Meet Project Hermes: eSIMs (and likely Project Fi) on Chromebooks

It’s hard to find a Chromebook with integrated LTE these days, even though a few years ago, Google’s own Chromebook Pixel and a few other models had an always available connection. That could be changing thanks to Project Hermes, which is definitely meant to support eSIM capabilities on Chromebooks and appears likely to work with Project Fi.

Project Hermes with Fi

The news comes by way of a code commit spotted by XDA Developers on Thursday. In the screenshot they posted, there is specific mention of Project Fi support. However, the code commit message was changed a few days ago to remove the mention of Fi.

By adding eSIM support to Chrome OS, people could buy Chromebooks with built-in LTE radios but not need to insert a SIM card. The eSIM would be remotely provisioned — theoretically on any carrier partner — to enable LTE service. This saves the hassle of getting and inserting a SIM card from a carrier, plus it can add flexibility to easily change LTE service providers. I had the LTE service for my original Chromebook Pixel and it was fantastic to be able to connect nearly anywhere when not near a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Chromebook Pixel LTE

As far as the Project Fi support mention. It’s very possible that the developers didn’t want to tip Google’s hand on this potential feature support. I think that’s the case since I see code referencing a file called SmdpFiImpl, which has Fi in the name. And SMDP is mentioned throughout the GSMA spec for eSIM implementation as a reference to¬†Subscription Manager Data Preparation.

Regardless, Project Fi and a wireless connection “built in” to future Chromebooks opens up even more usability.

Imagine making or receiving Voice over LTE phone calls through an updated Fi service. Or getting and responding to texts right from your Chromebook. Checking missed calls and voicemails is possible too.

Would this replace your phone service so you don’t have to carry a handset? I wouldn’t go that far. A phone is always on while a Chromebook is typically closed and shut down when traveling about. However, I could see Google extend Project Fi to allow calls to and from the same number on both a phone and Chromebook so you don’t have to manage multiple phone numbers in this case.

I’ll keep an eye on Project Hermes over the coming weeks and months to provide additional updates. Even if Fi doesn’t make the cut for this effort, just the idea of making it easier to use LTE-enabled Chromebooks is a big plus.

4 thoughts on “Meet Project Hermes: eSIMs (and likely Project Fi) on Chromebooks

  • June 7, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    It is unfortunate that Google, while busily reimagining/redesigning Chromebooks so that they could serve as capable software development machines, let itself be outflanked by Microsoft which managed to manoeuvre itself into a leading position in the shift to always connected consumer computing. Google didn’t seem to have a plan B that could be invoked when it became clear that Qualcomm – the company with the chips most suited to always connected computing – was more interested in the security that goes with working with Microsoft and its partners, viz. the PC incumbents, and little interested in the fast growing but still relatively small Chromebook market. There is no unbreachable gulf here but for the moment Microsoft is in the box-seat in this interesting device category. In the following video there is a good demonstration of what is possible using eSim-like technology (starting at 31:30).

    While Qualcomm is favouring the Windows computing ecosystem at this point not every announcement of cooperation between Microsoft and Qualcomm necessarily means that Google and its Chromebook partners are being ignored entirely by Qualcomm. The recent announcement of the extension of the Microsoft-Qualcomm always connected computing collaboration with a deal to exclusively provide the Snapdragon 850 to the mobile PC and large screen format device market, for example, is a case of pure perception engineering, only.

    The Snapdragon 850 is just a rebadged Snapdragon 845. The differences between them look more like minor running changes or the successful implementation of always planned but previously delayed capabilities rather than sharp contrasts. The clock, of course, gets a small boost but again the change is pretty trivial. The only change of any substance made to the SD845 is the rejigging of the software routines governing the behaviour of the chip. The SD850 is basically the SD845 let off the leash. Higher performance and improved benchmark scores will naturally ensue in this situation but the claim that the SD850 has been designed for laptops is just a bit or marketing sophistry to drive sales. Not only are the SD845 and SD850 quite a lot alike, they are virtually identical.

  • June 7, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    Or hand off to different carriers when wifi is unavailable a la Project Fi – that would be awesome!

  • June 7, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Sorry, at 23:35 in the video clip not 31:30.

    • June 7, 2018 at 5:07 pm

      I am having a hard time getting this right – 23:55 !!


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