2008: A Banner Year for Wireless Technology

[qi:020] It may be a little too early for a full laundry list of technology predictions for 2008, but one forecast I’m very confident in is that multiple types of wireless technologies will transform how people use their various devices next year. By the end of 2008, we are going to see countless devices with embedded Wireless USB technology, a much faster upgrade to Bluetooth, and likely the final ratification of the next-generation 802.11n Wi-Fi standard.
Wireless USB hubs, adapters, and laptops have already appeared, of course. You can easily set up a hub-and-adapter solution for about $200, but widespread adoption of this technology will come when it’s embedded into computers, digital cameras, camcorders, MP3 players, printers, external hard drives and numerous other types of hardware.
Certified Wireless USB chipsets, such as Alereon’s, arrived only last summer, and a large wave of devices embedded with the technology is coming in the first quarter of 2008. In fact, if you’re in the market for a new digital camera or camcorder, you might want to postpone your purchase for a few months. Remember that Bluetooth wasn’t widely used until it became embedded in arrays of products and transparent to technology users. Lots of people who do things like use hands-free systems in cars don’t even realize they’re using Bluetooth.

Many Mac users are already using draft 802.11n Wi-Fi technology simply because they get it embedded into their notebooks; it’s also embedded in Apple’s Airport Extreme wireless router, the best-selling draft 802.11n router so far. Likewise, popular sources for rigorous testing of draft 802.11n routers and access points, such as PC Magazine, have given the nod to products for PC users.
Nevertheless, it’s worth keeping in mind that the vast majority of businesses won’t move to a new Wi-Fi standard until it is ratified, and 802.11n is slated for ratification next year. Likewise, many device makers won’t embed 802.11n into their products until the standard is ratified. Even on the consumer side, 802.11n looks poised for much greater success when people can do things like send multiple HDTV streams around their homes without worrying about any setup issues. So 2008 promises to a big year for Wi-Fi, too.
Finally, the Bluetooth SIG announced in 2006 that it would embrace Ultra Wideband technology (UWB) for delivering High Speed Bluetooth, bringing significant speed improvements, but the effort has been stalled by the many false starts and standards debates that have gone on in the UWB space. Just recently, the Bluetooth SIG said it would shift gears and turn to Wi-Fi technology as a stopgap, moving full steam ahead with High Speed Bluetooth (it has not shelved plans for a merger with UWB technology). Look for much faster Bluetooth-enabled devices in 2008 — one of three arenas in which next-generation wireless technologies will shake things up next year.