Getting online on your PC or Microsoft tablet, outside a WiFi area may get easier soon with the new Windows Store listing called ‘Cellular Data’ by Microsoft. The app is only designed to work with specific Windows 10 devices and requires a Microsoft Sim. The app details advise that you will be connect with and pay for a mobile data plan using your Microsoft account for payment, with no long term commitments.
This approach sounds similar to Apple’s with recent iPads, with an Apple Sim you can choose your network carrier on the device and choose a short-term rolling contract. So far the Apple Sim is limited to just the company’s iPad with no plans to date to bring the sim to its phones and laptops.
The safe bet is that the ‘specific Windows 10 devices’ mentioned in Microsoft’s store listing is referring to its own hardware like the Surface 3, which does come with a Sim card slot for LTE access and other future Surface devices with sim card slots. This would let consumers and businesses buy-in Surfaces from Microsoft and then decide later, commitment free which network carrier and tariffs to choose and on which devices.
The other, less safe, but more interesting bet is that in addition to Microsoft’s own hardware, the support for this app and service spans OEMs. So for example, an HP or Lenovo laptop or tablet could also come with Microsoft Sims, letting even more consumers and businesses take advantage of opting-in to mobile data as and when needed. Of course this would be a much more complex relationship between Microsoft and OEMs. If Microsoft didn’t want to cut OEM’s into a % of data plan profits they could offer one-off payments per Microsoft Sim shipped with device’s or simply offer Windows licencing discounts if Microsoft Sims are included with their laptops and tablets.
Whether we see the Microsoft Sim locked down to its own hardware or not, its presence still offers up some much needed flexibility and competition for mobile data users in the Microsoft ecosystem.
At the very least we would be surprised if we don’t see an announcement for an alternative Surface Pro 4 with cellular compatibility and a Microsoft Sim in the box in future.