Writes NYTimes: “The next industry cycle may revolve around a wireless data technology known as Wi-Fi, which has the potential to eventually let anyone with a computer or computing device connect to the Internet at high speeds, without cables.”
Like the Web, which flourished into an entirely new medium created atop the freely accessible communications standards of the Internet, Wi-Fi has a similar starting point. It has been made possible because the federal government decided a few years ago to set aside a small swath of unlicensed radio frequencies and allow everyone who followed a simple set of rules to share them among themselves.
Just as the Web opened the Internet to innovative information providers and hundreds of millions of users by making the network easier to use, Wi-Fi, proponents predict, will make possible many innovations by making the Internet easier to connect to at speeds comparable to today’s fastest digital phone lines or cable modem hook-ups. The next big wave in applications is likely to be “location aware” communications whether conveniences like directions to the nearest restaurant or movie theater, or intrusions like neighborhood spam that will assault Web surfers as they sit in coffee shops or stoll down the street.
In an otherwise bleak Silicon Valley, Wi-Fi and its anytime, anywhere Internet capabilities now stand out as the one area in which there is now a fresh burst of entrepreneurial and technical creativity.
“This feels like the opening of the PC era when for the first time you could own your own computer,” said Ken Biba, the chief executive of Vivato, the company with the odd-looking antenna. “With Wi-Fi you can own your own communications. That’s a profound social change.”