Enterprise to act as vanguard for proximity computing

Enterprise to act as vanguard for proximity computing

Summary: After chasing consumer-led computing for the past few years, enterprises are due to be the opening front in the next change to computing — an experience that depends on where you are, and which device you are using.


At the start of this week everything was in a nice, settled place: most peripherals still needed a wire for best performance, saving to the cloud was the state of the art for passing documents between devices, desktop computers never took phone calls on a regular basis, and 2-in-1 convertibles were still a solution looking for a problem.

But pairing the announcements out of Apple's WWDC conference, with those emanating from Computex in Taiwan this week, presents a computing future that suddenly cares a lot more about where devices are, and how close those devices are.

The biggest switch though, is that once again, enterprises and business users will return to the forefront of computing. After spending a number of recent years having users attempt to define the computing landscape, and taking up measures like shadow IT, the new era of proximity-based computing lends itself to favouring the business.

At Computex today, Intel announced that it was declaring war on wires, and that by the time that its Skylake chip arrives, currently slated for 2015, it would arrive with the ability to act in a completely wireless world.

By that stage, Intel expects that mobile desktops will be able to be wirelessly projected to 4K displays, panels that the company announced it would attempt to drive down to US$400; tablets and laptops will be able to charge wirelessly with A4WP; wireless docking is expected to happen with WiGig; as is the wireless transfer of data to replace the usage of USB sticks.

"Our vision is in the next generation Core processor after Broadwell, we'll be on reference designs to eliminate all cables for our ultrabook and 2-in-1 PCs for wireless display, wireless charging, wireless docking, and wireless transfer," said Kirk Skauden, Intel senior vice president and general manager of PC client group.

The wireless technologies demonstrated — wireless display, recharging, and docking — worked in the NFC to Bluetooth range, and show that the presence of other proximity-aware computing devices and peripherals in the immediate environment is due to change the way computers are used in coming years.

While it is one thing to be able to simplify the connectivity between computers and accessories, the sticking point for mobile computing to displace the standard workstation desktop, thus far, has been the performance of mobile devices.

Yesterday's announcement of the Core M chip, which for the first time since hardware manufactures tried to sell people on the idea of a device that could move between the laptop and tablet worlds, gives potential users of 2-in-1 convertibles a chance to actually see the full benefits of the form factor.

The old sacrifice of performance for extended battery life need not be so brutal — Core M is slated to be released with a dock that will blow air over the fanless devices, and allow a boost in chip performance of 30 percent.

A device with an actual Core chip with x cores inside it, although it will never stand up to the power of a proper desktop chip, the mere thought of powering a high resolution desktop is not one that should fill user's hearts with dread.

That said, it's far from a slam dunk — users and enterprises may decide that the implementation of a dockable tablet that powers a workstation desktop is still out of reach and too compromised — but it closes the gap between the computing power of tablets and convertibles, with that found in the lower end of the laptop range.

The surprising test case for this scenario is likely to end up being the recently released Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Although it comes packed at the low end with a Core i3, the device is as close to fanless as the Core platform will get before Core M, and it packs enough of a punch to make docking a reasonable possibility.

As would be expected from a company with Intel's history, its approach to a wireless world of wireless proximity computing derives from hardware. On the other side of the equation, arriving from a viewpoint entrenched in software, is Apple and its new features announced in OS X Yosemite.

The handoff feature, which is expected to allow users of Apple devices to seamlessly transition from device to device and continue on working on the same files, depends on multiple devices being aware of the presence of other Apple devices near them. Similarly, the ability to take a phone call on an iMac, is a feature entirely based on the proximity of an iPhone to a Mac desktop and one that is entirely wireless.

Although Apple did not state that the enterprise would be the setting for OS X to show its proximity features, it makes sense to assume that that is where many of the first benefits will be seen — users spend most of their computing time at work, and Apple users are often BYOD laptop people.

It would be easily to frame this hardware vs software implementations as one framework and methodology against the other, but it just isn't so.

Apple is an Intel customer, therefore at a time and keynote of Cupertino's choosing, the company will be able to benefit from all the work that is set to happen on the hardware-focused side over the coming 24 months.

With what has been shown this week on both sides of the world, Apple users can be very happy with the space they occupy in regards to a wireless proximity-based computing future.

The impetus is actually on the menagerie of vendors and manufacturers involved in the non-Apple ecosystems to agree to standards for wireless protocols before Apple rides off into the distance thanks to its vertical integration.

Whichever way that it all shakes out in the wash, which raises the topic of wearables but that is for another time, the early decision for how far we all go down the road of proximity computing is set to be determine by enterprises, not consumers.

Luckily, we won't need a term like "Enterprisation of consumers" to describe the phenomena, it's just a return to the way things used to be.

Disclosure: Chris Duckett travelled to Computex as a guest of Intel

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Intel, Mobility


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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  • What ever happened to security

    Years ago the first principal of security was reduce the potential exposure of data. So secure computer systems were locked away, had no network connection, and were shielded so that people could not try to tap emmissions.

    Now we have the goverment putting everything in the cloud, and the vendors saying everything will be wireless. It is ironic that if the various laws on security of data were fully enforced (thinking of things like HIPPA), that the technologies being pushed would all be lawsuit bait.

    Having worked for the Army Corp of Engineers way too many years ago, in the late 70's to early 80's what Snowden did would be impossible, and if he had tried to push it the armed guard in the foyer to the computer area would have shot him dead.
    • Couldn't agree more!!!

      I've been saying for years now that our entire nation is driven towards more and more security risk by choosing convenience over security... The pseudo-scientists still put their trust in encryption, regardless of how much publicity has been given to every "crack" that broke encryption.
      When we opt for convenience instead of security, out risk just escalates significantly.
      As for "near field transactions", this is one person who will never allow any carrier or business to determine personal location... It is yet another convenience ripe for plunder by characters with lacking integrity (and, sadly, there are many of them).
      • encryption works

        Encryption works and that is not the weak leak. It's when data is not encrypted or when the government insists on back doors to the software that things go wrong.
        • Sorry encryption works to a point

          It was one of the old rules, that for "tactical" messages encryption would work, but "strategic" that is would sooner or later be broken. Yes encryption works, but if you are willing to throw enough computing resources at it (and the size/cost of those resources keeps shrinking) then it will be broken.

          The other problem with encryption is people use the same key, or base and so once you break encryption for one file or packet, you have it for a large block of data. Some friends of mine in security recently for a client tested their encryption, turns out it took 5 days to break it, at which point all the transactions including credit cards for 6 months was easily accessible.

          The basic rule of you don't give people a chance to access to the information encrypted or not was a guiding principle for centuries before computers, and for the computer industry to close to 1990. If you want to assume encryption is good enough, go read a history of the Battle of Midway, where the Japenese Navy confidently stated "the enemy is not aware of our plans" or of the history of Blechley Park where the British could read the encrypted German messages faster than the Nazi's could. If you are holding my data expect you ass to be sued off when you loose it.
    • Faraday has unlocked his cage!

      And the hackers are running amok.
  • simply

    "to be able to simply" ... sounds poetic.
  • You're an EDITOR?

    Really? With lines like this: "which currently expected", "It would be easily to frame this".
    Not to mention the complete misuse of punctuation! For example, this single run-on sentence: "By that stage, Intel expects that mobile desktops will be able to be wirelessly projected to 4K displays, panels that the company announced it would attempt to drive down to US$400; tablets and laptops will be able to charge wirelessly with A4WP; wireless docking is expected to happen with WiGig; as is the wireless transfer of data to replace the usage of USB sticks."
    Please! Any student in a community college writing class could proof this for you.
    • same thoughts

      I was also surprised. You can expect one or two mistakes but this article was barely readable.

      I wasn't planning to comment as probably my comment will also have gramatical errors, the difference is that I'm not expected to have editors or proofreaders.
  • This is going to be interesting...

    As we speak, there is a hacking kit on a tiny USB stick which takes advantage of the idea that everything that's plugged into a USB port (that works) and calls itself a keyboard IS A KEYBOARD... even when it isn't. This allows the malware on the tiny stick to "type" certain commands and, assuming the current user has admin rights ... use your imagination.

    Fast forward to the proximity world. Instead of actually inserting a USB stick (not THAT hard) to (soon) getting a sniffing repeater to catch the signal nearby (trivial), and now we have penetration from any angle!! (That last sentence was safe for work as long as you don't think about it too much...)

    Yes- it's all encrypted. Using the same private key? A key that doesn't change because it's in the firmware? A key whose discovery becomes enormously tempting because of the fantastic ability it would give to hack all kinds of communications? A key or keys which more than a few people know about (many manufactures must work together), at least a few of whom will be willingly bribed for the right price?

    What happens when there is a yagi antenna built into a nearby lamp and the sniffer uses it to send the NFC signals to a nearby parking lot?? Oh, and when all of this is done using the victim's own wireless charging device???

    Security-- a field that can only get bigger and badder.
  • I think it's still a choice

    and this choice needs to be looked at hard and long and questioned like right now or every step along the way as I know we will be updated by ZD net and others I hope
  • if course users will know how to configure rhe security

    It still surprises me when I go to friend's homes and find they are using WEP or have never updated the routers firmware or left the factory default password on the router.

    Of course I cannot blame them, they are "users" not "computer geeks" right?

    I am sure all these devices will be "secure" if you keep them up to date and use the encryption properly. But most won't even know they are at risk or won't think about it or will justify it thinking they are low key targets and no one will care to attack them.

    In fact, I have been guilty of some of those out of convenience or absent mindness. It is too much mental effort to keep up to date and almost paranoid of security. Unfortunately, as with backups and other insurance, once we realize we should have cared it will be too late.

    All wireless is really promising for convenience and we'll executed can be great. I'm not holding my breath and will probably absentmindedly will be using those devices until it's too latw.