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Waiting for wireless unity

One mobile device won't fit all, but devices will proliferate, industry says.

The good news is that the rapid rollout of wireless communications technologies is set to make life easier for wired road warriors. However, the ultimate communications device, one that allows ubiquitous, wireless access to both voice and data communications, is unlikely to appear on the market any time soon.


"One size doesn't fit all" was one of the few things that industry analysts and vendor representatives seemed to agree upon at Mobile Insights' two-day Go Mobile Europe conference in Barclena.


Gazing deep into his crystal ball, Gerry Purdy, president and chief executive officer of market researcher Mobile Insights, went as far as to paint a picture of the future that may well seem strangely familiar to many a road warrior today.


By 2010, mobile workers are still likely to carry around three separate devices: a notebook PC, a mobile phone, and a personal digital assistant-like handheld wireless Web appliance, Purdy says.


The major difference instead will be that all three devices will access information from the Web or corporate networks via wireless networks that will offer fast, broadband-like connectivity anytime, anywhere. The devices also will be able to exchange data via emerging wireless technologies, such as the Bluetooth personal-area network specification.


Life Without Wires


The wireless boom will also result in a mobile lifestyle where accessing information from the Internet will become part of daily life. "Most people ten years from now will have their first interaction with the Internet through wireless devices," Purdy says.


However, no one device will dominate the scene in the way that the PC has ruled in the wired Internet era, he adds, predicting that future devices will complement rather than replace the PC.


In presentation after presentation, vendor representatives from companies, such as Compaq Computer, IBM, Intel, and Palm, offered similar views.


"In this business, more is less," says Alexis Martial, Palm's European director of engineering. One major reason behind Palm's success in the handheld device arena has been that the company never tried to make devices that could do everything for everybody, he adds.


For corporations and individuals alike, mobility will also bring risks, which is something that the industry needs to address, several speakers noted. As portable devices increasingly will store critical business or personal data, a lost or stolen device can become a major problem.


Intel, for example, is developing what it calls the Intel Protected Access Architecture, an initiative aimed at securing access to data on notebook PCs. "Our goal is to make a stolen notebook as valuable as a brick," says Don MacDonald, director of mobile platform group marketing at Intel.


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