One Interface To Rule Them All
By Mike Masnick, Wed Aug 25 00:30:00 GMT 2004

Just try to count the different ways your laptop can make a connection to the Internet. You might just run out of fingers. It's time to simplify the connection process with a single interface.

The different connection methods for computers keep coming. On the wired side you have the traditional modem and an ethernet jack. On the wireless side there's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, infrared and we haven't even started discussing the cellular options, not to mention the fifty or so new wireless standards rushing headlong to get integrated into your laptop. While today's operating systems try to make the process, some are suggesting it's about time we had a single interface to rule all of our Internet connections, providing some level of seamless management of connectivity over many different networks.

The article linked above at IT-Analysis focuses mainly on a product called "Zafari Mobile" from a company called Cutting The Wires (it might want to switch the product name with the company name), which apparently lets you manage a variety of connections all from a single user interface. It supports plenty of different hardware options, covering most common ways users will connect their computers to the Internet. Once installed, it's supposed to let you manage all of your connections, including related software (VPN, firewalls, etc.) along with support information -- making the process of switching between different network processes somewhat seamless. It also includes intelligent add-ons such as a Wi-Fi hotspot directory. A quick test here to set up the software proved to be a failure, as the install process alone was more complex than necessary and likely to scare off all but the most dedicated of testers. There also are others, such as Boingo and T-Mobile, who have similar, if not quite as feature-filled applications that are approaching the same single connection interface goal.

However, the specific applications in the space aren't quite as interesting as what this may represent. It's a step away from the focus on "will this wireless connection beat that wireless connection" towards a world where the applications matter more than the wireless connection itself. When there's simply a single interface that shows the connection, it's easier to focus on what can be done with that connection -- relegating "the connection" itself to the background. Users no longer need to worry about how to connect if they're using a cellular connection instead of Wi-Fi or where to go when a connection appears to be having trouble (though, that may depend on the quality of the support software included with the interface).

One of the old jokes about the early days of the Internet was that everyone was so focused on the technology that it was as if everyone in the movie theater was just staring at the projector rather than the screen. By hiding the various connection pieces behind a single user-friendly interface, companies are starting to turn people in the wireless world around to face the screen. Now we just need the developers to create those compelling applications to be the movies.