Let me tell you a story which happened a few months ago. A Mobile Operator Vice President was visiting an electronics manufacturing giant. During this visit the guys from the Research Labs of this company presented their innovations and future breaking through ideas. One of them was a piece of software to simulate the SIM Card for a 3G embedded PC or a smartphone. Thanks to it no longer this fossil piece of silicon is no longer needed. The Operator VP just raised his hand, folded 3 fingers, aimed the guy with his imaginary gun and said ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’
The SIM Card is the keystone of the entire mobile operator ecosystem and sometimes it is amazing to see how deeply it is misunderstood. The SIM Card is the heart of the operator as it is the unique link with the customer whereas the device is just an enabler. The main issues with the SIM cards today are they haven’t changed much since they were created. You can’t anymore store all you contacts in the limited memory of the SIM Card and even if you can (500 phone numbers is a maximum) you will miss some fields like email, physical address etc. That’s the reason why everyone stores all their contacts in the device memory making the migration from a handset to the other a nightmare without speaking of migrating DRM protected music files and pictures.
SIM Cards usually carried all the necessary settings to communicate but this is no longer the case as they don’t have the internet settings required for a data connection. Users end up in calling the customer service to have the right settings to browse this internet when the operator doesn’t have an automatic OTA (over the air) settings service. Remember those Access Points names? And this is the best case; most of the users simply don’t browse the internet and don’t use the email feature of their device because they cannot connect.
With more memory, one can imagine having many network and security centric applications stored in the SIM Card memory. For example, the full PC connection manager could be stored into the SIM making a data connection plug and play. You insert the SIM card and the connection manager auto launches with the right settings. Other candidate applications would be the NFC ones for transportation, payment and access control.
Hence the path to SIM evolution seems quite obvious: increase the memory to a few GB to be able to store extensive contact details, pictures, media contents and applications to maintain its central role in the mobile eco-system.
So, In The Beginning Operators Created The SIM Card, but if they want it to survive to the Darwin’s law they need to make it evolve … and quickly!