Microsoft has built a ton of new features and capabilities into Windows 8 that make it a prime OS for mobile devices like ultrabooks and tablets. Aside from the Metro UI that is designed to be tapped and swiped on a touchscreen display, Windows 8 also includes new features for connecting to and managing mobile broadband connections.
My four year old Dell XPS M1330 laptop has an AT&T SIM card and built-in 3G mobile broadband capabilities. At the time, that was fairly cutting edge, but now it is almost a requirement. There are public Wi-Fi hotspots available across the United States, but there are also still vast areas with no Wi-Fi, but plenty of 3G or 4G mobile broadband signal.
Windows 8 includes native support for 3G and 4G mobile broadband connectivity. The OS can detect if your hardware has a 3G or 4G SIM card, and automatically apply the appropriate drivers. It can also determine which carrier it’s associated with and download the mobile broadband app from the Windows App Store if one is available.
The broadband antenna can be turned on or off just like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in Windows 7. If you enable Airplane Mode, it will disable all wireless communications signals including mobile broadband just as it does on most smartphones.
Windows 8 has the tools to help you use your mobile broadband bandwidth wisely, and help ensure you don’t go over your cap and incur overage charges. You can set Windows 8 to automatically switch to a Wi-Fi network if there is one available in order to limit your mobile broadband use to only when it is truly necessary, and you can manage how mobile broadband is used through Windows policies.
The OS can display estimated bandwidth usage data when connected to a cellular broadband network. Windows 8 will work with network-aware Metro apps to limit data usage when when the “reduce data usage” option is selected.
Apps that are developed using the appropriate APIs will minimize data consumption to conserver mobile broadband bandwidth. Windows 8 will also restrict activities like automatic updates for Windows and other Microsoft software and defer them until a Wi-Fi network is available.
Windows 8 may have a hard time making a compelling argument for desktop PCs. But, when it comes to the new class of ultrabooks hitting the streets this year, and the expected deluge of Windows 8 tablets, the ability to connect to and manage 3G and 4G mobile broadband is a point in Windows 8’s favor.