Can Anyone Make Wireless Work?

Discover Magazine conducted a “wireless roundtable” of hotshots in the wireless industry, and asked them the question about what needs to be done to make wireless “work”? The conversation, as you might expect, wanders, but a few themes come out. First, wireless already works to some extent (clearly!), but nothing ever works as well as you hope it will (or expect it to in the future). So, there are improvements that can be made. In the cellular world, the trick is figuring out how to shift data over networks designed for voice. In the WiFi world, the trick is making things easier to use, and figuring out ways to avoid interference problem. There’s some debate over whether or not “3G” is really needed – with one person pointing out that data intensive applications really only need hotspot style coverage. What he’s missing, of course, is that right now that may be true – but given ubiquitous bandwidth, you can guarantee that applications will come along that make use of it. There’s a general consensus that plenty of the problems are caused by giving engineers too much control, and not spending enough time figure out what users actually want (I’d offer, in response, that marketers have also been guilty of over-promoting and overhyping wireless technologies in a way that pisses off many customers). One thing that becomes clear from the discussion, though, is that those inside these companies don’t have much of a clue where wireless is going either – and that’s the most exciting part.

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