Alsop on the Next Big Thing

Stewart Alsop writes in Fortune:

I envision a future in which devices–phones, computers, PDAs or communicators, stereos, whatever–are freed from the physical boundaries of plugs. We already see the path toward ubiquitous wireless communications with some combination of Wi-Fi and the 3G networks being built by cellular operators.

Battery power remains the really tough challenge, but several companies are preparing prototypes of portable fuel cells for notebook computers. Those devices are small enough and cheap enough that it is possible to imagine getting eight to 12 hours a pop from disposable fuel cartridges that cost $4 to $5 each. Two such companies made presentations in early May at Wireless Ventures, a private-equity mobile-computing conference: Neah Power and PolyFuel. Another new company, A123Systems in Boston, is also starting to generate buzz for its low-cost battery technology. Several other firms have been making the rounds on Route 128 and Sand Hill Road looking for money to work on new ideas for portable power.

So there you have it: The Next Big Thing is the elimination of cords and cables, at least for portable devices. That will unleash a fury of innovation and expansion that will make even the most skeptical realize that Silicon Valley’s batteries are far from drained.

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