Business Week on WiFi

BusinessWeek has a cover story on WiFi:

After four years as a plaything for techno-geeks and home hobbyists, Wi-Fi is beginning to beam its way into Corporate America. Its superfast connections to the Web cost only a quarter as much as the gaggle of wires companies use today. And they’re proving irresistible to businesses willing to venture onto the wireless edge. From General Motors to United Parcel Service to CareGroup, companies are using Wi-Fi for mission-critical jobs in factories, trucks, stores, and even hospitals. “We firmly believe that this is the tipping point,” says Intel Corp. CEO Craig R. Barrett.

The challenge facing the tech industry is to transform this unruly phenomenon into a global business. This means turning Wi-Fi Nation into Wi-Fi Inc. That involves transforming a riot of hit-or-miss hot spots into coherent, dependable networks. It means coming up with billing systems, roaming agreements, and technical standards — jobs the phone companies are busy tackling. The goal, says Anand Chandrasekher, vice-president and general manager of the mobile-platforms group at Intel, is to “take Wi-Fi from a wireless rogue activity to an industrial-strength solution that corporations can bet on.”

Wi-Fi represents a disruptive force. Yet if history is an indicator, it will ultimately pay rich dividends. The upstart technology appears to follow a pattern that has become common in the Internet age. New technologies surge from the grass roots, pushing companies to race madly, trying first to cope with the new sensations and later to transform them into businesses. This happened with the Net itself, and with Linux, the free software operating system. Now, the Internet has not only defined an age, it has spawned a host of successful companies.

Wi-Fi promises similar fireworks.

A quote from an interview with Nicholas Negroponte: “Wi-Fi is like the Internet itself, reenacting the bottoms-up process that surprised people so much.”

Continue reading

Net PC

A WSJ discussion has an interesting commment by a reader, Andy Limeri:

I think you may be a bit early in predicting the demise of the Larry Ellison’s Net PC idea. I think he was just way ahead of the technology curve. I think easy to use, diskless PCs will become more popular as broadband becomes more ubiquitous. With all the problems introduced by buying new software and the need to upgrade, the basic idea of the net PC may very well find new life. I think this is particularly true for non-portable PCs as the PC is more likely to always be plugged into a network. I’ll bet that sometime in the next couple years, someone will introduce a subscription service that includes the equivalent of Microsoft Office, only the software is server-based and you never need to worry about an upgrade. It’s already happening in games and games are one of the better technological indicators.

Thin Clients connected to Thick Servers is what we need in emerging markets – in homes, at the workplace and in rural TeleInfoCentres.