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Microsoft Planning 7-Day Phone Batteries

Mitch Wagner
6/10/2014
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SAN FRANCISCO -- MIT Technology Review Digital Summit -- Microsoft is figuring out how to make mobile phone batteries last longer. How much longer? Try a week...

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Research team is looking into several techniques for extending battery life, said senior researcher Ranveer Chandra here at the MIT summit. First, Microsoft is looking to enable developers to find out which components of their mobile apps use the most power, and tune the code to be more efficient. These profiling tools are built into Microsoft's Visual Studio 2013 application development software.

Phones can also extend battery life by offloading compute functions to routers and the cloud, Chandra said.

Further out, phones will use a technique Microsoft calls "Somniloquy" -- which means talking in your sleep -- to allow power-hungry cores to intelligently offload computations onto less power-intensive cores, while the power-hungry cores go to sleep.

And even further out, Microsoft wants to replace existing phone batteries with multiple batteries with different properties for different conditions, Chandra said.

Phone batteries are now individual reservoirs of power optimized for average environmental conditions and current requirements. But battery life depends on the type of computing being done, the chemical properties of the battery, and environmental conditions such as temperature. Future phones will have multiple small batteries with different chemical properties that function well under different conditions, and the operating system will intelligently shift between batteries to prolong battery life.

Chandra compared the technique of managing multiple batteries with different properties to SDN -- he called it "software-defined batteries."

Battery life has been a bottleneck for phone usage. While phones get exponentially smarter, more powerful, and cheaper, batteries have only twice as much capacity as they did 15 years ago, Chandra said.

Ideas from the battery project have already made it into Microsoft products. In addition to the Visual Basic tool, Windows 8's WiFi software uses the energy saving techniques.

I'd like to say more about this, but I need to go plug in my phone.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to wagner@lightreading.com.

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
6/13/2014 | 12:32:04 AM
Re: 24/7
Mitch, 

Did you check if there is an app or something consuming your iPhone's battery more than it should? 

-Susan
Liz Greenberg
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Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/11/2014 | 2:05:16 PM
Re: That is here today
Great new term @Ianbrown!!!  Microsoft is working on the 8.1 phone release and the current beta has currently shrunk the tiles and put a large border around them...oops they un-improved their own UI! 
Liz Greenberg
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Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/11/2014 | 2:03:29 PM
Re: 24/7
Mitch, carry the beer and the power strip and people will literally move to make room for you to sit down, plug in, sip and share!  Maybe provide this to Microsoft as another "un-improvement" to quote our wonderfully on target colleague.
Liz Greenberg
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Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/11/2014 | 2:00:43 PM
Re: 24/7
Mitch..I have a solution for your current problem...Nokia 2520, great battery life!  I see your points but if we use our phones as computers the power draw is going to be immense, so either win popularity by carrying the power strip (hope for an empty plug) and/or bulk up the phone with an external battery and/or wear clothing comprised entirely of solar panels with a plug and flexible battery storage.  The pros for the last solution is portability, great body workout, and, of course, great but limited fashion.  The cons - weight and needing to recharge yourself! If your hang such clothing in a lit closet all night then it could just recharge for the next day.
Phil_Britt
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Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/11/2014 | 1:47:44 PM
Re: 24/7
FakeMitchWagner,

 

How right you are. Though there are now more available outlets, in the mid-2000s, we had a power "brick" (9 outlets) with us on an Amtrak trip to California. We were the favorite people on the entire train. If I thought I could have gotten away from it, we could have charged money and made quite a bit.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
6/11/2014 | 1:38:19 PM
Re: 24/7
Carrying a power strip wherever you go will make you more popular than carrying beer to a college fraternity.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
6/11/2014 | 1:37:08 PM
Re: 24/7
The phone's going to be bulky if you have a replaceable battery. The battery needs a sturdier housing in the phone if it's going to be removed. Either way -- replaceable battery or external battery case -- you've got bulk.

I don't have a problem with using an external battery case with my iPhone. I DO have a problem that the battery life on the iPhone is so bad that it doesn't go a full day on a charge even WITH the external battery case. 
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/11/2014 | 12:36:29 PM
Re: That is here today
" un-improve" I like the way you put that, @Ianbrown. We wouldn't go so far as to say degrade, just unimproved. 
lanbrown
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lanbrown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/11/2014 | 1:19:32 AM
That is here today
"Further out, phones will use a technique Microsoft calls "Somniloquy" -- which means talking in your sleep -- to allow power-hungry cores to intelligently offload computations onto less power-intensive cores, while the power-hungry cores go to sleep."

 

Well, that sounds just like big.LITTLE from ARM.  They have dynamic voltage scaling as well as being able to put cores or even an entire cluster to sleep.  A big advantage of the ARM solution, the OS and the chip are aware and the correct CPU type is used for the task rather than the above approach where they are trying to do this more in hardware to make the decision.  That opens up some issues in that the wrong task could be on the wrong core type and the hardware and software is not working together.  This is Microsoft and their history shows they take what another does and un-improve it.
kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/10/2014 | 7:27:42 PM
Re: 24/7
It would seem to just pack another battery along would to the trick, or carry a charging cord everywhere. But the idea of customizing different batteries into a deivce seems like a good compromise to be able to extent the use at least a bit longer, although maybe at the cost of a little weight and a few dollars more.
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