Commentary

The Wi-Fi World - Part 3

Did anyone else see the section in Time magazine last week that dealt with the evolution of wireless technology and how it is starting to be incorporated into the everyday life of the average consumer?

For those of you who missed it, I recommend picking up the issue. The articles were rather basic, but the part that got me excited was the section devoted to the various gadgets and gizmos that are being launched to provide consumers with wireless access to many of the devices they use every day. I am definitely a gadget-hound, but these were some very interesting, very innovative ideas that were developed by people who are a lot smarter than me.

I don't know about you, but when I think about Wi-Fi, I tend to think about a laptop with no cables. Thinking within those parameters is limiting and does not expose the depth of what we can expect in the very near future. Microsoft has developed a wireless hub for its Xbox game console that allows you to jump online and compete against other players from anywhere in the house. HP has developed a wireless printer/scanner/fax machine that does not require a USB port or any other connection to a PC. Creative Soundblaster has developed a wireless MP3 adapter for your stereo that reads the files sitting on your PC. There is a wireless picture frame from Wallflower systems that rotates photos from your computer in much the same fashion as screensaver does, but lies on the wall.

These are fantastic executions of ideas that further demonstrate how wireless is going to shape our lives, or at least make things a little easier. It also demonstrates how the center of your entertainment is shifting from your television to your PC. This doesn't mean that your PC will be the centerpiece of your living room, by any means. This simply means that your PC may be the conduit by which all entertainment is funneled through your home. At the very least it will certainly be where all of your stored entertainment resides.

Speaking from the experience of a person who still buys at least 1 CD every week, this is a very important statement. Nowadays when I buy music the old-fashioned way, I immediately go home and rip the CD on to my PC, then store the CD away in a book with about 200 others. I toss out the jewel case, keep the liner notes in the booklet, and practically never see the physical CD again. It's a back-up to my digital files resting on my home computer.

Video On Demand may be the same way eventually. I may order a show or a movie, then store it on my computer or DVR and watch it again at a later date.

The only thing that scares me about these habits I am developing is memory. I came to the frightening realization the other day that my iPod had more memory than my desktop at home and I am going to need to upgrade. Then I started thinking, "what happens when this computer crashes and I lose all these files... do I have to start all over"?

I seriously think the concept of a web-based virtual memory is going to come back as the wireless evolution continues. There are going to be centralized, web-based services for storing my pictures and my music and my movie files that will enable me to watch them from home or when I am traveling. My laptop and my television will all become part of my virtual private network and the road will no longer be so far from home. The comforts and familiarity of home will follow me wherever I go.

Smarter people than you or I are already working on these tools and services and it's only a matter of time. This is exciting to me, as the potential rebound of our economy appears to be starting based on the actual ideas that our peers are developing rather than the promise of ideas to come.

What have you been seeing that supports this prediction of a trend?

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