Kevin Werbach’s article in The Feature describes how “communications is going to be free”, as it gets integrated on the same chips as computing by companies like Intel. Think of every chip with a built-in radio. Writes Werbach:
Integrating radios into chips is more than just an engineering accomplishment. It has profound consequences for the devices and services that make use of those chips. The most obvious advantage is price. When the addition of wireless communications to a device adds negligible cost to the device, there’s no reason not to do so.
Another advantage of building RF capabilities into CPUs is that wireless devices will have newfound smarts, because they will be able to take advantage of the computational power of the microprocessor. They will be able to sense and adapt to whatever wireless networks are within range.
The communications industry is also being transformed, just like the PC industry was verticalised more than a decade ago. Werbach:
The hardware elements of communications have already started to go horizontal. Handset vendors are outsourcing production to the same contract manufacturers that are prominent in the PC industry. Switching equipment increasingly uses general-purpose semiconductors. Once connectivity can be integrated into devices at marginal cost, though, the possibility of an entirely different communications industry arises.
Imagine that every laptop, every PDA, every home media server is also an agile communications device, able to connect to any available network. In such a world, paying a carrier for access to a single network, with a limited choice of services and hardware, will seem archaic. There will still be services businesses linking together these devices and, more important, the user data that flows across them. But they won’t look much like the integrated communications carriers of today.