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Microsoft’s “Always Connected PCs” Initiative Brings eSIMs to PCs

Posted May 31, 2017 | Hardware | Mobile | Windows | Windows 10

At Computex 2017 this morning, Microsoft announced that it will partner with chipmakers like Intel and Qualcomm, PC makers, and mobile operators on a new “Always Connected PCs” initiative.

And please re-read that first sentence again with an emphasis on the word Intel: Contrary to reports I see elsewhere, this is not just about a coming wave of ARM-based Windows 10 PCs. This initiative includes mainstream x86-based PCs too.

Likewise, this does not appear to be related to yesterday’s news about Microsoft’s internal reboot of Windows 10 Mobile. Instead, the “Always Connected PCs” initiative concerns traditional PCs, not non-PC mobile devices.

Here’s what’s happening.

Microsoft tells me that “Always Connected PCs” are a new class of PCs that are powered by Embedded SIM (eSIM) technology. So before we can move on, we need to understand that. eSIM is a new standard for the SIM cards we use today in cell phones, smartphones, and other connected devices. And as the name suggests, these SIMs are embedded directly into a device. They cannot be removed, and they are universally compatible with all carriers, so they should work (virtually) anywhere in the world.

Put simply, eSIMs are universally compatible, do not need to be switched out of devices, and should make the process of switching between devices, or carriers, easier than ever. They’re a good thing.

“There are users who need to be connected to the cloud at all times, leveraging the latest network technology like gigabit LTE and eSIM,” an emailed Microsoft statement notes. “Microsoft is collaborating with its ecosystem on a shared vision that starts with a close partnership at the silicon layer, with Intel and Qualcomm, and with its mobile operator partners to provide seamless eSIM connectivity. Microsoft device partners are committed to this new category of Always Connected PCs using eSIM technology. In addition, Microsoft announced Always Connected devices will be coming on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. These new devices will feature Windows 10, with always-on LTE connectivity and great battery life.”

So Microsoft’s “Always Connected PCs” initiative involves traditional, Intel x86-based PCs as well as Qualcomm Snapdragon 835-based PCs. (You may recall that Qualcomm is Microsoft’s first partner for bringing Windows 10 to ARM, and that the 835 is the first chipset that is supported.)

Which PC makers, you ask?

ASUS, Dell, HP, Huawei, Lenovo, VAIO, and Xiaomi have all committed to adopting “Always Connected PCs,” and they will build traditional Intel x86-based Windows 10 PCs with integrated eSIMs.

In late 2017 or 2018, ASUS, HP, and Lenovo will also ship Windows 10-based PCs based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, and with integrated eSIMs.

Microsoft has revealed, too, that the mobile operators AT&T, BT/EE, DTAG/T Mobile, Vodafone, Orange, Tele2, Swisscom, 3, KDDI, Gemalto, Oberthur, Gigsky, and Transatel have all agreed to “Always Connected PCs” over “the next year.”

So that’s a lot of words for a simple concept: Various PC makers will ship Intel x86- and Snapdragon 835-based PCs in the coming year that include embedded SIM cards for always-on connectivity. That’s it.


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