Microsoft Unveils Power-Packed Surface Book 2

Microsoft on Tuesday launched the Surface Book 2, positioning it as the laptop of the future.

The device is powerful enough for the next wave of computing, characterized by mixed reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning and immersive gaming, said Microsoft Devices Corporate Vice President Panos Panay.

Integration between the Surface Book 2 and the Adobe Creative Cloud has been improved, and Microsoft’s Surface Dial functionality is coming to Photoshop, the company noted.

An HP TWP 2.0 chip offers enterprise-grade protection with Windows Hello facial sign-in.

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The Surface Book 2 “is a high-ticket computing behemoth designed to demonstrate what Microsoft can do in a vertically aligned package when it flexes its muscles,” said Linn Huang, a research director at IDC.

“Consequently, their story continues to revolve around creatives and gamers,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Touch Is the Differentiator

The Surface Book 2 comes in a 13-inch and a 15-inch version.

The 13-inch Surface Book 2 is powered by either a 7th-Gen Intel Core i5 or an 8th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor; the 15-inch is only offered with the 8th-Gen processor.

The Surface Book 2 uses either an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or 1060 discrete graphics processing unit that provides up to 17 hours of video playback.

The device has a 10-point multitouch PixelSense Display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, and up to 3240 x 2160 pixel resolution. It supports E Ink, Surface Pen, and Surface Dial.

“Apple’s reluctance to add touch to its laptops gives Microsoft a differentiator on the high end,” noted Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

The 13-inch Surface Book 2 weighs 3.38 pounds and up, and the 15-inch starts at 4.2 pounds.

The Surface Book 2 has two full-size USB 3.1 Gen-1 ports, one USB-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, two Surface Connect ports — one in the base, and a full-sized SD card reader.

“The combination of the new Surface features and the tremendous battery life, if true, have the potential to change the way people work with their devices,” Mueller told TechNewsWorld.

The 13-inch Book 2 will be available for pre-order starting Nov. 9. The 15-inch Book 2 will be available Nov. 9 at Microsoft stores in the U.S. and on Delivery will begin Nov. 16.

Pricing starts at about US$1,500.

For the Gamer

Gamers will get a performance boost, thanks to Windows 10 Fall Creators Update’s Game Mode, and access to faster streaming through Mixer.

The Update can handle the most popular PC games at 1080p and 60 FPS. In some cases, it lets the Surface Book 2 match the graphics performance of game consoles like Xbox One.

The 15-inch Surface Book 2 has built-in Xbox One wireless support, so users can pair their Xbox One controllers and compatible headsets for cordless gaming.

Surface Book 2 is ready for Windows Mixed Reality Ultra with the addition of a compatible headset and controller.

Surface Popularity

Surface Book returns hit about 17 percent during the device’s launch period in 2015, and remained above 10 percent for six months, according to a leaked Microsoft memo, as reported by The Verge.

Consumer Reports this summer announced it would no longer recommend Microsoft Surface products because their breakage rates were higher than for most other brands.

That said, “I don’t know that the Surface Book was ever destined to be a smash hit,” said Eric Smith, a research director at Strategy Analytics.

“It’s clearly meant for people who need a lot of power with a minimalist design,” he told TechNewsWorld, such as graphic artists, C-Suite executives, “and perhaps even some gamers uninterested in flashy design.”

With a flagship like the Surface Book 2, Smith suggested, Microsoft “provides guidance to its OEM partners on how to approach the premium market.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

Victims speak up about sexual abuse after Harvey Weinstein scandal

A growing wave of claims across social media has brought attention to harassment and assault in a variety of industries

In the wake of high-profile New York Times and New Yorker reports about extensive, long-term sexual abuse of women by Hollywood producer and executive Harvey Weinstein, victims of sexual harassment and assault are coming forward to share their stories on social media and in the press.

The DxO One gets Facebook Live, time-lapses, and an Android version

Why it matters to you

Owners of the DxO One camera can have access to new features for free with the update, while the camera will also soon be available for Android users.

Mimicking a professional broadcast by switching between two camera views is now possible inside of Facebook Live without advanced broadcast equipment, thanks to a major update to the DxO One smartphone add-on camera. On Monday, October 16, DxO Mark released version 3.0 of the iOS app with Facebook Live compatibility and new time-lapse options, as well as announcing the upcoming arrival of an Android version of the camera. The announcement also comes with new accessories for extending the camera’s versatility.

The Facebook Live compatibility brings the DxO One’s large one-inch sensor and bright f/1.8 aperture to live video streams. Besides offering a better quality than the smartphone camera alone, the update also brings a new multi-camera mode. Using both the DxO One and the front and back smartphone cameras, users can preview each of the three views, adjust the settings or what’s in front of the camera, and then switch views in the middle of a live-stream.

The feature also allows for switching sound sources between the smartphone and the DxO One.

The camera’s Wi-Fi also allows videos to be sent from the camera to Facebook Live without the hardware connection to the phone while in stand-alone mode, which opens up more possibilities for getting different views from those three camera sources.

Along with the new Facebook Live compatibility, the update also allows DxO One owners to shoot timelapses. A built-in processing option allows photographers to set the parameters like the length of the shoot and the time between shots. An auto-ramping option automatically corrects exposure and white balance to prevent the final video from appearing to flicker as the lighting in the scene changes.

Photographers can choose the automatic processing to turn those images into a video, or they can use the intervalometer to take RAW photos and later manually stitch them into a 4K video.

DxO says that the app will warn users if the settings aren’t compatible with the camera’s current state. If the camera doesn’t have enough juice left to shoot that extra long timelapse, DxO also has a solution for that too. The new $60 battery pack gives the camera two extra batteries, each adding an hour to the performance. Or, the pack also introduces a USB port which can be used to shoot with an external power source for even longer shoots.

dxo one version 3 update android coming tilt stand frontA new tilt stand accessory will help expand the device’s options while detached from the camera, with five different shooting angles possible from any flat surface using the stand, which will now be included with the DxO One camera.

Soon, the DxO One’s capabilities won’t be just for Apple fans. In the next few weeks, the company will launch an early access program for an Android version of the camera with a Type-C USB connector and an Android app inside the Google Play Store. The early program is open to the public but will help the company fine-tune the Android version before a full launch.

“Since its launch, we have added dozens of features to the DxO ONE, thanks to feedback from users,” Jean-Marc Alexia, vice president of product strategy, said in a press release. “Today, DxO is responding directly to one of the most frequent requests by launching the Android version, and we will continue to listen to market needs.”

The update is free for current owners of the DxO One from the App Store (and is also available to new users who pick up the $499 camera). Participants in the early access program can download the app from the Google Play Store in the next few weeks.

Volvo’s wave of electric cars starts with a new brand: Polestar

Volvo made a big commitment earlier this year to put electric motors in all of its vehicles by 2019 — and now the automaker will double down on electrification with an entirely new luxury car brand. 

Volvo and its Chinese parent company, Geely Holdings, just announced that they’ll invest about $755 million together to create Polestar, which will manufacture electrified vehicles in China. The new brand will be a “fully consolidated Volvo Cars subsidiary,” focused solely on creating electric, performance-first vehicles.

The plans for the Polestar were unveiled at an event in Shanghai, where the first vehicle from the brand, the Polestar 1, also made its debut. The brand new two-door coupé isn’t an all-electric car, but it has a hybrid engine that the company claims will offer an estimated 93 miles per charge of range running on electricity alone, which would give it more range than any hybrid currently on the road. 

The car boasts a carbon fiber body and the new Öhlins Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension (CESi), which lets drivers change the settings on the fly to adjust to road conditions. 

Image: polestar

The Polestar 1 also has an ‘Electric Performance Hybrid’ drivetrain, and it’s powerful, too — when its gas engine is pressed into service, the car can produce up to 600 horsepower and 1000Nm of torque.

The Polestar 1 in black.

The Polestar 1 in black.

Image: volvo

Polestar isn’t skimping on tech, either. The company says the 1 will depend on a new “phone-as-key” system that will allow drivers to share a virtual key with third parties and access specialized concierge services. The Polestar 1 is slated to begin production in a new facility China by mid-2019, just in time to be included in Volvo’s new all-electrified car lineup. 

If you’re interested in snapping up one of the new hybrids, Polestar has an intriguing offer for you: a flat monthly subscription program, similar to the new service Volvo announced for its XC40 SUVs last month. The ordering process for the Polestar 1 will take place entirely online, and the company says it will offer the cars on a two- or three-year subscription basis without a deposit fee (it’s not clear how expensive monthly payments will be). 

As its name implies, the Polestar 1 is just the first of several planned vehicles from the new brand. Next in line is the Polestar 2, set to start production in mid-2019. The company says the mid-sized car will be the first all-electric vehicle from Volvo, aimed at competing with Tesla’s Model 3 sedan. A third vehicle, the Polestar 3, will be an all-electric SUV.  

Volvo announced that it will launch three other all-electric cars by 2021, presumably with Volvo branding.  

You can order one of the new Polestar 1 cars now, but the company will only produce 500 — so if you want a high-performance hybrid that you can only order online, head over to Polestar’s new website to check it out. 978c 2021%2fthumb%2f00001

Amazon Studios exec Roy Price resigns after sexual harassment claim

Deadline is reporting that Amazon Studios executive Roy Price has resigned, in response to sexual harassment claims leveled online by The Man in the High Castle executive producer Isa Hackett. Contacted by The Verge, an Amazon representative confirmed his resignation. Price was also a producer on Man in the High Castle and other Amazon shows, including Transparent.

Price was suspended from Amazon on October 13th. It’s the latest step in what’s become a groundswell of revelations about sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood following high-profile exposés about film executive Harvey Weinstein. After both The New York Times and The New Yorker published lengthy pieces detailing Weinstein’s alleged behavior — a long history of inviting actresses to nonexistent script meetings or industry parties to get them alone, then demanding massages, offering sex-for-work details, or simply presenting himself naked — there’s been a running backlash against aggressive, unwanted sexual behavior in professional settings. Hackett initially filed a complaint against Price in 2015, when the harassment occurred, but Amazon took no action against him at the time. The company’s quick response this month has clearly been in response to the growing public outrage against Weinstein, though the controversy it faced over harassment claims against Casey Affleck, star of Amazon Studios’ Oscar-winning legitimacy-bid Manchester By The Sea, may also have played a part.

Meanwhile, that public outrage is taking an increasingly wide and expressive variety of forms. Actresses including Amber Tamblyn, Molly Ringwald, and Sarah Polley have written editorials detailing the widespread abuse of actresses in Hollywood, sometimes including assaults on children. Twitter users recently begin using the #MeToo hashtag to talk about their own experiences with sexual assault, and to raise awareness of the ways sexual attacks are routinely ignored by authorities and law enforcement, and brushed off in work settings.

Accusations like Hackett’s, with specific time-and-place details, have been rarer than the general industry reports of a culture of abuse and harassment. That may be one reason Amazon was so quick to respond to the allegations against Price. But the company also clearly wants to avoid the public-relations disaster that’s hit the Weinstein Company. Amazon Studios quickly broke off plans for a prestige TV drama it was producing with the Weinsteins, and has reportedly severed its connection with the company.

Helpshift VP Tushar Makhija: Not All Customers Will Help You Make Money

Tushar Makhija is vice president of revenue at Helpshift.

In this exclusive interview, Makhija underscores the importance of establishing effective ways to connect with customers.

 Helpshift VP of
Revenue Tushar Makhija

Helpshift VP of
Tushar Makhija

CRM Buyer: Why is in-app support an important thing for good customer service and CRM?

Tushar Makhija:

It’s about the experience. As services are getting more and more mobile, service needs to get mobile as well. If you look at customer service over the last 10 to 15 years, first it was all about average handling time. If you grew quickly as a business, you needed to stack up a call center.

The next five to six years were all about self-service, so technology started building up. Today, it is not about time-to-resolution or handling time. It is all about the time-to-cure. That is, how quickly can you identify the problem and stop it from becoming a big problem?

You need a fully integrated system, and you have to make sure that problems do not spread. New systems have to come in that are integrated, predictive and proactive, in order to mitigate the problem before it expands. That’s why in-app support is more important.

CRM Buyer: What makes for effective in-app, mobile support?

Makhija: The technology must have the capability to collect relevant contextual information so businesses can make more informed decisions. If you’re about to make a purchase and the checkout is not working, there should be something that says, ‘here is a help article to see if you can find a remedy.’

If that’s not helpful, there should be other options. The first step is listening to the signals. The next part is, if you do connect with an agent, that agent has a 360-degree view of the customer so they resolve the problem immediately. Speed-to-resolution is going to be the No. 1 metric.

CRM Buyer: What does it mean for customer support to be proactive, and why is proactivity important?

Makhija: To begin with, many of the barriers of entry for creating a successful business have been removed. Now, it’s not about having the biggest store, but about having the most beautiful app — and it’s about how you deliver the mobile, in-app experience.

Proactive customer service will result in happier customers and retention. From a top-line perspective, the cost of acquisition of a mobile customer is very high, and if you do acquire that customer, you have to keep that customer.

Then, there has to be a good experience in the mobile app and in the customer service department. When there is a breach of experience in the app, the support team is ready to help. That’s why being proactive is important. You embed help in that experience. You say, ‘it seems like there is a problem. How can we help?’ That will mitigate the problem before it becomes a big issue.

CRM Buyer: How can this kind of support be especially effective in the gaming industry?

Makhija: Mobile gaming has been the early adopter on mobile. It also created a new economy where you could take a creative product to market and suddenly acquire millions of users. With those millions of users came this unique problem that not all of those players are going to help you make money.

I can play a game for an entire lifetime and not spend a dollar in the game. A small percentage of the players are actually paying for in-app purchases, and you want to make sure that you give the best service to those customers, your VIPs — but there is a good possibility that given the right environment, you can push other players into the VIP level.

There are always going to be players who are free, and there is always the top 1 percent. What about the people in the middle? This is a level of people who might graduate from free to pay. That will happen if they continue playing the game and get good service.

CRM Buyer: What’s in the future for the field of in-app customer service? How is it evolving and changing?

Makhija: It is heating up now. I was at a conference recently, and mobile messaging and mobile self-service are No. 1 on the radar.
Awareness has increased, and enterprises are taking a look at it. Everybody is opening up to use this technology in various ways.

AI is going to play a big role in making self-service and problem-solving more human. It’s going to become more and more efficient and humanized. I don’t see AI making the customer service agent obsolete, but I do think it will make the agent more efficient and happier.

The customer service agent will be able to see the entire workflow, and they won’t be trying to solve small problems, but actually making a connection.

Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety
of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists.
Email Vivian.

WhatsApp joins other messaging platforms with live location sharing

Sharing your current location with someone is a great way to passive-aggressively explain that you’re on your way when they ask where you are. But it also has other uses, and WhatsApp has now joined rivals Facebook Messenger and iMessage in offering the feature (with its own somewhat unique twist).

The new feature will be available on both Android and iPhone soon, and it’s accessed the same way you’d normally send your location. But now you’ll have the option not just to put a pin on the map where you are, but to let them track you continuously for a duration of your choosing. (A version of this feature was tested earlier this year.)

15 minutes, an hour, and 8 hours seem to be the three lengths of time you can choose from, though of course you can also turn off location sharing manually if you reach your destination or wish to conceal your movements.

Snapchat and Foursquare have their own versions of live location sharing as well, but the everyday messaging space seems like the best fit to me.

One use for this that seems actually quite helpful is making sure someone gets home all right. There are a few safety apps out there already, but this is a simpler way to keep track of someone if you can’t walk or drive them home yourself. Plus it’s on a widely used cross-platform app that isn’t Messenger. Unfortunately WhatsApp is still the ugliest of all the chat apps, but what can you do?

Android phone startup Essential is sued for allegedly stealing trade secrets

Why it matters to you

Essential, the startup behind the Essential Phone, is in hot water over a trade dispute over its wireless transfer tech.

Essential, the Android phone startup backed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin, hasn’t had the success some predicted. But if delayed shipments, privacy gaffes, and disappointing sales weren’t bad enough, Essential’s latest setback threatens to do lasting damage to its smartphone business. On Tuesday, October 17, Keyssa, a wireless company backed by iPod creator and Nest founder Tony Fadell, filed a lawsuit against Essential alleging that it stole trade secrets.

The dispute stems from Essential’s work with Keyssa’s transfer technology, which copies gigabit-size using a low-frequency network. According to documents made public, Essential sought Keyssa’s technical consultation under a non-disclosure agreement, working with a team of the firm’s “top engineers and scientists” and exchanging “many thousands” of emails, technical documents, and confidential presentations.

In August, Essential told Reuters that it “considered Keyssa as a component supplier for Essential Phone and chose to proceed with a different supplier that could meet our performance specifications for the product.”

essential phone vs. galaxy s8

Essential decided to end the relationship after 10 months, assuring Keyssa that it would use a different wireless technology in the Essential Phone (it eventually sourced it from Sibeam). But Keyssa says it reneged on the confidentiality agreement, knowingly implementing antenna designs and techniques in the phone’s modular accessories pin.

It’s not Essential’s first legal dispute. In June, accessory maker Spigen, which has a trademark on the Essential name for certain battery packs, chargers, and Bluetooth headphones, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Essential, accusing it of misappropriation. It still hasn’t been resolved — Essential’s trademark application was denied twice because it sought the use “Essential” for a nonspecific range of consumer electronics products, according to Android Police.

But if Keyssa’s lawsuit is found to have merit, the impact could be far worse. The Essential Phone’s range of modular accessories, which attach to the back of the phone using a combination of magnetic pins and a 60GHz wireless USB adapter, is one of the handset’s selling points. At launch, some models were bundled with the clip-on Essential Camera, an impressive 360-degree, 12-megapixel 4K camera that Essential claims is the “world’s smallest.”

Keyssa, which earlier this year partnered with smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and Foxconn, says it is seeking damages. “Keyssa has not been compensated for Essential’s use of this guidance and know-how,” a spokesperson told Reuters. “We are pursuing this action because our attempts to resolve this matter through discussions with Essential have not been successful.”

The court proceedings in San Francisco are scheduled to begin later in 2017.

Electronic Arts shuts down Visceral Games; Star Wars game will survive

Why it matters to you

Visceral’s Star Wars game will see a delay and will likely shift away from its Uncharted-like adventure gameplay.

Electronic Arts is currently developing several games based on the Star Wars franchise, including the upcoming shooter Star Wars Battlefront II. One of the most anticipated is a third-person action-adventure from Visceral Games, a studio best known for creating the Dead Space series. But while the new game will live on, Visceral will be shutting its doors.

“In its current form, [Visceral’s project] was shaping in to be a story-based, linear adventure game,” said EA Executive Vice President Patrick Söderlun in the announcement. “Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design.”

Söderlund went on in the statement to reveal EA’s intentions to transition the game into a “broader” experience that focuses on player choice. Previously, the game had been compared to Uncharted, a largely linear, mission-based series. Fittingly, its development was led by Amy Hennig, who had previously worked on the first three Uncharted games.

The game will live on and is being developed by a team that includes EA Vancouver and the publisher plans to move many of Visceral’s employees to other roles within the company — but it’s unclear if Hennig will still be leading the game. She previously left Naughty Dog in the middle of Uncharted 4‘s development, at which point the game was rebooted and Neil Druckmann took over as creative director.

While initially slated for a release in early 2019, the game is now “looking at a new timeframe,” and will likely suffer a delay.

Motive Studios, an EA studio currently working on Battlefront II, was also assisting on Visceral’s project. It would appear that Motive will take a more active role in its development at this point. The studio recently merged with BioWare Montreal following the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

This isn’t the first time Visceral has suffered a closure. In 2013, its Montreal studio was shuttered after the release of Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel.

Evolution of the 4th Utility: Fixed Broadband

In-home broadband has become “the fourth utility” in United States households, many of which have multiple connected devices and viewing screens. More than 85 percent of U.S. homes have broadband service, according to Parks Associates, 93 percent of those have DSL, fiber or cable high-speed, fixed-line Internet services.

The demand for high-speed fixed broadband is a key contributor to ongoing revenue and profitability for operators, particularly due to declines in pay-TV and landline voice subscribers.

The competitive market has changed vastly over the past two years, as have the services available. AT&T acquired DirecTV and launched an online pay-TV service (DirecTV Now) that it bundles with broadband, satellite TV and mobile.

Charter acquired TWC and Bright House to become Spectrum, which serves roughly 30 percent of the U.S. residential fixed broadband market — about 23 million consumers, similar to the size of Comcast’s customer base. Google halted expansion of its fiber service late last year after disrupting and accelerating broadband competition across the U.S. landscape.

Streaming Services

The way people use broadband also has changed. Over-the-top streaming services are a key part of home entertainment. Music streaming is seen as a source of new hope for the struggling music industry, and subscriptions to OTT video services have become the norm. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and CBS All Access offer high-quality original content exclusively for distribution online through their services.

Operators and device makers have partnered with OTT video services, seeking to leverage their brands and popularity to drive uptake of higher broadband speeds and connected consumer electronics.

chart of most commonly used connected in-home entertainment device

For example, Consolidated Communications recently announced a partnership to offer HBO Now along with its broadband services, providing an alternative to the traditional double-play bundle. These types of partnerships will become increasingly common as operators and OTT services both adapt to the new consumer entertainment marketplace.

Despite the demand for data, some fixed-line operators fear the possibility of consumers turning to their smartphones and cellular plans for home Internet connectivity. One-half of U.S. consumers with fixed home broadband also use their smartphones or tablets to connect to 3G or 4G at home, according to Parks Associates.

Fixed Advantages

However, fixed broadband has several key advantages over wireless data services that keep consumers from completely cutting the broadband cord:

  • Cost — Compared to fixed home broadband’s average cost, mobile data is much more expensive on a price-per-bit basis. In fact, costs can be as much as 70 times more expensive, depending on the plans and monthly data allowances selected.

    In some cases, fixed home broadband providers do not have a data limit, leading to fixed broadband’s “all-you-can-eat” pricing model that further increases the service’s effective usage value. Fixed home broadband also minimizes mobile data costs, providing consumers with low cost connectivity for in-home mobile traffic.

  • Speed and latency — Mobile data services provide consumers with the convenience of having data on-the-go but often lack the high speeds and low latency available via fixed networks. Many consumers are aware of this gap, particularly in the use of applications that require high bandwidth or low latency, including file downloads (or uploads), online video games, and video streaming.

    chart of average latency by network type

    Mobile Internet network quality has improved, but mobile Internet averages latency that is 50 percent more laggy than DSL, the slowest fixed broadband connection technology. This performance difference often is the deciding factor in determining which data network, and devices, consumers opt to use.

    Meanwhile, use cases for mobile often require lower levels of data network performance than use cases for devices that typically use a fixed broadband connection. For example, only 20 percent of broadband households stream TV and movie content on a smartphone from OTT services like Netflix or Hulu, according to Parks Associates consumer research, while 51 percent stream this long form content to their TVs and 38 percent stream to their PCs.

  • Connected devices — Home broadband allows a large number of consumer entertainment devices to be connected to the Internet simultaneously, while performing high-bandwidth activities.

    As of early 2017, U.S. broadband households owned an average of eight connected devices, including computing, entertainment and mobile devices. Penetration of computers among U.S. households stands at 87 percent, including both laptops and desktops, Parks Associates reported.

    Beyond general data use (email and browsing), computers are a leading platform for video streaming and for downloading large files, two use cases that demand high-bandwidth connections. Adoption of other home entertainment devices, including smart TVs and streaming media players, has increased, and they have become the devices used most often for connected in-home entertainment.

    Fixed home broadband is essential to smart home devices and the Internet of Things.

    “You can’t have a smart home without seamless connectivity,” said Miles Kingston, general manager of the smart home group at Intel, during Connections 2017.

    Most smart home devices are built to connect with smartphones and other devices. To fully integrate these devices, there is a requirement for a capable network that can connect multiple devices simultaneously. For this reason, broadband is the first functional foundation for connected home devices, due to its cost effectiveness and reliability.

  • Data limits — More than half of mobile or wireless Internet traffic in 2016 came from video streaming (Ericsson Mobility Report June 2017), and consumers increasingly depend on fixed-line home broadband for this use case. High bandwidth use, particularly for 4K video via services like Netflix or Hulu, can burn through significant amounts of data quickly, which is a problem for services that impose relatively low data limits.

    Though unlimited mobile data plans are becoming more common, many carriers implement mechanisms to throttle down throughput over a specified threshold of speed or data capacity.

    While mobile data may not be an adequate substitute for all consumers, fixed broadband is not without its disadvantages. Cost is a leading reason for consumers to go without fixed broadband and rely exclusively on mobile data. As consumers start to look more deeply at their household expenses, cost considerations will go beyond subscription fees.

    Fixed home broadband requires customer premises equipment, or CPE, for in-home access. Unlike a mobile device, which is multifunctional and owned by the consumer, most fixed-broadband CPE in the U.S. market is owned by the operator, rented to the user, and serves only one purpose, which would make it a prime target for households looking to cut expenses.

    Parks Associates does not foresee consumers abandoning fixed broadband for mobile data services en masse, but in this environment of extreme competition, operators cannot afford to overlook these threats.

Working in Tandem

Mobile service providers will push their advantages, which includes a direct connection to consumers through their smartphones. Mobile services have begun positioning fifth-generation (“5G”) wireless technologies to compete against wireline technologies, which will give more options to consumers and put more pressure on fixed-broadband operators to innovate in order to retain their customers.

Fixed-line operators will protect their fixed-line revenues by increasing throughput, innovating in their CPE, reducing costs, and expanding coverage of their fiber deployments. There already is some evidence of this, with both fixed broadband providers and mobile data providers seeking new ways to add value to their services, such as free WiFi hotspots and zero-rating for online video streaming from associated OTT services.

They also will explore new areas, notably rural and underserved areas in the U.S. where fixed wireless technologies could be the best solutions for last-mile connectivity.

Though some substitution may occur, fixed-line and mobile data will continue to work in tandem to address consumers’ insatiable data needs. Fixed-line operators will benefit from wireless technologies in several ways over the next few years to drive improved satisfaction and greater revenues, further solidifying their position as valued providers of reliable data connections.

Brett Sappington is senior research director at
Parks Associates.