Every Wednesday Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, an
opinion column about consumer technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
The early marketplace victory that WiFi scored against a rival standard called HomeRF started a wave of great marketplace momentum that allowed the wireless networking standard to sideline Bluetooth and set a high bar for 3G access speeds to match. The excitement around WiFi even created a short-lived hotspot investment bubble two years ago. While hotspots failed to bring in concrete profits, though, WiFi had remained a largely unchallenged wireless access technology in the home.
However, the rollout of EV-DO by Verizon Wireless in late 2004 began the first credible alternative to hotspot access. Its success prompted Sprint and Cingular to roll out high-speed data networks as well, even as revenue prospects beyond notebook access remain murky. WiMax will emerge as another potential competitor for WiFi, particularly for campus use as the mobile version of that standard starts appearing in products. That WiFi would see strong competition as an access technology outside the home was not surprising. However, at CES a new wave of wireless and wired technologies is taking their shot at the standard in the home.
Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology has been discussed for several years, often in the context of its rival technology factions. However, at CES, Staccato Communications showed off its chips for Wireless USB. Created to leverage ultra wideband technology, Wireless USB will essentially bring nearly all the benefits and limitations of USB to wireless technology. High-speed devices such as webcams and digital media receivers will be able to be set up without an intimate knowledge of networks.