Always Connected PCs and eSIM are for your kids – not you

Microsoft Store
Microsoft Store (Image credit: Microsoft)

It's difficult to see the big picture when you're standing in the middle of the canvas. And the middle of the canvas is where we are now as we transition from a world of always-connected-smartphones and sometimes-connected-PCs to always connected smartphones and Always Connected PCs.

Most critics can't see past a limited focus of the PC form factor not needing to be always-connected. We have Wi-fi and hotspot tethering for that after all. Then there's that extra data cost for one's Always-Connected PC on top of one's cell phone plan.

These concerns are easily addressed. Ultimately it's not about how you're living in this increasingly connected world, it's about how your kids, tomorrow's decision makers, live in it.

A shifting reality

Image credit: Microsoft

Image credit: Microsoft

The above concerns are relevant in the context of an always-connected, light computing world where the cellular roadmap has been ruled by smartphones for just over 10 years.

The 2007 advent of the iPhone made smartphones the primary computer for many consumers. Desktop computers lagged behind this mobile revolution as the legacy tools for mundane and demanding productivity, while light mobile computing found its home in the pockets of the masses. The full power of Windows couldn't be efficiently sustained on a mobile processor. This is the world twenty-somethings grew up in, and the only world younger children know. Things have changed.

Celluar infrastructure can now accommodate the robust demands of desktop computing. Thus, contrary to popular belief, the PCs arrival on the cellular roadmap via Always Connected PCs (presumably followed by rumored Project Andromeda category devices) isn't a forced attempt at mobile relevance by Microsoft. It's the natural evolution of connected computing supported by Qualcomm.

How Qualcomm and Microsoft are making PCs post-smartphone devices

It's naïve to have assumed that always-connected smartphone computing would remain the only always-connected computing platform for the masses. The eventual move of full PC computing to the cellular roadmap in a mobile world where more complex computing is demanded was all but inevitable.

A shifting model for a shifting reality

Image credit: Microsoft

Image credit: Microsoft

Growing up in the 1970's and 1980's we had no public internet. When it became mainstream in the 90's it wasn't pervasive, smartphones weren't a thing, and not everyone had a computer.

So my generation came of age in a "disconnected" world where we didn't know friends real-time "status" unless we were with them. Looking up answers to questions had to wait until we could get to the library rather than asking an always-connected-know-it-all digital assistant on the spot as young people are accustomed to doing today.

We're raising a generation of always-connected children.

This generation's children and young adults are coming of age in an always-connected world where media, information, games, homework, job opportunities, shopping and virtually any aspect of life can be instantaneously accessed online, from anywhere, at any time from a high-speed mobile connection.

In fact, interactions online are becoming the preferred method of initial, if not primary interaction, when applying for jobs, shopping and other activity that has real-life impact. This is combined with the emotional and psychological effects of addictive and pervasive social media apps that demand constant attention to maintain one's "Snapstreak" as in Snapchat or social presence as in apps like Instagram. The always-connected digital world is the world young people psychologically and emotionally coexist within.

Always Connected PCs and the always-connected generation

Image credit: Microsoft

Image credit: Microsoft

To understand Always Connected PC's impact, my and older generations must realize that the digital world isn't just a thing accessed to get something done as it was for us when the internet came into being. For young adults and children, it is, in a very real sense, their world and is intricately intertwined with their physical reality.

Digital activity has real life and often immediate impact (and vice versa) whether professionally or personally. The inevitable evolution of "Always Connected" computing and the accompanying changing business models meet the next generation right where they are.

PCs gaining the advantageous always-on, always-connected and power efficient benefits young people are used to having on smartphones while maintaining most of the power of PCs is a deliberate positioning by Microsoft and Qualcomm to fulfill an evident demand.

Smartphones though limited by mobile OSes and unchanging form factors are being pushed anually toward more PC-like computing. Second, tablets with mobile OSes, like the iPad Pro are being positioned as desktop alternatives. Always Connected PCs meet these needs.

Additionally, the new carrier model allows users to purchase data (potentially voice in the future) as needed from the Microsoft Store. This provides flexibility and control consistent with the culture of this mobile and transient generation which is likely less inclined to be locked into long-term contracts. Additionally, eSIM-enabled devices can share the same phone number with phones, which if Microsoft and partners go this route, could eliminate concerns for maintaining multiple cellular plans.

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

Technological shifts are deeper than the tech

Image credit: Microsoft

Image credit: Microsoft

The technology we accept, the behavioral shifts it brings and the changing business models it introduces are not founded solely on cool, cutting-edge hardware and software. There are emotional, cultural and psychological factors that profoundly influence the adoption of new technologies.

Andromeda, folding PCs, and Microsoft's vision for computing's future

We're at the beginning of this shift, but perhaps you're already convinced Always Connected PCs, Microsoft's rumored Andromeda device category and buying data (eventually voice) on the fly aren't for you. Okay, but kids, who live perpetually engulfed in a hybrid always-connected digital/physical reality, may have an entirely different opinion when they become the adult decision makers in several years.

And Qualcomm, whose cellular dominance reflects its reputation for placing long-term bets on future technology, along with Microsoft, will be ready for them having brought full PCs of varying form factors to the evolving cellular roadmap.

See Surface Pro LTE at Microsoft

Jason Ward

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!