Hyperconnectivity here we come

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

I think I know why. The Viewty is essentially a high-quality digital camera and digital camcorder with a mobile broadband connection. As an overall consumer electronics device, the iPhone blows it away. But the Viewty has a much better camera than the iPhone, and a much faster Internet connection -- based on HSDPA. That's what people want: a high-quality camera with a fast Internet connection.

GPS

The winning model for future GPS devices will be all about mobile broadband. The first major mobile broadband connectable GPS device, the TomTom GO 715, was unveiled last year at CeBIT. GPS gadgets should be constantly downloading map and database updates, weather information and traffic conditions. That's what people want: A GPS device that knows what's going on with the road ahead and is always up to date.

E-book readers

The Kindle killed the market for unconnected e-book readers. It's a foregone conclusion that Sony Corp. and the other companies in this space will connect or die. The instant gratification of buying books directly from anywhere is great. Getting your daily newspaper and weekly magazines wirelessly is even better. Steve Jobs is wrong: People do read.

That's what people want: The Library of Congress in our hands.

Mobile game gadgets

Wherever consoles go, mobile gaming follows. Right now, the category is being transformed by online games. Mobile gaming gadgets will get mobile broadband access, and a new genre of game will emerge.

That's what people want: Multiplayer Halo in our pockets.

Cars

The original mobile device, the automobile, is overdue for an upgrade as well. There's no reason why every car shouldn't have a built-in mobile broadband connection used by in-dash gadgets and the car itself. An in-dash display should show incoming calendar alerts, instant messages and Caller ID information for people who call your phone. The stereo system should get iTunes music. The built-in GPS should use this connection as well. Chrysler announced just this week that it's developing a system for built-in WiMax to be shared by various in-dash gadgets.

That's what people want: Connected cars.

Why mobile broadband is better than Wi-Fi

The recent CES show introduced a smattering of devices that stand out from their competitors because they can connect to the Internet. In fact, a product called Eye-Fi, which connects ordinary digital cameras to Wi-Fi networks, won the show's "Last Gadget Standing" contest.

The first consumer Wi-Fi digital camera was introduced at CES three years ago (the Kodak EasyShare-One). Since then, a few more have come out, as have other device types, such as the iPod Touch media player, that used to be unconnected.

While Wi-Fi connectivity is great for laptops and better than nothing for consumer electronics, it's not that much better. A typical USB cable that connects your digital camera, GPS device or other gadgets to an Internet-connected PC might be about 4 feet long. A Wi-Fi connection will realistically extend that reach by about 40 times. It's a longer leash, but it's still a leash.

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Mike Elgan

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