Mobile World Congress (MWC) is typically all about smartphones and tablets; it was effectively the home of the anti-PC and laid the foundation for the belief that the PC was dead. Well, that foundation has been falling apart of late, with every one of the major PC manufacturers showing sales growth. And at MWC this year, a number of business and consumer PCs are pushing back hard on the trend. Given that this is more of a consumer than a business event, the consumer products outnumbered the business products, but I figured I’d share some of the more interesting offerings from companies like HP, Lenovo, Panasonic and Porsche Design.
Let’s cover the highlights.
Panasonic showcased what is likely the quintessential 2-in-1 for field personnel in the Toughbook CF-33. Panasonic is far from the trendiest or most attractive vendor, but if you need a product to just work, whether it is inside or outside, in good weather or bad, and keep working year after year, it is hard to beat a Toughbook. I’ve often thought that if I had a kid that was hard on stuff, and what kid isn’t, I’d buy them a Panasonic. And I’ve known a lot of sales reps who are tougher on technology than any kid over 8, and many under. Toughbooks are designed to meet or exceed military specifications and Panasonic not only builds and designs devices for the military, it builds and designs many of the core components, which is unique in segment. This won’t win a beauty contest but if your life, and work, depend on a PC, this would likely be the one to buy. I’ve been to the lab and manufacturing site and it is like no other: low volume, very high quality, and largely unique in the segment.
HP Inc. showcased the HP Pro x2 512 at the event. This is another alternative to Microsoft’s Surface line. As with the Panasonic, this is a business-focused product and looks a lot like a Surface Pro in black. Surface Pro still uses Skylake or a generation 6 processor, and the HP Pro X2 uses Kaby Lake or a Generation 7 processor so, at least for now, it is more current. It also stands out by having a fingerprint reader that is Microsoft Hello compliant and a USB C port, both lacking in the Surface Pro 4. In many ways, the HP Pro x2 512 is a higher-end, updated, product to the Surface Pro 4 and likely will come to be more comparable to the Surface Pro 5 when it launches later in the year. This has HP’s unique safeguard service, which protects the BIOS from attacks, a smart card reader and NFC sensor for additional security, and HP’s secure data storage option. Designed to MIL-STD 810G specifications and protected against dust, this is a strong alternative for those who liked Surface Pro but wanted something more up to date, with higher performance, and more rugged.
Lenovo showed up with a wide range of devices from its Yoga 720 and 520s in 13, 14 and 15” configurations, and the new Miix 320 professional tablet. Let’s focus on the Miix 320 as an interesting business alternative to an iPad; it is the most interesting product in this lineup. This is a $200 convertible 2-in-1 tablet and for that aggressive price, you also get the keyboard. The product is around 10” and solidly in the iPad size class, and it is Intel Atom based so you get Windows 10 and it’ll run Office. One of the most interesting features is an eSim, which allows you to roam across countries but only pay a local charge because it will connect natively to whatever the local carrier is in different European countries. Full service is still rolling out but this could be a great way to avoid roaming charges while still being able to consume data. Upcharge for this feature is expected to be in the $150 range and moves us one step closer to an always-connected PC free of roaming charges in Europe.
Finally, at the other end of the scale is the Porsche Design 2-in-1. Approaching $3,000, this is as much art as it is PC. The company clearly pulled design elements from its cars, and for a Porsche owner, this could be the ultimate laptop. In terms of specs, it won’t exactly hit the top of any performance chart but it has decent resolution and it is wickedly thin and sleek. The hinges are the coolest thing since the watchband hinges on the high-end Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 2-in-1s and it has gears. If I had one of these things, I doubt I’d use it. I’d put it under glass for the duration of my life and just admire it. Porsche Design does impressive work, but practical it’s not.
Wrapping Up: But Wait, There’s More!
Actually, there were two more: the Alcatel Plus 12 4G-connected tablet and the Samsung Galaxy Book. The Alcatel’s key feature is that, like the Lenovo, it has built-in WAN support, but it adds a mobile hotspot for up to 15 devices. Samsung wins the award for looking the most like an iPad that wasn’t port crippled and runs Windows 10. While these didn’t wow me as much as the others, still, overall, Microsoft and Windows 10 had a strong presence at MWC, which continues to support the conclusion that not only isn’t the PC dead, it has become interesting again.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+