Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
It's a beautiful afternoon at SeaWorld. You're walking through one exhibit when you spot a group of penguins that look like they're about to break into a number from Happy Feet III: Mumble's Bumble, which you watched with your nephew after you wirelessly downloaded it to your portable video player last week.
You shoot some video with the high-definition camcorder pulled from your shirt pocket, press a button, and the video is soon uploaded to your favorite video sharing site. By the time you're out of the exhibit, the little scamp has sent you a video response on your internet tablet asking if you managed not to spill the popcorn this time. As you head home and turn on the wirelessly streaming music service in your car, you think to yourself that he'll get his the next time you two go head-to-head in that multiplayer shooter you love to play on your PSP2 during lunch in the park. You laugh that knowing, resolved laughter that precedes the credit roll in sitcoms.
If all goes as planned with Xohm, Sprint's WiMAX service, much of this scenario could actually become reality before future presidential candidates air their negative ads targeting the next incumbent. Sprint claims that Xohm will deliver between two and four megabits per second -- between four and five times the throughput of today's 3G networks -- at a tenth of the infrastructure cost. But what's even more extraordinary than Xohm's throughput or cost efficiency is its business model. Sprint has decided that the wireless future is in some ways bigger than any operator can -- or might want to -- completely control, and is making a $5 billion bet on the limits of convergence in the cellphone.