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January 19, 2008

In the Future, Everything Electronic Must Be Wireless

Last week, Apple made rumormongers a bit excited when word of MacBook Air prematurely leaked. With silence from Apple in advance of MacWorld, excited Mac fans speculated the new laptop would not only get rid of the optical drive (which it did), but also get rid of power cables, as well as adopting WiMax, delivering pervasive high-speed wireless Internet access from any location. (Rumors like this have been out for years...)

While Apple didn't deliver on these dreams, this time, I believe we stand on the cusp - where developers find new ways to eliminate wires - delivering wireless power, wireless Internet and wireless connectivity between devices, bringing us to an unconnected, truly mobile, future. And it can't come too soon.

In our home, we have ubiquitous wireless Internet. Our Airport Extreme provides wireless access to my laptop, my wife's laptop, our Nintendo Wii, and our TiVo HD (with optional wireless network adapter). We play our Nintendo Wii with wireless controllers. And we use remote controls to interact with many of these devices.

But everything else is wired. We need cables to deliver power to each device. We need cables to deliver television content to the TV. We need cables to transmit audio and video from the DVD player to the TV, from the TiVo to the TV. From the Wii to the TV. The tangled wire jungle once seen only in corporate datacenters is now commonplace in living rooms and bedrooms everywhere, as we add more and more digital devices - and this is entirely the wrong direction.

When you see commercials touting high-definition flat-screen televisions, you always see them flush on the wall, without a wire in sight. When Apple advertises their breathtakingly designed computers, they are shown, again, without wires. Wires are ugly. Wires get tangled and are cumbersome. The companies that make these devices know that, but they aren't solving the problem.

Soon, our living room will feature our 50-inch Samsung on the wall. Our bedroom will have a 42-inch plasma TV on the wall. But where do my wires go? What kind of design is achieved when the TVs are adorned with an array of spaghetti-like strands dangling awkwardly toward the power strips and components below? I can't exactly take an axe to the wall between the two rooms and build out an electronics closet.

In my mind, not only do we need wireless Internet, and wireless power, but we also need to enable our digital devices with BlueTooth or 802.11 capable addressing, so the TiVo can talk with the DVD player, the Apple TV, the Nintendo Wii and the TV itself, without dragging cables between each machine. I shouldn't have to battle for open ports and connectors, and untangle a veritable rat's nest of wires just to enjoy the entertainment or information I've brought into my home.

The issues of wireless power and wireless device connectivity are in my mind more important than higher bandwidth speeds, higher disk drive capacities or improved video and audio resolution. I want my data and my connectivity to be pervasive. I want high-speed Web access anywhere, without wires. I want my devices to be wire-free. Now.

See also:
It's Time to Make Power Wireless and Battery-Free
The Power to Set You Free (of Power Cords)