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The laptops that people really want

By Jean-Claude Elias - Dec 12,2019 - Last updated at Dec 12,2019

Whereas smartphones makers seem to listen to what users really want and bring significant innovation to the devices at least one a year and sometimes even more frequently, it seems like laptop computers manufacturers are not paying enough attention to the market expectations. If sheer processing speed is still a critical point, with time other specifications have become even as important if not more.

Battery life is one of the aspects of the technology that is a priority for everyone. True, some progress has been achieved and laptops made after 2017 feature batteries that last five to seven hours, much longer than the older models. Still, this is not enough compared to smartphones that can work a full 24-hour cycle without the need to recharge.

Shorter start-ups and restarts, the time it takes from turning on the computer to the moment it is ready and fully operational, is another such demand. SSDs (Solid State Drives) have given laptops a serious boost in that sense, but mobile phones are still significantly faster.

Intel, the world leader when it comes to making processors, has been announcing its Project Athena (code name) for a few months now. It precisely aims to respond to all the above criteria and to a few others as well, like better network connectivity in terms of not only bandwidth but also stability, and — as the ultimate feature — to start integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the machines.

Indeed, if AI was more or less fiction and was mainly seen in movies or big research centres dedicated to professionals and academics, it is now a daily reality and is going to impact most applications and tasks, including for example online banking and airline booking.

Intel likes to call its Project Athena “Laptop Innovation Rooted in Human Understanding” and says it is a People-Led design, or People-Centred innovation. It was expected that we would see the new machines by the end of this year! At this point in time however, 2020 will be more like it!

Interestingly Intel will not brand the new laptops with its name but is working closely with the major laptop makers on the project: Asus, HP, Dell, Samsung, Acer and Lenovo, to name only a few — the laptops to come will bear their names.

The knowledgeable techradar.com says that “Considering the target spec and features of Project Athena laptops, … it is possible that these are going to be high-priced laptops”. The same source indicates that “These devices offer always-on connections and remarkably long battery life, but don’t use Intel hardware.”

Another interesting point is that the new laptops with be able to run the standard Windows 10 operating system, as well as Google’s Chrome OS. Although it does not have the wide acceptance that Windows enjoys, the latter is known for its impressive speed and simplicity of use. It is not to confuse with the company’s Chrome browser, “Chrome OS is built around that web browser” (quora.com).

Apparently the next laptops conceived under the Project Athena constraints will not only answer the above essential needs, but will also have brighter and sharper screens, will be lighter, slimmer, will all have touch screens and backlit keyboards and several ultra-fast USB ports as standard technical characteristics.

It remains to be seen when exactly consumers will be able to actually buy them, and what will they be called, given that Project Athena is but a temporary code name.

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