Why Microsoft may gain an upper hand with carriers thanks to 'Always Connected' PCs

Folding Surface fan render, by David Breyer.

Folding Surface fan render, by David Breyer.

The tech industry is in constant flux. New device types often introduce new business, distribution, and marketing models. Nothing, not even well established and familiar paradigms stay the same.

Under the current smartphone model carriers have a lot of influence on what devices are put before consumers. If a carrier isn't confident a device will sell or isn't motivated to work with a manufacturer it may not carry or invest in promoting a device. Consequently, a company that has little influence with carriers will have little success with getting its devices onto carrier shelves and into consumers hands.

This is one reason why Microsoft, unlike Apple and Samsung, failed to achieve broad carrier distribution during its attempts at success in the smartphone market. Here's why that may change with its new telephony-enabled PC category.

A new model for a new PC category

We've predicted that Microsoft's Windows-on-mobile strategy would lead to its abandonment of the smartphone space as the company invests in the mobile space via a pocketable, always connected PC with telephony. This would be an intentional progression of the new Always Connected cellular PC category. So, what advantages might a pocketable, eSIM-equipped, telephony-enabled, always-connected cellular PC category bring to the mobile space that might help Microsoft and its OEM partners circumvent the current carrier-dominated smartphone model? And how might carriers respond?

Initially, this new pocketable PC category is expected to be enterprise- and prosumer-focused. Broad consumer appeal wouldn't likely be a target, or even achievable, until possibly the third generation of this category.

At that time important variables, such as a broader proliferation of Progressive Web Apps (PWA), that Microsoft and Google are collaborating on and Apple has embraced and 5G, may have helped to diminish the app gap. Thus, making the device more appealing to consumers.

Even before that happens, however, as a PC, this device category would likely retain the market position and distribution channels common to PCs. With the addition of voice capabilities, however, it introduces a wild card that carriers don't currently face. Let's take a closer look.

How Microsoft can ensure pocket Suface success

If positioned as a PC, and sold as a PC, it's a PC

When a consumer want's a PC, he or she goes to a retailer like Best Buy, Walmart, a host of other physical stores or online distributors. They don't typically go to mobile carriers. Furthermore, various OEM's, like HP, have Business to Business (B2B) sales models where PCs are sold directly to other businesses along with other services the OEM provides. So, before we get to pocketable telephony-enabled PCs let's look at their predecessor, Always Connected PCs. The consumer and OEM behavior we described will likely continue with this PC category that is hitting the market now.

When Joe Consumer goes to Best Buy to browse Windows 10 PCs, he will see the "Always Connected PC" category in addition to traditional PCs. If he purchases one of these eSIM-equipped devices, he will have a new smartphone-like PC experience that will change how he interacts with a PC. It will have instant-on capabilities, long battery life and be always-connected just like smartphones.

Unlike most smartphones, however, these PCs will use eSIM, or electronic subscriber identity module, to connect to and identify it on cellular networks. This is where this PC experience begins to overlap the carrier space and lays the groundwork that will challenge the current smartphone model.

Remote SIM provisioning allows users to switch carriers without purchasing a new SIM card.

Remote SIM provisioning, unlike with physical SIM cards, will allow eSIMs to store and have different accounts or profiles. Simply put, users will be able to purchase data directly from a choice of carriers through the Microsoft Store without having to purchase a new SIM card. Microsoft has partnered with several carriers worldwide who will offer data through the Store. Additionally, the GSMA, an association of approximately 800 mobile carriers collaborates on eSIM standards which suggests further advancement and standardization of eSIM.

Cellular PCs are paving the way

Always connected PCs introduce new user behavior and a new cellular data provisioning model through this new device category. Multiple OEMs have already adopted cellular PCs, and the category will only grow among consumers and the enterprise. As millions of cellular PCs saturate the market this year carriers will want to stand out in the Microsoft Store. They will likely modify data packages to appeal to users who will have the ability to shift between carriers almost on the fly right from Windows.

This shifts Microsoft to a position of power with carriers for two reasons:

  • One, there are over one billion Windows PCs and 600 million Windows 10 PCs in the market. Thus, as cellular PCs market presence grows to conceivably hundreds of millions in time, Windows through which cellular data is sold, will have greater influence over carriers.
  • Two, unlike with Windows phones, carriers will want to offer Always Connected PCs in their stores to influence consumers likelihood of choosing them as a data provider in a space that cellular PCs will make more competitive.

Thus, as PCs become a large part of the cellular roadmap, which is part of Qualcomm's not just Microsoft's goal, they may enhance the PC distribution model. Adding mobile carriers as an important partner to the traditional retail and B2B PC distribution channels for cellular PCs is the foundation for the telephony-capable pocketable cellular Windows 10 PCs that may follow.

Enter telephony-enabled cellular PCs

When Microsoft introduces it folding mobile Surface category later this year its enterprise and prosumer focus will "shield" it from the rigors of the consumer space while cellular PCs are altering consumer and carrier behavior and expectations around PCs.

Additionally, as Microsoft, Google and Apple push PWAs, a universal app standard, this year forward users will increasingly experience PWAs on these new PCs and other mobile devices throughout 2019 and 2020. 5G rollout in 2019 will begin introducing high-speed low-latency networks where edge and cloud computing will also likely support powerful apps in the cloud. By this time carriers will have conformed to the new cellular PC model and will have also accommodated, on a small scale the same model for voice, on enterprise-focused telephony-enabled PCs.

A cellular PC with telephony is still a PC.

It will be in this environment that I believe Microsoft will push its third-generation pocketable Surface, late 2020, with OEMs for the consumer market. These same OEMs will have already brought generations of cellular PCs to market, established business models with the enterprise and strong positions with consumers and carriers. It's conceivable that carriers will have even worked with OEMs on marketing cellular PCs to position their data plans as the choice among consumers.

It will be on this road, paved by cellular PCs that, I believe, Microsoft, with OEM support, will push pocketable cellular PCs to the mass market in a few years. Cellular PCs introduce an unavoidable change in consumer behavior as well as the relationships between Microsoft, OEMs, and carriers. That change may benefit pocketable Windows 10 PCs. A shift in carrier power is coming, and for a change, I think it may be in Microsoft's favor.

Now Read

How Qualcomm (not just Microsoft) is making PCs post-smartphone devices

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

145 Comments
  • Nice write up!
  • Thanks netmann!😎
  • Indeed, best ever article I've seen you write. Keep in mind the UK mobile phone market people. Whilst carriers are pretty much like used car salesmen, they do not have a stranglehold on the customer or the market. We have enough competition, and enough market diversity (contracts with phones, contracts without, payg, monthly contracts, you name it and all are popular), that we do not experience the 'trying' US mobile experience. If you US folks can break free, this is what you will get (or closer, anyway, geography permitting) with third party carriers like your Mint people in plentiful variety and supply. Remember, Windows Phone was working out well here. I honestly believe this could really be MS throwing you guys a rope. I can't wait to nab a not-phone. If they can keep it at a practical price so we don't get mugged constantly like iPhone users and can actually use the thing in public, it'll be noticed around here quicker than 3rd gen I'll wager.
  • Thanks Andy. And thanks for the input!
  • Selling dirt cheap phones in low numbers isn't "working out well".
  • @AndyCalling; I agree and the good here is the multi-OEMs that is available will provide the price competition but I really think this is where Cortana shines if Microsoft will allow it to but then again it could be Alexa and not Cortana.  
  • Love reading your articles. Always full of detail. I have a feeling MS will make a significant comeback for the Mobile market, albeit not how we might have wanted from the beginning, but maybe this is the best way to come back, and with a vengeance. Hoping the rumored pocket PC comes out this fall like MS said it would. Any speculation on the price tag for that future pocket pc?
  • Thanks😎...Price tag? Expensive. At least $1000.
  • Four figures is asking for a mugging. If this is something people are supposed to be able to use outside of the home/office/hotel then it needs to be cheaper. May as well get a full sized Surface Pro otherwise, as if this not-Phone is not able to be used in a mobile fashion what's the point? Would you wave a $1000 wad around at the bus stop or on the underground? Ask any policeman and you'll get laughed at.
  • There are tonnes of poeple already doing so with iPhones and Galaxy Note's? I don't see the difference
  • Hi Andy, that's where democratization comes in. Microsoft makes a premium aspirational device, and OEMs, as they did with 2-in-1s,populate the market with a range of different devices at various price points.
    Also, dov1978 makes a good point iPhones and Galaxy Notes are at that price, so a consumer who wants the premium product is already being conditioned for this price range💵.
  • We're in a post PC world - you need to get past 'personal computer' i.e. you need to come up with a collective name for a Window/device/screen/pad/mobile/gadget (er and PC).
  • We have called it a smartphone for quite a few years. Semantics isn't the answer to Microsoft's issues.
  • That's a good a point, and as the article's focus shows, semantics isn't even part of the discussion.😉
  • The future of forms factors is convergence. The Razer Project at CES shows this. I see devices like that running Windows 10 than Android, as Windows 10 is more adapted to run those types of devices than Android, while also having more standard control. I see smartphones being phased out and replaced by something like foldable devices and devices like Razer. 
  • How is Windows more adapted to running on those types of devices? That Razer Project is running Android if you didn't notice. It is more than capable of operating on such devices.
  • Because for laptops Windows is better and more familiar to average consumer.
  • But Windows is absolutely terrible everywhere else and this device would need to be a phone primarily. Android makes more sense as a desktop, see the S8 running Ubunutu, than Windows does as a phone.
  • Because Android is too fragmented and support is VERY limited compared to Windows while also the business model discourages standardisation. Unlike Windows, Android doesn't have the control that Windows has. For example, on Windows 10 ARM, all ARM PCs will get the update at once, instead of waiting for OEMs. While Android is good for candy bar smaprthones. It's a terrible OS and business model for convergent devices. How would you feel if you had to wait for months or not at all for an OEM to patch your PC? Not only would that be a disaster for consumers and PR but will instantly kill any chance for enterprise to adopt the OS/device. I think a consumer would rather have a Windows device with the ability to emulate Android apps (WSL style), which is definitely possible to do.
  • While Project Linda from CES was a very futuristic device it was only concept from Razer, just like the 3 screen laptop from last year. I doubt they would proceed any further than that. It all depends on how well the razer phone sells. But even then I do not think the average user would want to get the Razer phone, that is more for a hard core gamer and someone who is more versed in the mobile gaming scene. If it does come to fruition it will most likely have a Windows 10 as it's OS, not to say that there is anything wrong with Android, but Windows is the default OS of choice for the hardcore gamer, and is the best suited for Steam and the like than Android. And I think there in lies the problem as to why it will only be a concept. Since there is now Windows Mobile anymore there is no real benefit in making an Android version of a gaming capable phone/laptop hybrid. ALL hard core gamers if not most use Windows 10 as their OS of choice. Maybe when Windows makes it back in the mobile market?
  • The US carrier market didn't work last time because they refused to pay bonuses to the employees which Android phones had, and they didn't have the kickbacks. Different dynamic in stores now, but some older employees still remember that Windows was the phone that doesn't pay to sell.
  • I don't see how we can get pass PC world.  The form factors may increase with technology but you will never leave PC.  Desktop PC may decline but laptop PC, 2-in-1 PC and mini PC are trending up.  Now the cellular pocket PC arrives with WoA and 5G.  The form factor becomes far more mobile, versatile with longer battery life but it is still PC.
  • Since Microsoft’s history with phones speak for its self. These write ups have been for me at lease all for entertainment purposes only. Kinda like tabloids and Elvis and 2 pac  sightings. Great entertainment keep them coming lol!!!
  • You must not be reading the content. This is not about smartphones.
  • There is your semantics again. A touchscreen slab sitting on a shelf at Verizon next to the Galaxy S11 and iPhone 12 is a smartphone no matter what you want to call it. It will compete with them either way. The experience is the important part, not some made up category name.
  • Is a Surface Pro with Skype a smartphone?
  • It isn't pocketable.
  • Depends on the pocket. https://www.scottevest.com/v3_store/101_Vest_Men.shtml
  • "It isn't pocketable"
    Neither were the huge forearm-long mobile phones from several decades ago.
    Remember the moble phone Zack Morris carried around in his gym bag from 'Saved by the Bell". That wasn't pocketable.
    So if your defining characteristic for what makes something a phone is pocketability, history's got it wrong. Those early mobile phones that history, the industry and the world calls phones, are not pocketable, and therefore according to you are not phones.
    Admittedly the crossover into the PC functionality spaces of smartphones raises challenges of category differentiation, thus I'm more inclined to look at fundamental differentiating characteristics such as:
    Is it running a full desktop PC OS or a Mobile OS?
    Will it be positioned as a PC or a phone?
    Will it be distributed through PC or phone distribution channels?
    -----------------
    I believe this device will be running a desktop OS (Core OS) with CShell so will conform to mobile and desktop contexts. Will run PC and mobile and PWA apps. iOS and Android are mobile, not PC OSes. Windows 10 is a PC OS.
    2.I believe it will be positioned in the market as a PC beside other PCs.
    I believe it will utilize traditional PC distribution rather than strictly smatphone channels.
    https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://netdna.webdesignerdepot.com...
  • Look, this is pretty simple.   If it has a phone number and fits in your pocket, then it is a smartphone.   Period.  The OS it is running does not matter.   Bringing up mobile phones from 1987 is irrelevant.  Those were not smartphones.  Those were actual telephones, as portable as the technology of the time allowed.   Since Windows PCs are clearly in decline - there were about 300 million sold in all of 2017, whereas that many smartphones are sold each quarter - I still fail to see how Yet Another Windows PC is going to change anything.  That 300 million represents another .2% decline from 2016, BTW.  They have been in massive decline  for 5 years now. The world already has “telephony enabled, always connected, pocketable PCs”.   We just call them phones.   That they are not running Windows does not mean they are not PCs.   They are the most PERSONAL computers ever created.    
  • "Bringing up mobile phones from 1987 is irrelevant."
    Not really. Particularly when someone bases the definition of a phone on pocketability (read the conversation stream).
    Those moble phones weren't pocketable but were phones.
    Now, I think folks need to take a look at where we're headed to get a grasp of why the category that is being introduced here is not a phone. As fanciful as this analogy will sound roll with it. Say the end game is a pocketable, form shifting connected device with FULL PC 💻 power akin to what you see in Westworld.
    That device is not a phone, but is more a PC used for complex computing and telephony.
    This is fundamentally what is being introduced here and is a distinct departure from what iOS and Android smartphones offer.
    This is a FULL PC OS capable of complex full PC computing on form and UI shifting hardware and software.
    Its just the beginning, and processing power will increase in subsequent iterations making the platform more robust and capable, 5G cloud computing where high speed, low-latency connectivity will allow cloud-based apps, powerful AI and more, and PWAs will populate all platforms.
    But the intentional use of a full PC OS, on a single device that conforms to desktop and mobile contexts with CShell on a device that is designed from the hardware and software and Continuum to work as full PC , tablet and a mobile device needs to be looked at a bit differently - beyond love or hate for Microsoft and for what it actually represents as the first gen of a new category of universal device that is not a smartphone.
  • If you have to go back to the '80s for an example, it is irrelevant. It is 2018, and in 2018 a smartphone is a ~5.5" touchscreen glass slab. Some even unfold into larger, multiple screen devices. Some can dock and run a desktop UI. They are all still smartphones. Microsoft isn't going down that path of semantics. It is silly and could very well turn into a joke. You really think Microsoft has the marketing chops to make the argument that a ~6" touchscreen slab isn't a smartphone?
  • Your argument of "having to go to the 80s" is without basis. If someone is arguing that a phone is a phone because it's pocketable, as was argued, that's THIER, definition and argument. What a phone 📞 is whether the forearm long phone from the 80s that isn't pocketable or the 7" inch Android smartphone which some argue isn't pocketable, isn't enough to define what is or isn't a phone.
  • Kinda agree with Jason, this is not WinPhone.
    Because WinPhone was not a Win10PC, it had small audience & small dev support.
    Win10ARM today, is a Win10PC and we, human race, especially creators, businessmen and gamers, are not ready to abandon Win10 in general.
    I see no reason dropping ARM support, cause it's more useful in business sidda department than Intel's.
    And, as a programmer,
    1. We cannot abandon Win10,
    2. Win10ARM is a Win10PC,
    3. MsStore runs on them because it's a Win10PC,
    4. Even if Win10ARM died, UWP we wrote will still run on Win10PC (also on xboxes, IOT, AR, MR). There's nothing to lose. We creators (programmer, game programmer, planner, designer, music composer, etc) need powerful HW to run Adobe, 3dsMax, Unreal, VisualStudio, SVN, Git, Office, Local Server typpa application. But other than those, our ticket system, project manager, chatroom, etc are all web based. People in business department (CS, cooperation, international business, etc) works on the web. They don't need powerful HW, and ARM can provide always connect, e-sim, light weight and long bat life. My GF, as a APAC manager of a US IT firm, works on the web with virtual teams @ home (or in the coffee store) too. Like Jason's mentioned in the article, web is a big part in our IT world, we only need UWP for native features or speed and exe will die out slowly. And because it's a ARM, OEM can produce smaller device easily, small enough to fit in your pocket (and more useful than a smartphone OS, at least I can code & compile, XPA gaming, photoshop, use OneDrive on Demand on these).
  • Visual Studio on a pocket device?? You still don't get it, and Jason doesn't either. A pocket device will alwyas be a pocket device in need of POCKET APPS!!! ON THE GO APPS! STORE APPS FOR TOUCH DEVICES! first, before anything else, that will compete with smartphones no matter what you fanboys or MS is trying desperately to say! we already have on the go functionality, on Android and IOS, because MS failed like a bunch of junkheads.
  • Oh I get it mmgn. More so than you may think. First in regards for the need for mobile apps, I address that need and where MS is placing SOME of its hope in the section where I reference the industry adoption PWA (Google and Microsoft working together on PWA standards and Apple and Mozilla embrace of PWAs - I wrote a detailed piece on that its linked in the piece: www.windowscentral.com/author/jason-ward) Now the perspective you're mission and what I have addressed in other comments (please read them) is that the initial device in this category, expected late this year is a first gen device, not the end game. Open 👐🏿, your perspective a tad, look down thr road and try to see where Qualcomm, yes Qualcomm, is trying to bring computing in their goal to bring as many people as possible onto the cellular roadmap. (Read the piece linked at the end of this piece for details. The goal is the full power of the PC on the cellar roadmap in a mobile forma factor that can be desktop, tablet and function as a phone. I know, it's hard some of you to look past Microsoft's failures, but it's not just Microsoft's goal nor just a mobile comeback story. It's about cellular evolution and personal computings future. Think Westworld. I know to much for you, but go with it. It's an analogy. In Westworld we see a device that is form shift, has context sensitive hardware and software, the full power of the desktop PC and telephony. This is where Qualcomm and Microsoft are pushing computing. Qualcomm 835 brought the desktop OS to the cellularroadmap. A folding hardware design provides context sensitivity to conform to a tablet, PC 💻 (Continuum) or pocketable settings. CShell provides a context-sensitive UI (software) PWAs (in time) bring context sensitive app experience. 5G provides high-speed low-latency cloud/edge computing where some apps, even high intensity apps, will be cloud-based. Processor evolution will make the devices more powerful and more capable with subsequent generations beyond the first gen device expected this year. This isn't about a single device that will save Microsoft this year. It's about the BEGINNING of a device category, a full PC with the full range PC features being brought ot the cellular roadmap that can be a desktop, tablet and has telephony. It's the nascent stages of a shift toward the type of device you see in Westworld where all forms computing can happen from a single device. Yes, even Visual Studio via Continuum. I also see powerful gaming and Mixed Reality.😎 Again this is just the beginning. Your responses, seem limited to the short -term rather than taking in the long-term and other contributing factors.
  • Everything you list will benefit competitors just as much as Microsoft. Context sensitive PWAs will benefit Android and iOS "desktops" just as much as it will Microsoft on mobile. It will benefit Microsoft less because desktop websites are the norm already and you don't need Windows to access them. 5G will likely be available on Android and iOS first as will the new powerful processors. You speak about the SD835 coming to Windows, but now the SD845 is coming to Android. There will be 845 Android phones available before 835 Windows PCs. Context specific UIs have been built into Android for several years now, it isn't "coming soon". Nothing you mention is specifically a positive for Microsoft. They will benefit the other platforms just as much. Desktop use is decreasing for a reason, they aren't required as heavily today and that isn't going to change. It isn't the advantage that you hope it is.
  • Hi bleached. Thank you for your observation. But you seem to think that your making an opposing argument to my position when you say that what I mention "also benefits competitors." I know that!🙂
    I wrote an entire piece on Microsoft, Apple and Google embrace of PWAs. It benefits each of them.
    I wrote a piece about Qualcomm provision of tools for the industry, powering the Mobile landscape and have mentioned 5Gs impact for thr industry. Of course I know it benefits Apple and Google too.
    Those benefits don't preclude what benefits it brings Microsoft and how it fits into Microsoft's strategy, however, which is what I'm highlighting here since this is a MS focused site.
    I can write ✍🏿 a focused piece on how it all benefits Apple or Google too. But that's not the focus of WC. 😉 So I provide industry wide developments and highlight where it benefits Microsoft with peripheral reference to the competition.🙂
  • Phones? This is far from a mere phone. There's this rumored Windows Core internal project happening at MSFT that will soon (hopefully) convert Windows 10 OS to adapt to any screen and device category and that's what MSFT is gearing up towards. As for this Surface Ultramobile PC, we will have a taste of stable intro to the Windows Core OS. It's all about portability.
  • Ok. First, Microsoft has to somehow sell "hundreds of millions" of "always connected PCs". That will take several years. Today, they sell 0 "always connected PCs" and they won't be available for a couple more months at least. Maybe they will catch on, but we still don't even know about the performance these devices offer. Next, they need to get people buying data through the Microsoft store for a device that they haven't historically bought data for or used an app store on. This will probably be even harder. There are few places that don't have WiFi these days. I see no reason for my Surface Pro to have LTE. Anywhere I want to do work already has WiFi and good WiFi at that. Then, if they somehow get these stars to align, they will be able to strong arm carriers into properly supporting their smartphones. Sounds like a great plan. Much better than releasing a great product and properly supporting it. Maybe they will try that someday. Forcing your mediocre, half supported product onto people is the plan for now. At least Jason Ward is for it.
  • The execution of the strategy I outline and the offering of a great and supported product are NOT mutually exclusive bleached. The two can coexist. :-) No one wants Microsoft to bring a mediocre and half supported product to market. In the voice of Balki Bartokomous from the 80's sitcom 'Perfect Strangers' - Don't be ridiculous! :-)
  • Google has made a living off mediocracy since they released the first version of Android, it doesn't really matter if the company behind the product is considered "hip". Microsoft products are held to an entirely different standard which will make it much harder for them.
  • Hey, perfect! Since *YOUR* experience is that you have GOOD WiFi anywhere you want to work, that will be ideal for everyone else in the world, too! Awesome.
    Or, maybe there is a place for this product amongst all those commuters who take trains, trolleys, the subway, or light rail to work every day. Or people who fly all the time and dont want to deal with Airport WiFi. Maybe that crap Starbucks WiFi just isn't reliable enough to put together a last minute presentation. Maybe students don't want to fight over wifi in a crowded college cafeteria or dorm room. Sometimes you make sense, bleached.. but I think you're looking through a straw on this one.
  • Then of course there's also the concern of WiFi security versus cellular connectivity.
  • I think it's more a question of what can a 6 or 7 inch folding tablet phone do on LTE that an ordinary smartphone can't already do? Yes, I know, it'll run 'desktop apps' whatever those are. But in your scenario, if you're on the train commuting, what desktop apps are you using? If you're typing anything substantial wouldn't a laptop/surface pro with LTE make more sense? If it's something you use a touch keyboard for, aren't you already using your smartphone? What 'desktop apps' are you missing out on? The form factor & functionality might be useful for some people, but this is a niche device at best. Unless the hardware is truly remarkable, I don't think the revolution is coming any time soon.
  • @bleached, I think your mock concern is actually missing the chief challenge: data consumption sales incentives and changing business models. At least in the US, do Verizon and AT&T want to sell devices that will use significantly more data than smartphones? I honestly don't know. To the extent they can include higher amounts of data for more expensive plans, probbaly yes. If all users are on unlimited data, then probably no. Whether or not carriers will take an early interest in this (prior to it being clear if there will be market interest) will be almost entirely a function of whether or not they view these new devices are potential revenue drivers. They'll be willing to take a chance on their success, but only if they believe that success will be good for them. The only ways I see it as being good for the carriers are: An additional device to a smartphone, so it lets them sell an incremental data connection Uses more data on a pay-per-GB data model, so even if it replaces a smartphone, its with a more expensive plan Exclusivity play, e.g., Verizon gets it and AT&T does not, so it brings customers into the Verizon store For a broad rollout, #3 is not in Microsoft's interest if they can avoid it, so hopefully not #3. That leaves #1 and #2. Note that #1 is very much at odds with even the carriers treating it as a "phone." Not semantics at all: the reason carriers don't call the iPad a big phone is because they want to sell data for your phone AND ALSO your tablet. If these new PCs are additive, like tablets, they'll like them and will work hard to persuade the market that they are not phones. That's not Microsoft, that's the carriers.
  • Your forgetting the many OEMs and the many variations of which this is just the start of a new product line for Windows... Nothing is being forced here how could it? If your watching many consumers they are already using their smartphones/tablets in a jacket that opens like a book. So many will be practically fine with this type of configuration. 
  • I think that this new device can't be sold in carrier stores to achieve this goal. It has to be in a Best Buy-like setting surrounded by PCs. I also think this device is going to need to a dock available at launch to further the idea that it is a PC. Icing on the cake would be if the Mobile Plans app in the Microsoft store was able to be used to purchase plans virtually from multiple carriers, further eliminating the need to have someone go to an AT&T or a Verizon only to be swayed to an iPad. Though I'm not sold that Always-Connect PCs will be the next thing, I'm curious to see if PWAs and 5G shift the market elsewhere. US customers are just now in the last few years catching up to the European and South American models where we actually have to pay for mobile phones rather than subsidizing for a contract. So undoubtedly the market is shifting and the next couple of years will set the 2020-2030 decade I'm sure.
  • Only time will tell.
  • I'll continue to say this every time I see Microsoft and Carriers mentioned in the same article. There is no way on this planet that Carriers will ever work with Microsoft after all of the money they've stolen over the years. Microsoft basically collapsed whole segments of telephony by doing it better and doing it digital when carriers were still analogue.   Adding voicemail support and PBX integration into Exchange was a big hit for carriers who have a land line / business division.  This is AT&T, Bell Canada, BT, etc. Then they bought Skype, further eroding Telco revenues. Telcos are not happy that MS want to compete in this space.   The real outlier is how telcos are now utterly dependent a company that once made blue boxes that allowed users to steal long distance minutes from the carriers.   Microsoft are trying on the server end, aggressively targeting Telcos for Azure. The ONLY way MS will succeed with their always connected PC initiative, will be to curry favor with the carriers by allowing them to use Azure at a loss.    Everything else is just a silly pipe dream.
  • "Everything else is a pipe dream". Well deadonthefloor, its a "silly pipe dream" that is beginning to come true: "In addition to supporting connected PCs on their LTE networks, you can expect each operator to stock Always Connected PCs in their retail store, Qualcomm and Microsoft say." That's an excerpt from an article linked in the piece: https://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-announces-first-mobile-carriers-support-always-connected-pcs So carriers are already on board to carry Windows 10 Always Connected PCs built by Microsoft's OEM partners this year. You said: "There is no way on this planet that Carriers will ever work with Microsoft after all of the money they've stolen over the years." Never say never. ;-)
  • "In addition to supporting connected PCs on their LTE networks, you can expect each operator to stock Always Connected PCs in their retail store, Qualcomm and Microsoft say." Yea, well, I bought my Surface 3 from AT&T way back. (interest free finanancing) It darn sure wasn't prominently displayed in their stores. The few bucks they get to add the data on this thing to my family plan isn't their bread and butter. They'll probably sell a couple of 'always connected pcs', if you dig around on their web site under 'accessories', but they won't be pushing these things. Notice that quote isn't from AT&T, Verizon.... It's from the guys wanting them to sell these.
  • Maybe, maybe not. But your Surface 3 was not a new category of PC with purposely targeted smartphone like qualities for an always connected, instant-on long battery life experience that will be supported by various OEMs.
    We don't know for certain how it will.all turn out, but your anecdotal experience, though it brings forth a very valid point, does not exist within the model that Always Connected PC, bring to the table with eSIM, partnerships with multiple carriers worldwide and the ability for users, via Remote SIM provisioning, to purchase data from a choice of carriers virtually on the fly from Windows without having to get a new SIM.
    There's a whole new infrastructure being erected around, what will likely be millions of these devices in the market in time, and carriers will likely find the space very competitive and will likely make the devices in thier store prominent for that reason.. That wasn't the case with your Surface 3 scenario.
    Thanks for the input and your experience, but I think there's more coming to the table now than what you experienced with your Surface 3.😉
  • "Maybe, maybe not. But your Surface 3 was not a new category of PC with purposely targeted smartphone like qualities for an always connected, instant-on long battery life experience that will be supported by various OEMs."  - Jason Ward.   Smartphone like qualities...meaning it's a smartphone.   The device you have shown in the picture above IS A SMART PHONE...no matter how you want to twist and turn YOUR definition...it's a friggin smart phone.    Now.  that being said,  if they can do ANYTHING i can do on my iphone.....I think it will sucseed...if it's the same as previous WINDOWS PHONES....dead duck no matter the battery life, connectivity, carrier etc.  
  • Actually if you're following the context of the reply Steve Adams the excerpt you chose from my statement was in DIRECT reference to the Always Connected PC category (laptops/2-in-1s) WITHOUT telephony that are hitting the consumer market this year. "Maybe, maybe not. But your Surface 3 was not a new category of PC with purposely targeted smartphone like qualities for an always connected, instant-on long battery life experience that will be supported by various OEMs." So no, those laptops and always connected laptops and 2-in-1s are by far NOT smartphones. Please try not to be so quick to refute something that you miss the context of the quotes. 😉
  • Hi Jason, You are the one coming out with the "smartphone like qualities" comment right in your quote.  I am just saying,  most of your articles are on this supposed "not a phone but really is a phone" even in innuendo.  I know the always conneted PCs released now have no phone capabilities.  but 99% of the people here are talking about the magical surface shown above,  Which is most def. a phone.   Even if no one wants to call it that because 1.  They are blind by marketing jargon,  or 2.  They are afraid to call it a phone and cause another "reboot".   If it was not a phone but a pocketable PC like you claim it would look more like the GPD 7" POCKET PC.  NOT a dual screen PHONE.  
  • Hi Steve. I like you are very aware of what most people are talking about. I'm also aware of what YOU were talking about, like everyone else, you were talking about the pocketable inking focused cellular PC that will follow Always Connected PCs (first to enterprise and prosumers late this year and the category supported by OEMs to consumers in a few years).
    But while talking about THAT category, you took an excerpt from the article that directly referenced Always Connected PCs, and reframed it in a context in which I didn't use it, as a foundation for your counter point.
    That doesn't work. You can only refute a point a person makes, not create your own point with with another persons words, claim that that's the point the person was making, then refute it. 🤯When you do that, since YOU'VE created your own point you've excluded me (or whoever you're disputing) from the discourse and are effectively debating yourself😉
    ------------------------
    Now you say, "If it was a pocketable PC., as I say it would look more like a GPD 7" pocket PC."
    Come on Steve, you've followed tech long enough to know that NOTHING HAS to look like anything. I believe you're old enough to remember rotary phones. They look nothing like the phones we carry in our pockets. But both are phones. Or the first phones that required two handed use, one for the mic and one for the earpiece were phones and are vastly different in form factor even to the cordless home phones.
    The model T looks nothing like the latest Tesla.
    The PCs from the 80's look nothing like the Surface Pro.
    So, a pocketable PC with telephony needn't look like the GPD 7" pocket PC to be a PC.
    But like all other PCs it will run a full PC operating system unlike smartphones.
    It will be likely positioned as a PC along with other PCs, unlike smartphones.
    It will likely utilize PC distribution channels unlike smartphones.
    Though you, use the clamshell dual screen aspect to equate it to smartphones, not too many smartphones sport that clamshell design. But 100s of millions of PCs do. And the dual screen aspect is inline with the Microsoft Courier design which nobody, when it first began getting attention and even now, called a smartphone.
    Folks really need to look beyond this whole smartphone paradigm.
    What's happening is being pushed as much by Qualcomm as by Microsoft (please read the last story linked in the piece). Qualcomm's goal is to bring as many people as possible to the cellular roadmap. That move is being fulfilled in part by bringing the most prolific desktop PC OS to cellular. Think about the long-term goal for a moment and not first generation technological limitations.
    Envision the full power of the PC from gaming, multimedia editing, inking, and more on a single device that can be a desktop, tablet and mobile device connected to the cellular roadmap.
    Step one, Always Connected PCs gets Windows onto the cellular roadmap.
    Step Two, First gen pocketable PCs gets a form factor that can be a desktop(Continuum), tablet or mobile onto the roadmap.
    Step Three, 5G (beginning 2019) makes high-speed low-latency cloud computing (cloud based apps, collaborative work, gaming) practical.
    Step Four, Advances in processors on these 5G edge connected pocketable PC, make 2nd, 3rd and subsequent generations of these form shifting pocketsble PCs more capable of replacing desktop tasks.
    Step 5, PWAs will likely, beginning this year with MS, Google and Apple pushing them, and a real adoption beginning beginning in 2019 forward begin eradicating the app gap making the mobile aspects of this device category more useful.
    This is where its headed. Look at the end goal, then back it up to see how these company's are gettin us there. The brief pieces I just played out are steps toward that goal. But it has to start somewhere.
    First gen devices toward that goal, with thier limitations seem to be viewed in a bubble here absent the motivations of other players like Qualcomm and the inevitable technological advances (like better processors and 5G) that will benefit subsequent generations of this category, just as technology has always done.
    Guys, lets try to look a little further down the road. This pocketable Surface expected this Fall isn't the endgame. Its just the beginning.
  • Jason,  Interesting.  With regards to PWA's.   Let's say Apple released a PWA.   Does that mean that this device can access it without issue?  or does apple have to authorize the use?
  • I want to believe this magical picture you've painted.  However, as someone who works in Telco, you're dreaming. Remember, Microsoft Kin?  Remember Windows Phone 7 where they snubbed their noses at carriers saying they'd be removed from the update chain?  Remember Windows phone 8.1 which never even got a Verizon variant? There's backdoor deals that benefit carriers more than MS.  They will partner and let the product lines atrophe with inaction just like every other attempt. As a current Lumia 950XL user who had to buy theirs outright from MS because no Canadian telco was going to touch Win10 after the WP7 fiasco, I really want to believe your rose coloured glasses view of the future.  Reality has bitten me too many times to even give it a second thought.
  • You mean the carriers aren't going to spend years & billions of dollars implementing 5G networks, then just let Microsoft sell data through the Microsoft store? I don't really understand how these ridiculous ideas get started, then they're just bandied about on this website as a matter of fact. They can't even sell music through the Microsoft store without it failing. It's laughable.
  • Yes I remember all those devices, deadonthefloor, but I also see where carriers have already agreed to carry Always Connected PCs.
  • They agreed to sell Windows Phones also and then the people working at the stores directed you to the latest iPhone. Just because they have agreed to place them does not mean it will trickle down to the staff to support those decisions. I remember walking to the "Windows Section" asking for a 1520 and being asked "Why?" and I can easily imagine an ACPC in place of a 1520 merely because the staff makes less commission or doesn't know enough about it to endorse it.
  • I hear you and I know and expressed those same anecdotal experiences about WP. But what I'm presenting here is the strategy, not saying it is without challenges.
    That said, Always Connected PCs will be hitting retail the market and Carrier stores this year.
    In regards to a desktop 💻 computing alternative, with full PC power on ARM, sales associates won't really have to much to show customers as a comparable alternative to Always Connected PCs, with eSIM.
    Now, play that forward a few years when pocketable inking focused Always Connected PCs with full Windows are also in carrier stores. Will Android and Chrome and iOS and macOS be merged and caught up to the work MS has done to make a single OS, down the modular Core OS and UI sensitive CShell that Microsoft has achieved with Windows 10; and what that means on a pocketable device that can be a PC 💻 (Continuum), tablet and has telephony.
    If Google and Apple will not have achieved that by the time Microsoft's pocketable PCs are on the shelves in carrier stores (having also benefited from the work MS and Google along with Apple and Mozilla will have dome to popularize PWAs) these devices will occupy a unique position as Windows 10 PCs, again, with little alternative in that category for sales associates to point customers to.
    There are a LOT of variables and things can play out in a myriad of different ways. Let's wait and see.🙂
  • The american market system gives a lot of power to carriers. I believe this system in iteself is flawed. Any dependence on carriers is tough for hardware makers. Look what they did with Huawei. This is not cool and highly anti-competition. Given how much effort a software maker puts in writing of software and hardware maker in hardware engineering, carriers have awful lot of say in the device's success. In many other countries, you won't find this dependence and as a result market is flooded with options in these countries. For example, India, Italy, Brazil. And as an added case, Windows Phone was quite a popular platform in these countries. Its markets such as US where there is so much dependence on carriers where WP fell flat. US should do something about it but these companies are also very powerful. Average US consumer thinks of going to at&t to buy a phone where as in India, a person wouldn't think of going to airtel to buy a phone, they will think of hardware store. This is also in psyche of US consumers. This needs to be broken. This is acting against development of technology. 
  • Always Connected PCs have no dependence on carriers at all. Carriers are basically treated as a distribution channel for OEMs. 
  • Microsoft is deeply delusional if they think they can set any trends now. And yes, device that was described is just that - another mobile phone. There are no incredible features that would redefine the way we breath. It is just another form of the mobile device...
  • Agreed, "another form of a mobile device." But not another form of a smartphone.😉
    1. It'll be running a desktop OS like a PC and be capable of running desktop PC and mobile apps.
    iOS and Android phones don't run a desktop OS they run mobile OSes.
    2. Will likely be positioned in the market as a PC.
    IOS and Android smartphones aren't positioned as PCs thier positioned as phones.
    3. Will likely be distributed through the market as a PC.
    IOS and Android phones are not distributed through PC distribution channels.
    4. It will be able to make calls like a PC with Skype or a phone.
    5. It will be pocketable like the 7" GDP pocket PC and smartphones.
    So this mobile device with another form factor looks like it may be more aligned with what a PC is, rather than what a smartphone is.
    Pocketability and making calls isn't enough to make it a phone.
    #'s 4 and 5 clearly show that PC can be both and still be irrefutably categorized as PCs whereas #1 - 3 Are virtually PC exclusive characteristics.
  • Jason, you seem to be nice guy but you are blinded by Microsoft's promises that never materialise. I very well remember your series about Warton Brooks?? Where are they now?? What happened to this highly hyped Surface Phone?? Mate, I like you but even you need to understand that Microsoft won't deliver anything revolutional. They can dream, dreaming is free and does not require too much...
  • Thanks. I try🙂 "What happened to this highly hyped Surface Phone." Nothing. One its not a phone. Two, the device people call a Surface Phone is still in development. Three, sources place it at a Fall release. Finally, no one KNOWS what Microsoft will deliver, revolutionary or not. My analysis is based on observation of thier investments, vison, patent, technological developments like Core OS and CShell and the company's long-time goal to bring the full power of Windows to a mobile form factor. Core OS, CShell and the patents we've seen are strong evidence that Microsoft is investing in making that happen. No just like the McLaren and Surface Mini it can be canceled at the last minute that's why my very first sentence in this piece says "If Microsoft's device makes it to market..." So no I'm not blinded by Microsoft's promises. I'm presenting an analysis of Microsoft's intent and goal based on observable investments and evidence while acknowledging that factors may prevent it from coming to fruition. I think, sadly, that the cynicism, frustration and disappointment here makes many blind to the fact that an analysis can be presented about what Microsoft, (and you should really read the story linked at the end of thr piece if you haven't), Qualcomm are trying to do. Simply because they've failed miserably at smartphones doesn't mean they're not moving forward with a strategy that they hope will work. Sadly, the "blindness" I see here is that people seemingly equate past failure with an absolute abandonment of trying to establish a plan to succeed in the mobile, not smartphone, space despite evidence to the contrary. And an analysis of what the company is trying to do is assumed to be an endorsement that it WILL succeed though that is not what I state. I simply lay out what I beleive they're doing.😉 I personally think the "blind" or naive position would be one that asserts Microsoft is NOT attempting to position for a play in the mobile space. People can't let thier feelings that any future attempts Microsoft will make in the mobile space will fail, cause them to conclude that Microsoft is not positioning for a mobile play. Evidence points to the contrary and folks need to separate their feelings about its potential success or failure from its existence as a plan in development.😉
  • Pocketability and making calls isn't enough to make it a phone.
    7" is not pocketable. Is this thing sized like what consumers already identify as a phone? Can it make calls? Check emails and download apps? Yes? Then it's a phone. Arguing over semantics is pointless. While Microsoft may understandably want to put as much distance between this thing and the word 'phone' given their very public failures,​​ ​​​​​the market will look at this thing and call a spade a spade. So you're welcome to call it whatever you like, but it looks like a phone and quacks like a phone, and will be competing against phones.
  • What is a phone though?? Is a PC that makes phone calls a phone? Because according to your definition that's a phone. This is like the Surface discussion, about what a tablet is. It doesn't really matter what it is.   
  • > There are no incredible features that would redefine the way we breath
    Not how we breath, but...
    1. docking on a gamepad for XPA gaming.
    2. Edge with extension (& sync) so I can inject my code for automation, ad-block, stop vid autoplay, etc.
    3. Inking, quick sketch, occasional Photoshop
    4. OneDrive on Demand so that I can carry more files than a HDD can hold.
    5. No Unreal, Unity or Dx+Havok but I can certainly do some light UWP programming.
    Reasonable application outta these ARM devices, big or small (or dual screen). Besides, it's a Win10PC, what's there to lose? (unlike those came-outta-no-where WinPhone that had no user base to begin with + then you have Android & iOS...)
    As a programmer, if ARM Win10 died, your UWP code can still run on Win10PC, Win10S, IOT, AR, MR, Xbox.
    These ARM devices run PC version MsStore too.
  • "There are over one billion Windows PCs and 600 million Windows 10 PCs in the market. Thus, as cellular PCs market presence grows to conceivably hundreds of millions in time, Windows through which cellular data is sold, will have greater influence over carriers." This line of thought hasn't worked for Microsoft in the past.  The large install base of Windows also gave Microsoft a "power position" in the digital assistant space with Cortana - aggressively baked into every Windows 10 PC - and look at what they did with that... As much as I prefer Microsoft products over others - their ability to execute in and influence the consumer space leaves much to be desired.  I defintely think Microsoft will have a seat at table in the always-connected category, but I don't expect anything revoloutionary resulting from supposed "power positions" with carriers.  
  • TypeGrey There were other factors affecting Cortana market penetration such lack of world wide release. It and is still not functional in many regions even where Windows 10 is present.
  • Thank you for the reply, Jason - I appreciate the discussion here. Regarding "lack of world wide release" for Cortana, this is very much a Microsoft controlled factor.  My point is that even with the power position that Microsoft enjoyed in the digital assistant space (large Windows 10 install base with Cortana built in) - they still squandered this advantage and have ceded share to Amazon's Alexa, and now Google Assistant.  Invokes and that new thermostat aren't exactly flying off shelves, nor are new OEM partners flocking to the platfrom.  Microsoft can at any time decide to refocus development and make Cortanta fully functional in more markets, but have chosen not to. Microsoft had the opportunity to drive the advantage (still does) - but has squandered this.  I fear the same will happen with carrier partners.  Sure, you'll see always-connected devices in carrier stores, but the ability to buy data through Microsoft's store I don't think will be a game changer/power position.
  • While I'm personally looking forward to a new MS device...I'm not holding my breath on them succeeding with anything until they change their marketing and communications strategy. They will release a device that MS advocates will love, and maybe even get good press out of it from the Wall Street Journal and such...but if Apple, Google, or Amazon come out with something remotely similar, even if it's 2 years later...they'll end up pushing MS to the curb and overtake them like a Ferrari passing a Civic. Nadella has to prove he is committed to consumers on the same playing field as the other guys.
  • I am anxiously awaiting this new device category along with the CORE OS/Andromeda. I am pretty sure I will jump in on day one as long as there is support for T-Mobile USA or AT&T.
  • eSIM will kill it in some markets. In east europe market our Carriers are not supporting eSIMs for example. We had a lot of WP fans but with eSIMs...
  • I think that the biggest opportunity here for Microsoft and also the consumer will be the Web Progressive App (WPA) which will close the app gap for all. It won't matter what form factor you are on.
  • All this assume consumers WANT the devices.
  • I bet XBOX / W10 gamers will want one, to continue playing whilst not sitting behind their PC / Xbox on the run / travelling / commuting / using public transportation etc.
  • yeah right, playing fifa 18 from your xbox on a pocket device. You for real man? Jeez, you fanboys are pathetic, really. Stop dreaming...
  • Microsoft and Jason may not want to call it a phone but most consumers will. That's all that matters and that is where most of the competition will come from.
  • Is walkie talkie a phone?
    Is CB radio a phone?
    Same reason this device won't be a phone....
  • You're being reductive. A walkie talkie cannot make calls, cannot text email or browse the internet, etc., all functions expected of modern smartphones. If this device bears even a passing resemblance to smartphones, it will be considered by the market as much, regardless of what Microsoft wants to call it. Good luck convincing people that it's really a 'connected PC with telephony.'
  • They can call it a Foldable Tablet. That's likely how Microsoft will market it. 
  • "Good luck convincing people it's really a connected PC with telephony."
    @Strand0410 and It likely won't be as difficult as you and @mrwright53 think.
    First, as you note in the piece Always Connected PCs from various OEMs are hitting the consumer market now (2018).
    This Always Connect PC category will be represented in the market via common PC distribution channels known to consumers such as retail stores like Best Buy and online outlets AND carrier stores are also confirmed as a distribution channel.
    Now, the timeline I give is that throughout 2018 and most of 2020 the Always Connect PC category will sell millions of devices to consumers. Thier always connected, instant -on and long battery 🔋 life smartphone-like qualities will help to change thier behavior and expectations around what a PC is and does. These characteristics combined with eSIM and random provisioning which allows users to switch among a choice of carriers almost on the fly, will alter how consumers relate to carriers as these Always Connected PCs, that are now part of the cellular roadmap, also changes the consumer/carrier relationship.
    PC OEMs relationships with carriers will also change in this 2018-2020 time frame as they will have Always Connected PCs in carrier stores and will conceivably participate in carrier marketing to make thier devices and carrier plans stand out in a the competitive space Always Connected PC will make data packages.
    Now from 2018-2020 this (and the adoption of PWAs) will be happening in the consumer space, while late 2018 forward Microsoft's pocketable inking focused Surface cellular PC will be focused on the enterprise and prosumers.
    Now, it's in late 2020, with a 3rd gen pocketable inking focused Surface cellular PC along with OEMs with thier devices that I anticipate the push of this pocketable inking focused cellular PCs to consumers. For consumers who will have been using Always Connected Cellular PCs 💻since 2018, the progression of the category to a pocketable inking focused form factor will be seen as just that, a pocketable PC with an inking focus with same same data purchasing model through Windows years of Always Connected PCs will have trained them to become accustomed to, just with the addition of the choice of voice plans as well.
    This pocketable Windows 10 device is a category that is coming to consumers in the wake of years of Always Connected PCs. You have to account for the change in consumer behavior, the shift in carrier/consumer/OEM relationships, how consumers will interact with Windows 10 PCs that are always connected, always on and have smartphone -like battery life, the change in PC distribution models where carriers become more important, the normalization of purchasing data through Windows 10, and the commonality of using the full power of Windows 10 in a cellular context via always connect Windows 10 PCs. In this context the introduction of a pocketable Windows 10 PC on a cellular network will have a great deal in common with what will at that time be the common consumer PC experiences, and will simply be a smaller Windows PC with an inking focus and addition of voice to the data plan already part of thier PC experience. Seeing these devices as PCs and not smartphones in that context would not be as challenging as you may think. But you have to look beyond todays model.
  • I'm not so sure microsoft could get the upper hand with always connected. I think things work differently in reality. If I'm not mistaken a similar optimistic reasoning for full carrier support was also reasond as possible for windows phone, yet didn't quite pan out. I think carriers could even go as far as seeing always connected pcs as fancy smartphones, which still wouldn't change the carrier support and current market situation. Microsoft go even go as far as have problem or even conciously limit carrier choice based on contract partnership, making mainstream consumer choice more limited. It won't matter for business per se, but (mainstream) consumer choice might make always connected pcs less interesting due to limited choice. Always connected ps will likely be a double edged sword, even on this matter of carriers.
  • I just don't understand how after all the public speaking Terry Myerson has done that he is still such a horrible public speaker. Come on man.
  • Excellent write-up as always, Jason! I love your ability to think so deeply so far ahead! I certainly hope you are right, but have grounds for some measure of optimism in light of the nascent "always connected" PC category! It's an exciting and tantalizing category, and I do believe it may be a "way paver" of the supposed Surface device of our dreams - especially if your prognosis of the changes in carrier dynamic is right or close to it. However, perhaps my hope of jumping on-board in fall 2019 may be a tad premature. Based on your timeline, presuming I stick to my two-year cycle of device upgrades in the fall of odd-numbered years, it may present me with a challenging decision next fall: jump on a little bit ahead of the "proper consumer launch", a bit before all the "comfy couches" of the consumer space life are in place, and slog through that rough start as a late pioneer and be a part of the trailblazing, or else punt one more generation to fall 2021, by which time "the pleasure cruise" is really ready, and just go with whatever the closest 2019 parallel is to my current Pixel 2 XL. This assumes the future reasonably matches the vision of it put forward so beautifully here, of course. But you give us an analysis that gives us reasonable hopes of it coming to be. As always, to play on the popular line from "Field of Dreams", "if they build it, I will come". :-) Cheers!
  • Thanks man!😎 And thanks for your contributions to the conversation as always👍🏿
  • Here's where I see the biggest challenge for Microsoft: "One, there are over one billion Windows PCs and 600 million Windows 10 PCs in the market. Thus, as cellular PCs market presence grows to conceivably hundreds of millions in time, Windows through which cellular data is sold, will have greater influence over carriers." My thought is, that by the time Microsoft gets to this "hundreds of millions" of PC's with telephony, there will be plenty of competition from others including Google, Samsung and Apple (after they invent the device category). Unless Microsoft can somehow get their marketing together between now and then (history doesn't bode well) then any influence they may gain initially will be greatly diminished when there is a true consumer market for this category.
  • We can only wait and see. Interesting year ahead for Microsoft.
  • This is my question: Why do we care about PCs (always connected or otherwise) when key apps aren't available on Windows at all? There were several things I set up recently where I found I literally couldn't use Windows (in any form) to connect with them at all because there were no apps.
  • They are relying on progressive web apps to kick off. If it does, then the app gap won't be a thing. So basically, alot of things need to really click in place here for all of this stuff to work. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft market all this. That is a consistent fail area for them.
  • To replace the App Gap there will be the PWA Browser Gap. 
  • Windows 10, the OS, will treat PWAs as native apps. Though Edge will support PWAs, they will also be installable, distributed through the Store, have UWP native app features like Cortana integration, notifications etc. Browsers not an issue.
  • Hi Jason,  I am not sure if you saw my last question above.   Say,  Apple develops a PWA.   Can MS users use it natively or does Apple have to authorize it's use?
  • Mobile Carriers will embrace Microsoft...  Um no, never.  Microsoft should buy an MVNO with multiple carrier network agreemnts like Straight Talk, establish their own network and go to market directly. 
  • That's a terrible idea. Verizon Sprint have already picked up support for Windows 10 Always Connected PCs with ESims. Meaning any Windows 10  Always Connected device  made will be able to work on those carriers while also being sold there, including Andromeda. 
  • thank god i cant wait for the surface pro lte i have a lte sim card doing nothing
  • Although I've lost a lot of faith in Microsoft lately I'm still excited for this category and an opportunity to get away from annoying Android. However, I think most are over looking the biggest challenge. People are not going to carry a smartphone and this new device, I can't see many moving away from iOS or Android after all these years investing in those eco systems to start again regardless of PWA apps. The world is saturated with smartphones, most sales are to existing customers not new ones so where is Microsoft going to get these customers. Even if they target enterprise first are companies going to force the devices to their users who prefer a device from the big two? If they were strongly established as the third player with W10 mobile then they would have been in a much better place for this transition.
  • As outlined by Jason Ward, the initial target audience is corporate and prosumers. Prosumers that see an advantage in this new technology / functionality will be  happy to sell their iPhone X or hand-over to their family members to try-out the foldable device. And then in the long run consumers will follow. Example: Not so long ago (before the iPhone revolution) a lot of youngsters (consumers) used devices factually intended for the corporate market (Blackberries) because of their great texting functionality and hardware keyboard. Well, you can play a lot better your w10 /Xbox games on a dual screen foldable device compared to the current smartphones. Voila, there is the mid-term consumers (game players) break-in MS has in mind (why do you think they bet so heavily on ensuring you can play your Xbox /W10 games on ALL windows hardware devices. So if these foldable devices are sufficiently powerful, I bet consumer acceptance will be a lot faster than anticipated because of the "trojan horse" of the gaming community break-in
  • Why Microsoft may gain an upper hand with carriers thanks to 'Always Connected' PCs
    Now this headline makes sense as per what is written. But then why is it changed to:
    How cellular PCs will shift carriers in Microsoft's favor.
    Coz its far fetched, not gonna happen anytime soon or anytime at all.
  • "Coz its far fetched, not gonna happen anytime soon or anytime at all"
    Well, since carriers are ALREADY on board to carry Windows 10 Always Connected PCs in their stores, carriers are already shifting in Microsoft's favor.
    Its already happening.😉
  • Carriers also carried WPs, carrying W10 ACPCs doesnt mean they have shifted in MS's favor. most likely it is due to reach or ASUS and HP with the carriers rathar than MS. again I say, the first title makes sense, second one doesnt, not sure who decided to change it, you should have a talk with your editors ;)
  • That's just it, Microsoft is about democratization. Always Connected PCs as you will notice are being driven by Microsoft's OEM partners not a first party device (pretty much like the PV industry for decades before Surface). As carriers partner with Microsoft OEM partners to push Windows 10 Always Connected PCs, they are by proxy partnering with Microsoft and pushing its vision.😉 Also, the title you see om the site is the "promotional title" and the one you see in search on the web and on the article os THE main title. You'll notice most of our stories are designed that way with two titles. In this case their both saying the same thing in a different way.👍🏿
  • OEMs have nothing to do with what is being stocked, it's to do with Microsoft, Intel and Qualcomm. If it were to be done by carriers then carriers would have annouced it and not Qualcomm.  What this means is that OEMs no longer have to go deal with carriers to sell devices, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Intel etc are the ones who deal with it. 
  • Great article. I DO think these will compete with smartphones with a CERTAIN group of people. (Like me) I refuse to carry two devices in my pocket. I want ONE that does what I need/want. And I pray to God that this is it! Thanks Jason!
  • I'm seeing Windows on ARM since 2011 which is almost 7 years ago. I think i first saw Windows 7 on ARM. Where is it? Will Microsoft at least get this thing done right?
  • Foldable devices will be next evolution of smartphones.along with Microsoft,Samsung and apple and many other companies will also make similar phones running on their respective mobile os android and ios.so it doesn't matter whether Microsoft call it smartphones or not the consumer will still identify this devices as next-generation smartphones because existing smartphones companies will market and sell this kind of devices as smartphones.
  • Jason, great story. Enjoy reading your work. LTE to a pc I dont see as a gamechanger. Mabey because I am Dutch, but for now in Holland we have a briljant Wifi connected network on almost every workspace available , even on the road in restaurents I use a Samsung Galaxy Book 12" with W10M on it and I love it. Today Onedrive is organizing 100% of my files and realy fast to keep close to me. The new / old file sync system of Onedrive keeps my project offline when I want to. LTE on a PC gives me an extra data package I have to pay for. My Samsung Not 8 (after 20y of Windows mobile) is a joy of excellente mobile work and connectivity with my Samsung Book. Autologin, Auto internet sharing, all goes as smootly as I never had with my 950XL or HP elite X3. Just one data Plan with me provider with all available in Europe. To a cost of 17 euro a month, unlimited all included. As long as My server at home is not included in this Plan from my ISP its not a way to go for me. I will be cost driven, since the combo I have now is working perfecty, For lack of a better word. (Fifth Element).
  • This was already in the starts (e-sim) a few years ago and as outlined excellently in this article this irreversible trend will emerge the coming months / years.  You can say a lot about MS but they have a long term vision, think long term for those matters that truly matter. Yes they have shifted gears and lost some battles but contrary to the view of a lot of trolls on this forum, the consumer typically has a very short memory on past failures when truly promising technologies emerge. My 2 cents.
  • Where is the truly promising technology from Microsoft? LTE enabled PCs have been available for years and it is easy to add LTE to any PC. Why isn't it popular already? It may have been a bigger deal several years ago, but now you can find good, even great WiFi almost anywhere you go. Especially places where you would be doing work, like coffee shops, airports, hotels, etc. I don't see how it will make any difference.
  • Re: Bleached,
    Wifi is not everywhere, fast, consistent and free. Even broadband isn't.
    That said, all that is a totally different topic (for you to argue about).
  • HI Jason, Thank you for the intersting article. I think that you are right. Between the partnership with Qualcomm, the rise in eSIM carriers and the plateauing of the smartphone market, the pocket PC (Surface Pocket) could be a game changer. The other advantage that Microsoft has, when compared to Google and Apple, is that while Good and Apple have to scale up the functionality of their devices, Microsoft has to scale down (for features not yet implementing C-Shell) functionality, which should be easier in theory.
  • Who says the smartphone market is “plateauing”?  If the smartphone market has plateaued after 7 years, then the PC market has certainly plateaued after 30 years. Also - as anyone who has ever written any code will tell you - it is easier to scale up than to scale down.  It is easier to add features and functionality than to remove them.   For any engineering problem, It is always easier to start small and add on later.  You don’t start with the Empire State Building, in the hopes of having a tool shed in 20 years.   But the reverse is  quite possible.    
  • Microsoft's isn't scaling down, but instead modulising it. But the smartphone will eventually decline. Devices like Razer project, show that smartphones will likely be replaced by these. PCs will continue to work though since they're much more powerful.
  • Hi naddy, the plateauing of the smartphone space is a known advent of the industry. I believe a Bing (yes Bing😉) search will yield the information of a saturated market which actually happened years ago that will answer your question, who says the smartphone market is "plateauing?"
    To your next statement, your point about scaling down is fundamentally and generally true, "It is easier to add features than to remove them."
    But as I'm sure you know as a follower of WC news, Windows Core OS actually circumvents that challenge through Microsoft's intentional engineering of Windows 10 Core OS with the ability for Microsoft and OEMs to easily remove features of Windows 10 that they don't want or need for the device type they are making.
    So, to use your analogy, if Windows 10 is the Empire State Building 🏫, Windows Core OS allows MS and OEMs to tailor the OS along a continuum of features; they can remove many features drastically simplifying the OS (a tool shed) or retain all features (Empire States Building) or have something in between (an apartment complex or duplex😉).
  • Thanks Johnny and I appreciate the input.🙂
  • Jason, I believe that there is a missing piece in this and here is what I think may happen: The mobile networks will introduce a provisioning platform that can be managed by the end user
    (this also scales up to small and large enterprise). It would allow the user to direct their mobile
    number to the device of their choice(s) and allocate data etc. So instead of buying a mobile contract
    attached with a number and data to a single sim. They would be able to purchase several numbers
    (family, husband / wife scenario) and a bundle of data and they get to allocate which devices this is
    available for. This will only become truly flexible once devices started being built with e-sims,
    allowing ‘on the fly’ provisioning by possibly the end user. I also think it will only really launch
    properly when the 5G networks roll out. Is this why Microsoft do not seem to be in any rush to push
    out products? This would then mean that Microsoft can launch their ‘new category ’and always connected devices
    and a user can provision their mobile number and data to it, but they can also keep their regular
    iphone, Samsung or whatever when that form factor is more appropriate (going out with friends
    needing apps etc). It wouldn’t need an additional contract and gives the user choice. They could
    even have a dumb very small device to take out when even a smartphone is to large. The potential
    seems endless and networks would sell more handsets. It also seems to benefit both the consumer
    and enterprise equally. This would also allow manufacturers to place e-sims in other products like cameras, wearables,
    health products without them requiring the user to purchase a costly stand alone mobile contract
    for data. The data can come from the ‘account’ and can be changed ad-hoc. Why else would Microsoft keep updating their mobile data and phone app on both mobile and pc?
    How do you get one of the Microsoft sims it refers to? Whilst I’m in the UK I believe that in the
    states the T-Mobile network introduced a platform called ‘Digits’ is this a step in this direction?
  • What I said all along, MS is ramping up to be a communications service provider worldwide. Only thing missing is a decent billing system and the legacy telecom technology catching up. we see every day transitions, company's and manufacturers are doing the same with cloudservices. Gateway's are the biggest thing for now, connecting the old and the new. We try to get to market with mobile/fix solution build on norwegian mobility model, IP fix and mobile GSM mariage in a CAAS model (pay what u use, not what you get) and seemless call routing to both Once the networks in place you no longer need a phone, just a device with broadband data. Gues what, MS is building one   
  • MS being MS, they will find a way to mess this up.........
    Unless they push this fully for businesses only, and forget consumers.
    As the 'regular' services get killed all the time. They feel like Google sometimes :(
  • :))) My God! Jason you've done it again :))) Another article from the misty dreamworld.
  • Lol. If you can't see how selling data through Windows will affect carriers and their desire to be more competitive in that context I fear it is you mmgn who is bound in a perspective from a "dreamworld" where you see everything staying the same. Please take a look over the last 40-50 years in tech. Approximately every 10 years there is a shift in certain models. Objective observation of history reveals that, and objective observation of what's happening in tech reveals the same is occurring now. I am cognizant that not everyone can see 🙈 beyond the parameters of current paradigms and the limits they impose, and see the shifts and forces moving to what's next. Seeing the big picture and the moving and interconnected variables at a distance is not natural for everyone. Everyone has thier strengths and brings something to the table, however. But just because you can't see it, cynicism is not the wisest recourse. Perhaps, you should sit back and give it a thoughtful look rather than a sarcastic knee-jerk response. 😉
  • First, you paid by the minute.  Then you paid by the message.  Then you paid by the megabyte.  Then you paid by the gigabyte.  Now you have unlimited voice minutes.  Now you have unlimited text messages.  Now you have unlimited Data.  What is a carrier selling?  Access to the network and nothing else.  I pay over $160 month for phone and data service at my house from a COMCAST Cable connection.  Why not pay $100 a month for data through an always-connected modem at my house?  Could the eSIM work through my new 5G wireless modem in the attic of my house trying desperately to look over the hill to the nearest cell tower?  What I do know is my ATT connection at my house is not as good as my wife's Verizon connection at my house. Also, does anyone recognize the cost comparison of a PC to a top line Cell Phone?
  • I predict that Apple and Android have the same technology in the works. Once they release their always connected devices, Microsoft's advantage will short lived and forgotten...
  • Microsoft's current and continuing advantage is Windows 10 is the business OS. These new PCs, phones will serve business and will become the employee choice for personal use.
  • Oh Jason.  I will bet you whatever you want that there will not be 100's of millions PC's connected via cellular.  Only a small percentage of business users utilize these because their company pays for it. In fact the numbers of PC's shipping with cellular connections has been going down per my contacts at Dell/HP/Lenovo. People use Windows because it runs all their software.  Any porting to a Snapdragon or other ARM CPU will cause compatibility and performance issues.  It simply will not sell well.  It really is just a new coat of paint on Windows RT.  I predict the effort will struggle to hit 1% market share - and could be killed within a few years.
  • Let's wait and see.😉
  • It is a niche item for enthusiast at best, some one like me but I already have tethering at my disposal. It'll be great until you get your first months bill from your carrier. Kinda like they do with the add-on tablets when you get a new phone. It'll be an added phone line that gets capped after ex amount of data is used. I'm all for an always connected pc as long as I can use it like my phone until I need to unfold it when I have to run Office or look up a PDF.
  • great article.... every thing is great but we need foldable OLED not to screen side by side... not even 1 pixel is tolerated
  • Thanks Mani😎
  • I'm pretty sure they'll screw this up too.  And the Nadella appologists will somehow blame it on Steve B.
  • Once again, what is the business model for the Enterprise to jump on this? Most of the Enterprise uses a BYOD approach and has almost no administrative costs.  Does the Enterprise want to take on data plans and such?  What will change that will make the Enterprise want to take on this administration? The magical, mytical, folding device...  What benefit does this bring the Enterprise if the Enterprise and Prosumer want a digital moleskine?  What will this device be able to do that a smartphone and laptop can't?  Since it isn't a phone, do you think that people will carry a phone, the foldable unicorn device AND a laptop?  They have to get people to drop at least one device and better two.  If folks drop the laptop, where is the net win for the Massively Screwed-up dys-Functional Team.  They would be canibalizing their current customers for this new device category. And with this device, you can talk about PWA's all you want but what new input methods will make this unicorn device useful beyond just being a DIGITAL MOLESKINE?!?!  Is the Enterprise or Prosumer really looking for a DIGITAL MOLESKINE?  Hipsters?  YES!  Executives/Analysts/SW Developers?  I really don't think so. And WiFi is just about EVERYWHERE.  Comcast is making it so that you can get WiFi just about anywhere that isn't covered by some other service.  And guess what?  A whole bunch of that WiFi either comes at no additional cost or really is free. Come on Man!  These are big forces to overcome if the Enterprise is the target.  As great as this sounds, I'm not seeing the financial incentive in either cost reduction, cost avoidance or productivity increases that would justify the Enterprise moving to this model.  Do you think that the Enterprise will jump on a coolness factor?
  • Being able to run corporate apps on a Windows 10 device of any size is the model that will drive this successfully. I disagree on the support requirements of the current BYOD model. You aren't looking at the big picture where users are forced to handle the integration issues. Windows 10 on everything has the least support issues for the organization and the employees.
  • My 2nd kudos, Jason. "It all makes sense now" LOL. I'm already decided on a Snapdragon based PC soon after market entry (which will be the excuse to replace several laptops & tablets ...and likely incentivize taking time to move some old phones to new people) ...and so inured to the probable "early adopter" trials and tribulations, heh.
  • Thanks brdavis🙂. And hey, early adopter, someone has to blaze the trail, you might as one be of them heh😃
  • Haven’t manufacturers been done this 3G/4G notebook path before? And we concluded back then that they weren’t a success.  And then came the smartphone. And now if you want net access on your notebook you simply tether it to your phone. No need for another data plan. No need for the convenience of an e-sim either. And thanks to Windows 10 it’s easier than ever. To me, that’s the issue. Not the notebook but the smartphone. Microsoft lost that upper hand years ago. Having a notebook with 4G capabilities isn’t going to wrestle it back.   
  • But of COURSE it will.   Because Windows. 🙄 You see, everyone is secretly clamoring for Windows 10 in their pocket.   Everyone secretly needs a “real computer” in their pocket.   Of course, the definition of “real computer” here = something running Windows.  Except that everyone already has Real Computers in pockets.  Windows  is not needed in pockets. I’m sure there are mainframe chat sites where a “real computer” is defined as something running IBM z/OS.   I suppose those folks secretly yearn for a folding screen, pocketable, always connected z/OS device, thinking it too would usher in the “post smartphone era”. It is to laugh.  
  • Wrong, Windows 10 in our pockets will be driven by business as Windows has always been. It will spread to personal use by business people.
  • And it'll save gold reserves: Less sim cards to manufacture, maybe.
  • I believe the primary reason Windows Phones did not catch on with consumers, and thus with developers, is the relationship Microsoft had with carries. Back in 2013, I was waiting on something in a T-Mobile store. There was a sales person setting at his desk with his feet up, talking casually with someone on the phone. I heard him say "Why should I sale a Windows Phone. Microsoft doesn't pay me a dime." Shortly after I heard that, I went to various carrier stores around my city. I surveyed which stores had Windows Phones on the shelf, and I explicityly asked sales people if they had Windows Phones and what they thought of them. The ones that didn't have them on their shelves said they had some, but were reluctant to get one out saying something like "I really cannot recomend a Windows Phone." I did not find a sales person that would try to push a Windows Phone. I think this was Microsoft's primary mistake. They under estimated the power of the carrier sales model, particularly with locked phone contracts in the US market. The build and they will come philosophy didn't work with Windows Phone. Some marketing stategy is required. So I'm hoping eSIM, like you mention Jason, will turn this tide. I really don't understand why carries even sell phones. It really is not their business. You say carries will want to sell celluar connect PC in their stores. I don't think so. This will be too complicated for the sales people, and even more not their business to be selling PCs. When people can realize they don't need to go to a carrier store to get a phone, or even a data plan, that is when Microsoft will be on a better, and even playing field.
  • Spot on Jason! As has always been in the past, business is the driver for personal technology use.
  • Why do you think they might be done with smartphones. There's a 5
    device surface event this October.