14t can help you explore that trend before it goes from how we’re going to work to how we’re working now. It might be the ideal way to experience the cloud-connected virtual PC world in the future, and it’s my product of the week.
(ThinkVision M14t was available at the time of this writing. The supply shortage is affecting the industry so availability can fluctuate.)