The Opportunity In Over Glorifying The Wireless Life
By Mike Masnick, Wed May 25 21:30:00 GMT 2005

While the campaigns pitching wireless seem to focus on the "freeing" nature of cutting wires, it seems the glorious mix of freedom and productivity aren't quite up to nirvana levels yet.

There's no denying that there really is something freeing about being able to access data while on the go. The first time people use Wi-Fi or cellular broadband connections, many feel a bit giddy at the lack of being plugged in to a telephone or ethernet cable. It certainly open up tremendous opportunities, and that's quite exciting. In fact, it's that excitement and glamor that the wireless industry often pitches as its main selling point -- with good reason. If you're marketing a new offering, you might as well focus on the excitement it creates.

There's just one problem, though: for many, that excitement doesn't last. In some cases, it's because the premise has been oversold. Despite commercials to the contrary from Intel, you really can't find a universal and free Wi-Fi connection out in the wilderness. In other cases, though, it's because too much excess effort needs to take place "behind the curtain" to make that freeing feeling possible. Being mobile is great -- but only lasts as long as your batteries do. For many, the data connection may be wireless, but the power connection is still very much tethered to the wall.

The other aspect of wireless data being oversold is the question of how often people really need data while being mobile. As the initial article above points out, as nice as bringing your laptop to the beach sounds (minus the whole sand in the keyboard issue), it doesn't seem to happen very often. It quotes a photographer who has photographed a number of stock photos of people using technology on the beach saying he's never once come across someone actually using a computer on the beach, other than in his staged photos.

Of course, it's easy to knock the technology for not living up to the pitch -- but the real answer is that this is more of an opportunity than false promises. People don't always use mobile data on the go, because it just isn't compelling as currently offered. However, as new mobile applications and services come about that really take advantage of how people are mobile to offer them something useful that simply couldn't be done before, then the promise of mobile computing becomes more real. It may not be "working from the beach," but it can certainly be about making the world around us more useful and exciting by tying the analog world to the digital world through a mobile device and a mobile data connection. The trick is to recognize we're not there yet. Reaching that mobile nirvana is going to take a combination of improving the technology while also designing new and open services and applications that make what was once impossible, now possible. That will make wireless glamorous in a way that won't fade quite so quickly.