Why Can't We All Get Along?
By Mike Masnick, Fri Jun 11 20:00:00 GMT 2004

There certainly are a lot of wireless standards out there, but do they need to join up and play nice?


The press always loves "this vs. that" wireless technology battles. It's difficult to go more than a week or so without seeing yet another article about how Wi-Fi will beat 3G, or how WiMAX will beat Wi-Fi, or how UWB will beat Bluetooth, and so forth. Most of these articles aren't particularly useful and mostly get published for the attention getting headline. In most cases, the technologies are not directly competitive -- or, if they are, one is current and one is a technology that doesn't exist yet.

However, it looks like Reuters is going in the other direction, and is telling us that it's about time a bunch of short range wireless technologies all started to get along. They list ZigBee, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, UWB and NFC as five different wireless standards that will need to combine to make life easier. Of course ZigBee is just getting ready to hit the market, UWB is facing some internal scuffling, and NFC (which was only announced recently) is still getting their plans together. It's not clear why they chose just those five technologies. Poor, neglected HomeRF didn't make the cut, apparently.

Oddly, the article never really justifies the headline or the first paragraph that says those five technologies need to "combine." Instead, it focuses on a speech given by Philips exec Paul Marino, who is upset that too many companies in the industry seem to be creating new wireless standards, rather than making the old ones work. His focus is more on fixing known problems within the standards and stopping pointless internal standards battles.

Internal conflict and standards that never quite work right are certainly a problem for the industry as a whole. They lead to industry hype, consumer confusion and eventual backlash. However, competition has its benefits. It gives us more options and lets consumers make up their own mind, rather than being told what system they must adopt. This flexibility is what pushes innovation forward. That's what the Reuters piece is missing. Marino wasn't saying all of these technologies need to join together and sing happy songs around the campfire. Instead, he's saying that the industry needs to fix its problems and not go off on pointless tangents. It might help to keep the press out of these discussions, because they're quite good at dragging the conversation off on tangents. In fact, these five wireless technologies aren't the only ones the press thinks should be combined. While the press focuses on which wireless technologies are beating each other up, or which ones should kiss and make up, the industry should focus on getting things right.