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A thermal image above Intel- and Qualcomm-based laptops showing the difference in heat being generated. Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

Qualcomm announced its latest bid to break into the PC market on Thursday, announcing two new chips aimed at the low-end and mid-range of the notebook market. It's the latest in the company's years-long quest to expand from phones into computers.

Why it matters: Though smaller than the smartphone market in units, the PC business remains lucrative, and getting even a modest share of it would be a nice boost for Qualcomm and a considerable threat to Intel.

Qualcomm's pitch is a compelling one: Combine the power of the a computer and the always-on connectivity of a cell phone, then throw in all-day-or-more battery life.

The problem is, the computers based on such chips have generally fallen short on both compatibility and performance. It's hard to imagine adding lower-end variants of Qualcomm's existing chips will solve either issue, though perhaps customers will be more forgiving of those tradeoffs in a lower-priced machine.

Dueling demos: In a meeting room at the Grand Wailea resort, Qualcomm pointed a thermal camera at Qualcomm- and Intel-powered laptops as they simultaneously ran 4K YouTube, Photoshop and a video conference call, showing visibly just how much hotter the Intel-based machine was running. The added heat, Qualcomm says, would almost certainly translate to lower battery life.

Intel, meanwhile, set up demos of its own at a suite at the nearby Andaz hotel, showing the recently introduced Qualcomm-based Surface Pro X and Intel-based Surface Pro 7 doing a variety of tasks. Intel says the Surface Pro 7 is faster at productivity tasks like converting a PowerPoint to PDF, quicker at creative tasks such as editing photos and offers higher frame rates in games, while the Surface Pro X offered only slightly better battery life.

My thought bubble: If Qualcomm wanted a place in low-end machines, a natural spot would seem to be the Chromebook market, where the company would just need to deliver a good browsing experience. Early Chromebooks ran on a range of processors, though recent models have focused on PC chips from Intel and AMD.

Disclosure: Reporting for this article took place at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Summit in Maui, where I moderated a session on Wednesday. Qualcomm paid for my travel-related costs.

Go deeper

Kevin McCarthy's rude awakening

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy is learning you can get torched when you try to make everyone happy, especially after an insurrection.

Why it matters: The House Republican leader had been hoping to use this year to build toward taking the majority in 2022, but his efforts to bridge intra-party divisiveness over the Capitol siege have him taking heat from every direction, eroding his stature both with the public and within his party.

The next big political war: redistricting

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are preparing a mix of tech and legal strategies to combat expected gerrymandering by Republicans, who are planning to go on legal offense themselves.

Why it matters: Democrats failed to regain a single state legislature on Election Day, while Republicans upped their control to 30 states' Houses and Senates. In the majority of states, legislatures draw new congressional district lines, which can boost a party's candidates for the next decade.

32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Vaccinations, relief timing dominate Sweet 16 call

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) speaks during a news conference in December with a group of bipartisan lawmakers. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Vaccine distribution, pandemic data and a cross-party comity dominated today's virtual meeting between White House officials and a bipartisan group of 16 senators, Senator Angus King told Axios.

Why it matters: Given Democrats' razor-thin majority in both chambers of Congress, President Biden will have to rely heavily on this group of centrist lawmakers — dubbed the "Sweet 16" — to pass any substantial legislation.