Wire-free laptops will hit the market next year, Intel says

Laptops with Skylake chips will be able to wirelessly charge and transfer data

Intel laptop charging wirelessly

Intel laptop charging wirelessly

Laptops that require no wires for charging, display, data transfers or docking will be available by the end of next year, an Intel executive said Wednesday.

The laptops will free users from power bricks and wires for connecting to external displays, said Kirk Skaugen, Intel senior vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group, during a keynote at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

A wire-free reference laptop will be released early next year for hardware developers to make components and peripherals that take advantage of wireless technologies, Skaugen said.

Intel is demonstrating technologies at IDF that highlight the promise of a wire-free computing experience. Skaugen demonstrated a reference laptop beaming 4K video wirelessly to a high-definition LG TV set. A laptop that can be wirelessly charged when placed on a surface is also being demonstrated on the show floor.

Wire-free computing will become ubiquitous in a few years as more cafes, airports and other locations start installing wireless charging stations, Skaugen said.

The first wire-free laptops will have chips based on the Skylake architecture, which will succeed processors based on the Broadwell architecture. The reference laptop being shipped to developers will also have LTE connectivity and the RealSense depth-sensing 3D camera, which can determine the size, distance, contour, dimensions, colors and other characteristics of objects.

Intel started to lay out its vision of wire-free computing at Computex in June. It has since developed a smart dock that both wirelessly charges laptops and transfers data between them and external storage devices. The dock is based on WiGig wireless transfer technology, which is roughly three times faster than the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

Intel is developing circuitry for wireless charging. It is also working with PC makers Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Panasonic to put wireless charging into PCs. Intel has adopted magnetic resonance wireless charging technology from A4WP (Alliance for Wireless Power), whose members include Samsung and Qualcomm.

It is also working on wireless charging and docking for smartphones and tablets.

The wire-free computing plans are ambitious, but the change in PCs won't happen overnight, said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. Users will need to upgrade PCs and infrastructure changes are needed for wireless technologies.

Intel is big enough to drive change and people will follow because of its momentum, Gold said.

"It will be popular with people," Gold said. "It's a great vision."

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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