Lest I give the impression that I was in Burlingame -- I wasn't -- I'm providing more links and coverage from others on what was apparently a seminal event in the nascent wireless networking services industry. It's certainly nascent: lots of money has already been wasted in this area, but the real money is yet to be spent. (The hardware side is mature; the services side is what's to come.)
Shel Israel offers up another excellent summary covering events on day two: I have a polite disagreement with several of his conclusions, however, detailed here:
Bluetooth - the wireless scheme for doing away with cables - seems to have gone the way of the Saber Tooth. We heard it mentioned only twice, and both times it was in past tense. I'd argue this is the wrong conclusion: Bluetooth has never been so poised for success. The hype has fallen away and part of that hype was that Bluetooth was a Wi-Fi challenger. Between power consumption and the spec's design as an ad hoc connector, this was never possible. Now that real devices are shipping -- I'm sitting here with a D-Link USB Bluetooth transmitter plugged into my Apple USB keyboard -- the reality of what you can do with Bluetooth is starting to emerge. My sound bite: Bluetooth required ubiquity before utility appeared.
Hallway rumors allege that the [Boingo's] user base is decidedly smaller than one would expect. Ah, but the question is: is it smaller than the company predicted and its investors anticipated? Alan Reiter has serial blogged on the pricing structure for Boingo; I'm in clear opposition to him: the price is right for the business market which values convenience at a reasonable price over cheap prices and less service. (I have argued to Boingo that they need a day plan that would cover a user as they travel between several Boingo-affiliated locations, however: $15 to $20 for Boingo by the Day versus $8 for Boingo for 24 hours in a single location.) Alan noted in his blog Tuesday that Dayton says price is No. 5 on the list of customer concerns. I expect Boingo will grow slowly until it has a larger footprint, which is probably Sky Dayton's No. 1 job right now.
Panelists and show attendees agree that 3G - so-called third generation fast wireless services supposedly destined for metropolitan rollouts this summer - is irrelevant in North America, in no small part because 802.11 is faster, better, cheaper and more valuable. Apparently overlooked is that 802.11 still can't get you onto the Internet when you're not in a major urban area. I respectfully disagree with this, too. 3G is also a massively overhyped technology which the cell companies viewed as an investment that would reap them untold cash very quickly. Equally quickly it became clear that it would not: the dollars and euros and other currencies required to build out the networks became scarce as the dotcom bubble popped; European telcos found themselves saddled with debt and licenses. But 3G has a lot of potential in combination with Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi cannot and will not render 3G useless because it's a highly regulated use of unlicensed spectrum. Part 15 rules keep interference and power low for Wi-Fi and 802.11a devices (among other standards); 3G has a different set of limits because it uses licensed spectrum. While 3G will never achieve ubiquitous 11 Mbps coverage, neither with Wi-Fi. Rather, I see pico- and microcell architecture in which the customer hardware makes the network decision: multi-band, multi-protocols cards select the optimum speed and pricing with a single bill.
The last comment about major urban areas: 3G won't hit outside major cities for a long, long time: the cost for retooling is too low and density of users too low. You might see 3G first on highways and areas where people in transit might have data needs, but other not.
Remember to read Alan Reiter's coverage from yesterday as well: he notes that Palm's interim CEO, former 3Com exec Eric Benhamou, thinks you'll be able to get a PDA Wi-Fi adapter that has a longer battery life. You bet your boots: the CMOS development I discussed yesterday are the clear path to low-power, high-signal cards with very small form factors.
News for 5/2/2002
Buzz Bruggeman alerted me to a posting on the Interesting People list run by former FCC CTO Dave Farber on wireless cash registers. Although it may be old news in the wardriving circle, a post to the Security Focus list noted that Best Buy's wireless cash registers were sending customer data in the clear. MSNBC picked up the story and Best Buy shut down its wireless registers nationwide. Symbol, the maker of the enabling technology, noted in the MSNBC article that their devices have security built-in, but they can't ensure a store uses it.