Ericsson yesterday announced the launch of a new mobile broadband module for laptops, the F3607gw, with Dell, LG, Lenovo and Toshiba all signing up to receive the new units. Laptops should be on the shelf by Q4 2009.
I've been watching the device area avidly recently, to follow the likely migration of the mobile broadband world from peripheral connected devices (e.g. USB modems) to embedded connectivity. Notwithstanding the additional simplicity for the end user of having an embedded device, Ericsson's announcement highlights a few features of embedded modules that I think will also help it gain the upper hand over the humble dongle.
Embedding the modem in the device makes for easier integration with the device. This benefit becomes more obvious when the OS is designed with a multi-radio environment in mind, as Windows 7 seems to be. So, obviously, support for Windows 7 is an important feature of the new device.
It was the "wake-on wireless" feature that really caught my eye. With substantially reduced battery consumption, the device can be always-on, even if it is in sleep mode. Users can then remotely wake the laptop from sleep mode. Fantastic. We've all seen software (Orb springs to mind first) that allowed users to remotely access files on their PC. All very well if you're prepared to leave your PC on, logged in and connected at all times, which most of us aren't. This offers a much more viable alternative. The particular functionality flagged up by Ericsson is the ability to connect via SMS to the Intel Anti-Theft feature and remotely disable the laptop. Of course laptop thieves will find some way around this, but having to remove the embedded modem from a device before you turn it on will make laptop theft that much less appealing.
This all demonstrates the kind of integration possible with embedded modules that just isn't feasible with USB modems. Does this device mean the end for dongles? Of course not. Is it indicative that embedded modems will gradually become more and more feature rich to the point where the dongle becomes obsolete? I think so. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
I'll be chatting with Ericsson next week about their strategy for embedded modules and I'll keep you posted on anything else interesting that they're planning.