Hyperconnectivity here we come

All your gadgets want Internet access, but will carriers screw up the pricing?

Apple CEO Steve Jobs told an interviewer at Macworld this week that Amazon.com's Kindle e-book reader will fail. His shocking reason?: "People don't read anymore."

That's a harsh thing to say to a journalist who writes for a living, but it's just Jobs' way of being polite -- to Amazon. If he wanted to be rude, Jobs would have commented on the quality of the Kindle as a consumer electronics gadget. He would have said that the UI is unusable, the arrangement and functionality of hardware buttons disastrous, and the design philosophy incomprehensible. Instead, he decided to be nice and tells the world's largest bookseller that the Kindle will fail because "people don't read."

Apple's designers are probably pointing and laughing at Amazon's first pathetic attempt at consumer electronics design. But there's one aspect of the Kindle that I'm sure Jobs knows is visionary and prescient: its Internet access.

Amazon's wireless beats Apple's in two ways. First, Amazon chose mobile broadband -- specifically Sprint Nextel Corp.'s 3G EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized) network -- rather than Wi-Fi. Second, Amazon's pricing model is perfect from an end user's point of view: It's fast, free, unlimited and perpetual. Apple's iPhone offers mobile broadband, but it's slower and far more expensive than the Kindle, plus Wi-Fi. The iPod Touch features just Wi-Fi.

I predict that the iPod Touch will get mobile broadband also within the next two years, as will other media players, digital cameras, GPS devices and other consumer electronics toys.

The falling cost of providing both the hardware and the bandwidth for mobile broadband will drive this trend, as will consumer demand and the need for consumer electronics companies to differentiate themselves.

When all our gadgets can connect to the Internet from just about anywhere, we'll enter a sublime state of grace known as "hyperconnectivity."

The addition of mobile broadband to gadgets gives us the convenience of bypassing our PCs and going straight to the Net for data and content. It gives us instant gratification and extends both the usefulness and pleasure of using the devices. Here are just some of the device types that will soon get connected:

Media players

Like the Kindle, media players enable the enjoyment of content purchased online. South Korea's Cowon unveiled its HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access)-connected Q5 media player at last year's Consumer Electronics Show.

When Apple and the other media player companies catch up, they'll make more money by enabling people to buy more content in more places. With mobile broadband, teenagers will be able to buy music while they're at school or the mall, and won't have to wait until they're back home. This trend will accelerate YouTube video sharing. That's what people want: iPod Touch gadgets that connect from anywhere.

Digital cameras and camcorders

Camera phones are popular because people love taking pictures, then sharing them instantly. The only problem with camera phones is the low quality of the pictures.

Samsung introduced its awesome HSDPA-connected VLUU i70 digital camera at last year's CES. Meanwhile, the LG Viewty is one of the hottest camera phones ever sold in Europe (it's not available in the U.S., but in Europe it outsells the iPhone).

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Mike Elgan

Computerworld
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