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Next big thing? Wireless, of course

A reader writes that to get an idea of the next techno whirlwind, we need only reevaluate the social effect of change involving consumer products.


Next big thing? Wireless, of course

In response to the Oct. 19 column by Charles Cooper, "Still waiting for the next big thing?:"

We don't yet see the next big thing because it is coming from new developments in wireless technology such as 802.11a and/or Ultrawideband (UWB). History shows an ineluctable trend toward distributed self-organization, which, under the relentless hammer of the second law of thermodynamics, results in innovation and greater complexity. To get an idea of the next techno whirlwind, we need only reevaluate the social effect of change involving consumer products, including PCs, and the Internet:

1. PC innovation brought computing power to the masses; that is, it distributed computing capability.

2. The Internet brought the early prospect of worldwide commerce to the masses, contrary to the Internet bubblers who imagined vast monopolistic benefits accruing to all "first movers."

3. In the post-dot-com reality, we see brick-and-mortar companies extending their commercial influence using the same Internet that was supposed to have rendered them obsolete; both individuals and companies form enduring connections because doing so reliably reduces exposure in times of deteriorating economic activity.

4. Fragmented industries, standards and communication modes tend to coalesce into a few types (automobile manufacturers, airlines, hamburger stands and, ahead, wireless communications standards and modes and, ultimately, computer systems changing to wirelessly connected, distributed systems).

5. The Internet offered commerce and communication without regard for normal space-time limitations. The post-dot-com reality is that consumers act locally when possible: We are overwhelmingly location dependent.

6. Wireless modes like the above serve to put location back into consumers' propositions: OFDM (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing) and UWB offer location-based connections between people, stores and consumers.

7. Retail stores and malls will subsidize location-based connections (WLANs and PDAs) because doing so will increase profits: Stores, malls and urban districts will become the new "platforms" for social interactivity.

8. Whoever "owns" that technology will have immediate access to the trillion-dollar home network-and-systems markets: the real prize.

Dennis Hollenberg
Ventura, Calif.