EyeForWireless: Predictions For WiFi And WiMax

The final panel (mostly made up of VCs) is discussing the predictions for WiFi and WiMax technologies, though it's a fairly open discussion. Chris Knudsen from Vulcan Capital (and formerly of Metricom) talks about the power of the wireless "platform" that will lead to all sorts of new applications, many of which will fail, but from which many innovative and useful applications will arise. Matt Lewis from ARCchart talks about the disruptive nature of WiMax, and how it may cause problems for companies focused on a WiFi business model - though he admits that may depend on when WiMax enabled laptops actually arrive. He also points out that we shouldn't cross off the wireless carriers, considering the fact that they're actually offering wireless data services today, and it's not as ridiculously expensive as everyone expected. So, the real question is whether or not WiMax works and becomes prevalent within a time frame that allows them to take away business from the carriers. The representative from Brainheart, however, thinks WiMax is better kept away from the end user, and instead should just be focused on backhaul. The argument is that we've been working on so many other wireless networks to connect the end user that it doesn't make sense to throw one more at them just yet. Intel, trying not to piss anyone off, points out that the different technologies have different use cases, and saying that one wireless technology will kill another seems premature. Dave Chen, from OVP Venture Partners, talks about the amazing power of all this standardization, and how it completely changes the game - swinging the pendulum back and forth between the enterprise and the telco in terms of who pays for switching costs and giving that power to the end user in the home as well. He also throws some cold water on the "free VoIP" people, pointing out that someone is paying for the access somewhere - even if it's not the specific end user making the phone call. So, the summary for this panel seems to be that the standardization of everything is creating a very powerful platform for new applications, but no one is exactly sure how it will shake out. This is, of course spoken like true venture capitalists explaining how they see the investment opportunity - trying to figure out what companies are going to be able to take advantage of this disruptive standardization.

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