Trends to expect for 2018

2018 will be a very interesting year for personal and small-business computing directions. There will be a few key trends such as heavy use of voice-driven assistants, the rise of the smart home, network-based multiroom audio becoming mainstream amongst other trends. Online entertainment will also face certain trends like the rise of niche-focused online video services, 4K being the norm for TV resolution, virtual-reality and mixed reality being part of gaming amongst other things.

Voice-driven home assistants

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

Amazon Echo and friends – the device of 2018

4 different voice-driven home assistants to be on the market – Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant (Home), Microsoft Cortana and Apple Siri

A vibrant development ecosystem for each of the voice-driven home assistants. These may include entertainment ideas that integrate one or more devices based on these assistant platforms.

An increasing number of consumer-electronics manufacturers to integrate at least one voice-driven home-assistant in their products. It may encompass devices beyond network-capable smart speakers such as music or home-theatre systems or TV sets. Some vehicle builders are also integrating one of these assistants in the infotainment systems in some of their vehicle models without the need to implement Google Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Video display to be a product differentiator amongst voice-driven home-assistant platforms and products. It would be facilitated through a display integrated in or directly connected to the device, or through a display that is connected to a Chromecast or similar network media device that works with the system. This will augment replies from the assistant in a visual manner, most likely with still images, logos or videos, but can be a path for using the voice assistant to bring up image or video content.

An increased acceptance of “smart speakers” and devices based on voice-driven home-assistant platforms amongst consumers with at least one of these devices appearing in most households. It can also include households using multiple devices in their home, whether on the same or different platforms. This has been demonstrated through the last Christmas shopping season where many Amazon Echo devices were sold during that season.

It will take through a year for the app stores associated with “skills” and functionalities for these voice-driven home-assistant platforms to mature. There will be market requirements that the app stores will identify and enforce in order to assure that users of one of these platforms have a safe and pleasant experience with these devices.A similar situation has had to take place for smartphone and desktop app stores including identifying and removing rubbish from these stores.

Home automation and the smart home

More households to start installing or building out home-automation subsystems in their homes. This may happen with the assistance of telcos, ISPs and monitored-alarm security services offering “connected-home” packages and subscriptions.

Support for multiple smart-home technology platforms to be par for the course for smart-home devices. This may be in the form of Internet-based “home automation hubs” supporting multiple standards or “smart-home” devices being able to work across multiple platforms whether through inherent support or the use of replaceable modules.

Support for at least one voice-driven home-assistant platform to be “de rigueur” for any home-automation subsystem.

Businesses involved with central-heating / air-conditioning and home security to contribute to the “smart-home” scene. This will come about through the supply, installation and maintenance of upgrades and add-ons for extant building HVAC or security infrastructure focused towards integrating it with the “smart home”. As well,businesses supplying and installing new HVAC or security infrastructure will sell equipment that works with the “smart home” at affordable prices.

Bluetooth 5 to become a strong contender as a wireless medium for the smart home. This includes support for “mesh” operation with devices acting as radio repeaters for multiple devices which will be considered a key feature.

There will be an industry expectation for the “smart home” and “Internet Of Things” industry to improve their stance on data security and software robustness. It will be in the form of a software-update cycle being required for devices along with consumers being notified of any bugs or software deficiencies that affect their home network’s data security. This will be underscored by government regulation, insurance-company expectations or industry-driven logo-based certification programs addressing this issue.

Another trend to expect for the smart home is to have this technology work cohesively through large multiple-occupancy buildings. This could range from integrating Amazon Alexa with the entry-door intercom used int these buildings so you can speak to visitors through your Amazon Echo or ask Alexa to “release” the common entry door, to “smart home” systems that regulate heating and lighting in the common areas for consistent comfort, amongst other things/

Network-based multiroom audio

More classes of consumer audio/video equipment to be enabled for network-based multiroom audio. This means that TVs, stereo/home-theatre systems and the like will be offered with multiroom audio functionality, with more of these products in a manufacturer’s range at price points affordable for most people.

DTS Play-Fi and Qualcomn AllPlay to be seen as the “go-to” platforms for network-based multiroom audio where an AV brand hasn’t invested in their own multiroom technology. It can open up paths for multiple brands to invest in their own network-based multiroom product lines without “reinventing the wheel”.

Support for streaming integrated and connected local audio sources to be the norm for multiroom audio. This means that broadcast radio or CDs from integral radio tuners or CD players, or vinyl records played on connected turntables and TV soundtracks emanating from connected TVs can be streamed around a network-capable music system.

Multiroom audio to support multichannel speaker clusters in a group. This could allow a pair of like multiroom speakers to serve as a stereo speaker pair, to the creation of a surround-sound arrangement based around multiple multiroom speakers used in one room.

Online entertainment

The rise of streaming video services focused towards particular entertainment niches and genres. It will include studios with large respected content catalogues adopting a “direct-to-consumer” approach for making their content wares available to consumers via an online path.

Traditional TV channels and radio stations will be relying on online components like video-on-demand services and podcast outlets to keep themselves relevant. This is because of the fact that most of us are listening to or viewing content at our own convenience rather than making an appointment to hear or view it as it is broadcast.

Video-on-demand services will be offering video content at 4K UHDTV resolution with High Dynamic Range pictures for best-case picture quality. The sound will be delivered using Dolby Atmos or similar object-based surround sound as a best-case option.

Virtual, augmented and mixed reality will be seen as an important part of the gaming experience, thus requiring powerful but portable computer equipment. This will increase interest in gaming laptops and small-form-factor gaming rigs of the Intel Skull Canyon kind.

This will cause questions to be asked about the quality of residential Internet services offered by the popular telcos and ISPs. Here, issues will be brought out about latency during video playback or even how long it takes for an online video service to be “ready to play” once you select what you want to view.

Questions are being raised and industry codes-of-practice being looked in to in relation to treasure chests, loot boxes and other elements associated with gambling included in computer and video games either to offer extra gameplay elements like customisations or valuable options. It may also be investigated by various governments under the context of gambling laws, perhaps with a view to regulation of this practice. Similarly app stores may also be looking at ways to make consumers aware of games integrating gambling elements in their gameplay.

Hardware and Software Design

Convergence between desktop and mobile computing

There will be a strong convergence between “regular” desktop / laptop computers that run desktop operating systems, and “mobile” smartphone / tablet computing devices. This will take place in the form of desktop operating systems written to work with ARM microarchitecture used in mobile devices along with mainstream “regular” computers pitched for everyday computing needs being built around the same electronics as a high-end smartphone or mobile-platform tablet.

It will also affect how computer software is developed and sold. Software development tools will allow “one-touch” packaging of executable software forms for traditional Intel CISC and ARM RISC microarchitectures. Similarly, software-development tools will allow for “write once run anywhere” across desktop and mobile usage environments. There will even be the Holy Grail of one being able to write the same piece of software and have it run on all the major desktop and mobile operating systems while having an expedited software-development path.

Highly-powerful yet compact computers

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook

Expect the rise of highly powerful compact computers this year.

This trend is leading towards computers that will become increasingly powerful but compact. This goal is not just facilitated through laptop computers being equipped with the same electronics as a high-end smartphone but there will also be another option where a single piece of silicon will house a CPU along with a discrete graphics processor being the performance option thanks to Intel’s latest processor offering.

For laptops, 2-in-1s and tablets; both options can lead towards the integration of larger batteries which permit longer running time before the battery goes flat. For computers that aren’t portable by nature, the “performance” option with the discrete GPU on the same silicon as the CPU could lead towards small-form-factor desktop and “all-in-one” computers being more powerful.

New Connections

The USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 connectors will become more ubiquitous on computing devices. This includes seeing it as a power / data / digital-audio / video output for highly-portable devices like smartphones, tablets and ultraportable laptops. The number of external-graphics modules will increase especially with highly-portable integrated-chipset designs pitched towards ultraportable laptops.

As mobile devices move away from the 3.5mm phone jack towards USB-C or Lightning sockets for connecting audio accessories, these audio accessories will have their own digital-audio circuitry. It could lead to the availability of wired headsets with highly-strung digital-analogue conversion circuitry for high-quality sound along with microphone arrays, something that was only available with Bluetooth headsets.

The increase in Silicon Valley’s power base

Silicon Valley to become the “new Hollywood” with companies like Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Google creating more of their own video content and providing it through their own video-on-demand services. It can also manifest in the Silicon-Valley multinationals taking over film studios, music labels and other similar names in the entertainment industry.

The Silicon-Valley behemoths, especially Google and Facebook, are being seen as influential as, if not more influential than, traditional media companies. It is called out in relation to the power of these companies to summarily deny information services like social-network presence to individuals or business entities; “turn off the money tap” when it comes to serving advertising on Websites or apps; or “bury” Internet resources unapproved by Silicon Valley so they are hard to find for the average user.

It encompasses home much proper debate there actually is in issue important to civil society and whether Silicon Valley has been manipulating this debate. As well, the data commodity that the Silicon Valley behemoths are trading in is being used as a means to control this debate.

There is also questions raised about online advertising especially in context to brand safety, impact on user experience or true viewership of Websites with end-users, advertisers and publishers wanting to see an environment similar to what is expected for traditional media.

It is leading governments and industry authorities to place questions on how much influence the Silicon Valley behemoths should have compared to traditional media which is regulated by broadcasting or antitrust laws. In this same context, it also highlights whether competing or niche services have access to a potential customer base.

It is also extending to other industries like personal point-to-point transportation along with accommodation where Uber and Airbnb are being questioned about their effect on the traditional service providers and local communities. It is leading to questions being raised by governments and stakeholders in the affected industries about how to assure competition between the Silicon-Valley service providers and traditional businesses.

Conclusion

Each year show up some very interesting trends for personal and small-business IT and our online lives and 2018 will be no exception/

Send to Kindle

Spirit Internet to provide infrastructure-level competition in Geelong

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Cunningham Pier, Geelong, Australia by Bernard Spragg. NZ from Christchurch, New Zealand (Cunningham Pier. Geelong Vic.) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Spirit Telecom to introduce infrastructure-level competition for next-generation broadband to Geelong

Spirit Telecom

Hey Geelong – Did you hear us on the radio? (Interview broadcast on Radio Bay FM)

My Comments

Recently, Radio Bay FM in Geelong broadcast an interview about Spirit Telecom setting up shop in this regional boom-city. Here, Roxie Bennett interviewed Spirit Telecom’s managing director Geoff Neate about the pending arrival of their independent infrastructure setup as part of her lifestyle segment broadcast.

Spirit Telecom ahs been established since 2005 and has provided infrastructure-level competition for broadband Internet service in some of Melbourne’s inner neighbourhoods. Here, households and businesses who sign up with Spirit have access to simultaneous ultra-high-speed bandwidth thanks to use of Ethernet cabling within the buildings and a fibre-optic network for the last-mile connection to the building.

But Spirit is intending to roll this infrastructure out to Geelong with the first development that will benefit being the Federal Mills regional technology hub, an example of the new economic direction for that city. Let’s not forget that Geelong is starting to take on high-rise development within its CBD, which could open the door for Spirit Telecom to wire up the new developments for Ethernet-based FTTB next-generation broadband. It is in conjunction with Spirit Telecom’s other efforts to reach other Australian cities to provide developers, building owners and businesses a viable high-quality alternative to the NBN.

This broadcast is a sign of the times because it has highlighted the slowpoke effort that NBN has taken with providing a reliable next-generation broadband service in most of built-up Australia. There was even an on-air “dig” cast at NBN because of the delay in rolling out broadband in to that city.

Personally, I see Spirit Telecom’s effort in running their own infrastructure and high-quality next-generation broadband Internet as something that will “put a rocket up” NBN to roll out infrastructure in to that city/

Send to Kindle

The B4RN community broadband effort extends to East Anglia

Articles

Tree in Butley Suffolk - pictuer by Eebahgum (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Suffolk to benefit from the B4RN rollout

B4RN EA starts the dig that will bring Gigabit full fibre to villages in Norfolk | ThinkBroadband

UPDATE B4RN Expand 1Gbps FTTH Broadband to Rural Suffolk and Norfolk | ISPReview.co.uk

From the horse’s mouth

B4RN East Anglia

Home Page

Press Release

My Comments

The B4RN effort is a successful rural broadband effort that relies on community effort to bring FTTP all-fibre broadband to villages within the UK countryside. This has initially taken off within the North of England but is also taking off in Lancashire and a few other rural communities there.

What has been happening in some of the B4RN areas is that the UK’s “broadband establishment” namely Openreach have been building out infrastructure in to those areas to compete with these efforts. This has led to some overbuild taking place at the hands of Openreach which has opened up the possibility of competitive Internet service taking place in those areas.

But this time it is to expand in to rural East Anglia. Initially B4RN instigated an effort to create a fibre backbone from Telehouse North to Lowestoft by leasing some dark-fibre infrastructure. The first building to benefit will be Scole Community Centre, which most likely will be used as a public-awareness “launchpad” for B4RNorfolk’s effort along wiht serving as a core node for the network as what a lot of village halls do in the B4RN networks.

Some of this effort will overbuild established Openreach infrastructure but this will provide some level of competition in the affected communities. Let’s not forget that the kind of broadband service is symmetrical Gigabit fibre-to-the-premises Internet which will place “established” providers on notice.

It is another effort by the full-fibre networks that service rural areas to raise the bar for real broadband in that kind of market.

Send to Kindle

Microsoft’s Bing search to have the same intelligence as Google

Articles

Microsoft Bing Search screenshot

Now has the same intelligent-search abilities as Google

Microsoft is giving Bing more intelligence—and a dash of Reddit | Fast Company

Microsoft announces new AI-powered search features for Bing | The Verge

My Comments

Microsoft’s Bing search engine is inching closer to be on an equal footing to Google Search by implementing a host of new features that will be of benefit to users, metasearch providers and voice-driven assistants.

Recently, they provided support for fact-check tags so that users can know whether a news story is for real or not. This has been enhanced with the ability to show the fact-check results as supplied by the fact-checking organisation in the search-results list so you don’t need to visit the link to verify a claim.

Now they are interlinking with Reddit to bring forth results that have been drafted out through that forum. There is also object recognition for image-based searches along with machine reading to parse text and extract the meaning from it.

Bing will also support conversational search functionality, an effort based on Microsoft’s previous chatbot projects. It will also include aggregating resources about news events from multiple sources and with multiple perspectives, most likely from a list of news sources trusted by Microsoft.

This effort associated with Bing is also based on information search and analysis features that are being baked in to Microsoft’s Office 365 “software-as-a-service” functionality for their established Office desktop productivity suite. It is also in conjunction to the Insight functionality that Microsoft has just baked in to Excel.

What I see of this is a strong effort for Microsoft to become a viable competitor to Google in the “intelligent search” competition as far as full search engines (those who run their own search robots and build their own indexes) are concerned. I see this in response to Apple switching away from Bing to Google as the “driver” search engine for the Siri voice-driven assistant and Spotlight, the integrated search functionality baked in to MacOS.

But I also see this benefiting a range of Internet actors such as metasearch engines which aggregate results from established search-engine indexes, companies who want to integrate Web search in their product’s or service’s functionality as well as voice-driven assistants of the Alexa or Cortana kind. In this context, it is capitalising on a stronger partnership that Microsoft recently struck with Amazon so they can work together and share knowledge to improve the Cortana and Alexa voice-driven assistants.

It is a step in the right direction to provide a competitive intelligent-search function for the Web rather than having Google own the marketplace for this level of search functionality.

Send to Kindle

Politics creeps in to the world of the voice-driven assistant

Articles

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

Is Amazon Alexa and similar voice-driven assistants becoming a new point of political influence in our lives?

Amazon’s Alexa under fire for voicing gender and racial views | The Times via The Australian

Alexa, are you a liberal? Users accuse Amazon’s smart assistant of having a political bias after she reveals she is a feminist who supports Black Lives Matter | Daily Mail

Amazon’s Alexa is a feminist and supports Black Lives Matter | Salon

My Comments

An issue that has started to come on board lately is how Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana respond to highly-polarising political questions especially in context to hot-button topics.

This talking point has come up just lately in the USA which has over the last year become highly polarised. It has been driven by the rise of the alt-right who have been using social media to spread their vitriol, the fake news scandals, along with Donald Trump’s rise to the White House. Even people from other countries who meet up with Americans or have dealings with any organisation that has strong American bloodlines may experience this.

Could this even apply to Apple’s Siri assistant or Google Assistant that you have in your smartphone?

What had been discovered was that Amazon’s Alexa voice-driven assistant was being programmed to give progressive-tinted answers to issues seen to be controversial in the USA like feminism, Black Lives Matter, LGBTI rights, etc. This was causing various levels of angst amongst the alt-right who were worried about the Silicon-Valley / West-Coast influence on the social media and tech-based information resources.

But this has not played off with the UK’s hot-button topics with Alexa taking a neutral stance on questions regarding Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May and similar lssues. She was even challenged about what a “Corbynista” (someone who defends Jeremy Corbyn and his policies) is. This is due to not enough talent being available in the UK or Europe to program Alexa to achieve answers  to UK hot topics in a manner that pleases Silicon Valley.

The key issue here is that voice-driven assistants can be and are being programmed to answer politically-testing questions in a hyper-polarised manner. How can this be done?

Could it also apply to Cortana on your Windows 10 computer?

The baseline approach, taken by Apple, Google and Microsoft, can be to give the assistant access to these resources that matches the software company’s or industry’s politics. This can be pointing to a full-tier or meta-tier search engine that ranks favourably resources aligned to the desired beliefs. It can also be about pointing also to non-search-engine resources like media sites that run news with that preferred slant.

The advanced approach would be for a company with enough programming staff and knowledge on board could programmatically control that assistant to give particular responses in response to particular questions. This could be to create responses worded in a way to effectively “preach” the desired agenda to the user. This method is infact how Amazon is training Alexa to respond to those topics that are seen as hot-button issues in the USA.

Government regulators in various jurisdictions may start to raise questions regarding how Alexa and co are programmed and their influence on society. This is with a view to seeing search engines, social media, voice-driven assistants and the like as media companies similar to newspaper publishers or radio / TV broadcasters and other traditional media outlets, with a similar kind of regulatory oversight. It is more so where a voice-driven assistant is baked in to hardware like a smart speaker or software like an operating system to work as the only option available to users for this purpose, or one or more of these voice-driven assistants benefits from market dominance.

At the moment, there is nothing you can really do about this issue except to be aware of it and see it as something that can happen when a company or a cartel of companies who have clout in the consumer IT industry are given the power to influence society.

Send to Kindle

Hey Cortana! You can work with GMail

Article

You can now connect Gmail to Cortana for calendar, mail, and contact support | Windows Central

My Comments

Windows 10 Cortana Notebook menu

Select “Connected Services” in Cortana’s notebook

Some of you may just use GMail simply as another Webmail account but you can have client-side access to it from certain email clients like Windows Mail, Outlook or your Android email client. Here, if you are using Windows Mail for example, you may find that you could have Cortana work your account from their simply by adding it to the list of accounts your Windows Mail installation works with.

But you may also just use the Web-based user interface for your GMail account and simply use it also as a contacts and calendar storage for your Android phone, especially if you do upgrade your phone frequently.

Add a Service menu in Windows 10 Cortana Notebook menu

Select GMail as the service to add to Cortana

Here, you can create a direct link between Cortana and your GMail account so you can summon her for information from that account. This can be of importance if you buy the Harman-Kardon Invoke smart speaker which is powered by Microsoft’s Cortana voice-driven personal assistant.

To do this, open Cortana on your Windows 10 computer and click on the Notebook icon. Then click on Connected Services in the menu that pops up. Select “Add a service”, then select “GMail”. Here, you will be asked for your Google username and password that you operate your GMail account with. Enter these credentials and Google will then ask you whether you want to allow Cortana access to your account. Once you assent to this, your GMail details are available to Cortana.

This will become more of a trend as an increasing number of social networks, Webmail services and the like provide the necessary “hooks” to allow the various voice-driven personal assistants to work with their services.

Send to Kindle

GM creates a marketplace from your dashboard

Articles

GM Marketplace lets your car buy donuts and coffee | CNet

GM thinks you’ll buy stuff through your car’s dashboard | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

GM (USA)

Press Release

Video – Click or tap to play

My Comments

General Motors is bringing a new trend that will affect the connected car. This is to create a “marketplace” on the dashboard’s touchscreen-based user interface to sell goods and services to the driver and passengers. The technology that is used will be the 4G LTE mobile broadband link but will most likely be facilitated through GM.

Typically, the kind of goods and services that will be pitched initially are fuel from Shell and ExxonMobil; food and drinks from Starbucks, TGIF and a few other vemdors; parking; along with data service, OnStar subscriptions and servicing from GM.

There will be the ability to bind the accounts, loyalty programs and payment cards you use with these merchants to this system so that you can pay for the goods and services through the dashboard including accruing or redeeming loyalty points.

The GM Marketplace will be available with 2017-2018 GM North-American-nameplate (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC) vehicles that are equipped with the correct advanced infotainment setup. As well, there will be the limited

Let’s not forget that other vehicle builders and aftermarket infotainment manufacturers would be showing interest in creating their own “in-dash” marketplace for selling goods and services through their advanced infotainment systems. In some cases, an alliance of vehicle builders or infotainment manufacturers could set up a marketplace that appears on all of their

But this can lead to fragmentation if partner businesses have to associate with the multiple “in-dash” marketplaces. Similarly there is the issue of independent suppliers like standalone motels and restaurants or independent fuel brands finding it difficult to come on board typically due to lack of bargaining power. This may be facilitated through alliances who can represent these businesses in order to bring them on board.

Other issues that will also need to be raised include the ability to maintain accounts particular to individual drivers as well as to a vehicle. It will also have to include support for “guest” operation where a person could purchase goods or services through an in-dash marketplace without needing to register with that marketplace; along with the ability to support split ordering for things like drive-through food.

At the moment, GM is proving the concept of the in-dash marketplace and could encourage other companies to build up this concept.

Send to Kindle

Most iPhones and iPads now in circulation to be safe from the KRACK exploit

Article

Apple iPad Pro 9.7 inch press picture courtesy of Apple

Most iPads and iPhones updated to iOS 11.2 now safe from the KRACK exploit

Apple fills the KRACK on iPhones – at last | Naked Security

Previous Coverage

KRACK WPA2 Wi-Fi vulnerability–what is affected

My Comments

There has been intense computing-press coverage regarding the KRACK WPA2 exploit against otherwise-secure Wi-Fi wireless network segments. As my previous coverage highlighted, most of the major regular-computer and mobile operating systems were updated to rectify the vulnerability associated with this exploit.

Check the Settings App on your iPhone for the update

But, as I called out in the article, the iOS 11.1 update that Apple rolled out for their iPhones and iPads only remediated the vulnerability on certain newer devices. Here, it was ignoring a larger installed base of iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches by not providing the remediation for devices earlier than the iPhone 7 or the iPad Pro 9.7 (2016).

Now Apple has rolled out the iOS 11.2 update to extend this remediation to more iOS devices in the field. These include:

  • iPhone 6 encompassing the S and Plus variants, the iPhone SE, the iPhone 5S,
  • 12.9” iPad Pro (1st generation), the iPad mini 2 and its successors, the iPad Air, the iPad (5th generation)
  • iPod Touch (6th generation)

Here, it means that those commonly-used recent iPhones and iPads are now safe against the KRACK exploit. Check your Settings app on your iOS device to be sure it is up to date with this patch.

Send to Kindle

What is the eSIM all about for mobile broadband

Articles

SIM card

These SIM cards will be embedded in subsequent generations of mobile devices including Always Connected PCs

It’s time to embrace the eSIM | Engadget

What Is an eSIM, and How Is It Different From a SIM Card? | How-To Geek

‘Telstra One Number’ Is Telstra’s New eSIM Tech | Gizmodo

eSIM feature to arrive with Windows 10 Version 1803 for always connected PCs | WinCentral

My Comments

A trend that will have an impact on devices that use cellular-based wireless broadband technology is for them to implement eSIM authentication.

What is the eSIM technology?

It is effectively an embedded SIM which is a hardwired equivalent of the SIM card that authenticates you to a mobile-telephony / wireless-broadband service as a customer.

One of the key advantages to this approach over the traditional user-replaceable SIM card is that there isn’t a need to design a large user-accessible space in a mobile device to accommodate one of these cards. Instead, the customer’s wireless-broadband service is provisioned to their device “over the air” rather than having to encode a SIM card to hand over to the customer to be installed in the device. It is similar to the online provisioning and service activation process implemented for some prepaid mobile-telephony / wireless-broadband services sold through ordinary retailers in some markets.

What devices will this appeal to?

This approach appeals to the wearables market where size does certainly matter but is also appealing towards the connected car where there isn’t a desire to create a cavity for a SIM to be installed. Just lately, the eSIM technology is also appealing to the “always-connected” ultraportable laptops thanks to the next major functionality iteration of Windows 10 having software support for this functionality baked in.

Let’s not forget that newer smartphones, USB modems and MiFi routers including multiple-WAN routers will become equipped with eSIM support, especially where multiple-service functionality is to be part of the feature set. It could allow one to design, for example,  an Android smartphone with a classic SIM slot and an eSIM along with a microSD card slot. Here, a user could then benefit from the advantages of multiple services while using a microSD card to provide “infinite” storage for music, photos and videos.

The main disadvantage that the eSIM will offer to some people will be that they can’t switch SIM cards around quickly, which may be of concern with people using a “decoy” number associated with a prepaid service or people who are troubleshooting mobile devices.

What does this allow?

It was brought on board in 2013 but recent improvements to the eSIM standard allowed for a customer to maintain multiple eSIM services from the same or different carriers in the one device. It is similar to how users are switching SIM cards around to maintain multiple service accounts, such as to maintain separate “business” and “private” services, to sign up with “destination-local” mobile-telephony services with a “destination-local” number and payment options, amongst other reasons.

This provides simplification for these users by providing “over-the-air” provisioning for additional services including varying these services or re-instigating dormant services. The user-experience that may be offered is to choose the network that provides the service you want to use then enter an activation code of some sort to “turn on” that particular service. Typically this would be something you receive in an email if you are enrolling online or receive from a staff member at a “bricks-and-mortar” store.

Some carriers and service providers are exploiting eSIM by offering a “one number one account multiple devices” option for their mobile services such as Telstra’s “One Number” service. But there are other ways that mobile-telephony service providers can exploit the emerging eSIM setup. But the carriers can look at exploiting the eSIM further such as tying it in with BYOD business setups, mobile services that can be “parked” when not needed amongst other things.

In some business environments, it could allow a single shared device to be associated with multiple service accounts with the accounts in operation dependent on who is logging in to the device. This could tie in with the “portable desktop” approach towards business telecommunications where one’s computing and telecommunications setup is moved amongst multiple devices but your boss or clients call you at the same extension number.

Conclusion

The eSIM approach for authenticating mobile-telephony and broadband service can open up a wide range of approaches both for device design and for service delivery.

Send to Kindle

Windows 10 on Qualcomn ARM chips–to be real

Articles

Snapdragon smartphone electronics in 2-in-1 laptop press picture courtesy of Qualcomn

Implementing high-end smartphone electronics into an ultraportable laptop

Smartphone Guts Are Coming to Windows Laptops, and It Could Triple Your Battery Life | Gizmodo

Microsoft reveals ‘Always Connected PCs’ from HP and ASUS with Windows 10 on ARM | Windows Central

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft

Always Connected PCs enable a new culture of work (Windows Experience Blog)

Qualcomn

Qualcomm Launches Technology Innovation with Advancements in the Always Connected PC and its Next-Generation Qualcomm Snapdragon Mobile Platform (Press Release)

A day in the life with the Snapdragon 835 powered HP Envy x2 PC (OnQ Blog)

Video – Click or tap to play

My Comments

Microsoft had made some attempts at bringing Windows to the ARM RISC microarchitecture with a view to bringing forth cheaper computers. But they had failed thanks to silicon based on traditional Intel x86/x64 microarchitecture being offered at very cheap price points and able to natively run a large roster of software already available for that platform.

But they, along with Qualcomn who supply the silicon for most of today’s smartphones, have re-approached this through the vision of an ultraportable laptop computer or tablet that implements the same technology as one of the recent high-end smartphones and phablets. This has been drawn out alongside the recent crop of highly-capable 11”-14” 2-in-1 laptops that are making a strong appeal as a highly-capable alternative to the iPad and Android-based tablets.

But the computers that represent the “Always Connected PC” product class integrate a large battery along with the LTE-based wireless-broadband modem, both of which allow for a long time of computer activity without the need of Wi-Fi or daily charging. These would also support eSIM which allows for over-the-wire provisioning of mobile broadband service, including the ability to provide “international-focused” service for people roaming around the world. HP and ASUS have premiered a detachable 2-in-1 and a convertible 2-in-1 which are based on this technology.

Microsoft is pushing the Always-Connected PC for the workplace with a focus towards a managed computing environment. Here, it is about avoiding the need to connect to insecure public-access Wi-Fi networks or worry about whether you have the laptop’s power supply with you when you head to work or make that business trip.

I see it more as an answer to Apple’s iOS platform, Google’s ChromeOS platform and Samsung’s interpretation of the Android platform where the goal is to cater to a mainstream productivity-focused computing environment for work or school.

Here, the focus would be about interacting with cloud-based business / education software whether as a Web app or as platform-native software or simply working with information using standard office-productivity software, perhaps with some video playback or mobile-grade gaming. I also see this as a way for Microsoft to aggressively compete against the iPad in the household, education and business environment by encouraging its partners to offer tablets and 2-in-1s that have the same operational qualities as that tablet.

But it wouldn’t displace the Intel / AMD x86/x64-based computers which would be focused towards applications where performance is of importance such as serious gaming or photo / video editing. But as for running Windows software, the ARM-based variants of Windows will be implementing an x86 emulation layer that allows 32-bit Windows software to run on these computers. This is while Windows software developers who package software for the Windows Store will be encouraged to deploy code native to x86, x64 and ARM microarchitectures.

The big challenge now is for software developers and games studios to port the software that is on the iOS or Android platforms towards the Windows 10 platforms on all the microarchitectures. It would them make it viable for Windows to continue as a third force for “non-handheld” mobile computing.

Send to Kindle