Look Ma, No Wires: Browsing at the Speed of Sound

Imagine opening your laptop or your hand-held anywhere you happen to be and instantly showing five full bars of muscular Wi-Fi service? Nirvana.

There would be no need to find a Starbucks, or a McDonalds, or any other place with a Wi-Fi hotspot. You’d be in a Wi-Fi hot-zone.

Current Wi-Fi technology is designed for very short-range use such as in your home, office or at the local coffee shop. Signals at the lower-end of the “white space” spectrum, or 700 megahertz, can travel long distances, muscle their way through walls and create a much larger Wi-Fi-type hot spot. It’s like bringing Wi-Fi over an entire community or city. You can skip the expensive cabling and go wireless.

A proposed Order implementing open access to the vacant TV channels in every media market nationwide will be voted on at the Federal Communication Commission’s September 23 Open Meeting. It will address the next step in its plans for unlicensed use of the TV whitespace (the portions of the TV band that are not used in a particular location to carry TV signals). It has been called ‘wi-fi on steroids’.

The regulatory move, generally supported by all five commissioners, could help alleviate pressure on mobile networks that have frustrated some smartphone users who deal with dropped calls and slow Web connections. Think AT & T in NYC.

Ironically, it was the switch from analog to digital signals by television that freed up the extra “white space.”

“TV white spaces“– the radio spectrum vacated when analog television broadcasting ceased last year operates at lower frequencies and higher power than Wi-Fi, so the signals reach much wider areas than your typical wireless Internet router.
  New devices would be capable of transmitting the Wi-Fi signal over a potential range of several miles, rather than just hundreds of feet, would not be interrupted by walls and other obstructions, and would be as fast as today’s broadband and DSL connections.

Some benefits will provide dynamic management of the air interface, adaptations for vehicular use, computing mesh operation, inter-working with cellular systems, and peer-to-peer link establishment.

Calling the communications technology “super WiFi,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that private carriers are increasingly relying on WiFi hot spots in urban areas to pick up data traffic where their own networks are overburdened.

Genachowski’s proposal would reserve two television channels in each local market for wireless microphones. This is not sitting well with some high-tech companies that argue that priority for wireless microphones subtracts from precious airwaves that could be used for a new wave of mobile broadband devices and uses.

And the new the move faces some opposition from broadcasters, Broadway performers and ministers. Huh? What did you say?? Those critics, who have filed suit against the FCC to prevent the release of white spaces, say users of that spectrum could interfere with television channels and would throw off wireless microphones that operate on those frequencies. News and sports broadcasters, church ministers and singer Dolly Parton have argued to the FCC that they need some spectrum reserved for their wireless microphones. (Dolly, say it ain’t so?)

Operators are likely to experiment with different pricing models as they try to better manage the use of their networks. And some are doing that already with AT&T — often criticized for struggling to keep up with the demands of iPhone users — were one of the first to do away with an unlimited data plan.

“Bandwidth as an end-user service is hard to sell; it’s hard to monetize,” said Wim Sweldens, president of Alcatel-Lucent‘s wireless division. “If you go to a person and say, ‘I’ll sell you a megabyte of mobile bandwidth, how much are you willing to pay?’ nobody can answer that.”

Instead, if users are asked to buy a book or game or sporting experience on their mobile phone or an app for the iPhone or android, they understand the value, he said.

Google, Microsoft and Dell have long lobbied to use white spaces. They want to use the waves to connect entire universities to the Web with wireless links that use fewer bay stations.  And my hunch is that Google would love to have use of this for when they release the Chrome OS licensed to many builders of a portable tablet, due up shortly to compete with the iPad.

Dell envisions that white spaces will spawn innovations for the home. Consumers could rely on refrigerators that automatically signal the home tablet computer when food is running low, and place an order with the neighborhood grocery. Microsoft hopes to connect more of its devices to information stored on its clusters of data centers – known as cloud computing – to allow access from anywhere to applications such as its Office suite of software.

Currently,  we have over 1 billion WiFi chips in every laptop in circulation, chipmakers need to develop chips that are compatible with the spectrum qualities. Then, device makers have to update their iPhones and Kindles to allow users to switch to white-space networks.

I simply want faster wireless speeds anywhere I go. I am tired of being ‘tethered’ to a broadband cable. I say, let it happen.

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Is Pandora’s Box About to be Opened? TV of The Present and Near Future – 4 Possible Scenarios

1.  Slingbox + iPad or gPad (this is the quickest way to get your TV experience at home with ALL your channels – a ‘bridge’ solution at best as it omits the web

2.  gPad or PC Tablets running android (and Googles upcoming OS, Chrome) with a receiver chip built in for wireless broadcasts (including youtube for movies , via PPV) – this can be any number of announced tablets ( Dell, etc.)

3. AppleTV + iPads with special chips + iTunes for movies and TV shows (this assumes an updated iPad version).

4.  3rd party hardware/software boxes: Logitechs Revue box (coming soon), Roku (here now), Boxee Box (coming soon), and others require you to connect these to your TV (and whatever else is there, like a DVR, cable TV box, etc). The average person will have some reluctance to doing this. And that’s most of us. They don’t call TV BROADcast for nothing – its for the masses, not just the technophiles.

All of the above solutions or alternatives will give you ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox + movies on an on-demand basis. Some will let you access Netflix or Hulu if you have an account and subscribe (read: an additional cost).

WHAT’S MISSING: your very own DVR Cloud for shows you watch and want to keep which you have purchased.

Despite Steve Jobs stating that consumers “don’t want a computer on their TV,” consumers DO want TV on their computers or more specifically on their mobile and wireless connected devices (iPads,  tablets, etc.) and especially on the go.  Business customers, more than consumers, especially need any of their purchases to do double-duty to make fiscal sense.

Some GPad TV reasons to exist:

Google has released an informational guide for would-be developers to create more applications specifically for Google TV. While many apps will probably be useless or purely for entertainment, there will likely be some useful programs for business consumers in the near future.

Some things worth noting are Google’s forthcoming Chrome OS: Android will be picking up Street View services in Google Maps, as well as voice-powered search so users can speak search queries rather than typing them into a keyboard or using a mouse.

Google TV will be built right in to new TVs from Sony, available on separate set-top boxes from Logitech (Revue), and those are just launch partners, with many more to come. Google has announced plans to roll out Google TV in the United States this fall, with a worldwide launch following in 2011. Google TV aims to fuse traditional television programming with Internet browsing and interactive capabilities.

Google TV will run on Intel’s Atom processor – the same chip powering virtually every netbook on the market. This enables it the additional horsepower to pump up full 1080p video, rather than 720p as the Apple TV maxes out at, it should leave room for additional upgrades, and maybe even the possibility of hacking the software to run other desktop apps (umm, now we shall see ‘jailbreaking your Google TV or gPads, I can virtually guarantee that one).

Google, meanwhile, has said nothing of opening a store for content. Every source will either come for free through the Web, from a cable box, or third-party providers. This might make the selection of popular shows smaller out of the box, but providers like Amazon on Demand, Vudu and Hulu Plus will line up to jump aboard Google TV, and it means that Google TV will be providing more content than what Apple alone can deliver- although it doesn’t mean that those same providers won’t want into the iTunes storefront as well.

To Googles point and possible advantage, Movies and TV isn’t everything.  Sometimes, you want to see photos from Picasa. Sometimes, you want to give directions to a friend using Google Maps. Maybe you want to want to read your favorite site without squinting on a mobile device or watch a YouTube video.  Google TV will integrate a browser based on Chrome to do all the above.

Google claims that existing Android apps should eventually be able to run on Google TV, as long as they don’t use smartphone-only features. Meaning it will be damn difficult to tilt your TV to play skillball or bowling using an app.

Dell is releasing later this year a Dell ‘Looking Glass tablet’. With larger screen Android phones and tablets coming to market in the second half of the year it only makes sense that content services will be supplying the increasing demand to watch content on these new screens and devices.

The Looking Glass is actually the big brother of the Dell Streak 5 and it comes with a 7 inch WVGA display. The tablet will run Android 2.1 on a 1 GHz nVidia T20 processor. The nVidia Tegra 2 is impressive because it is based on an ARM Cortex-A9 multicore processor design. Other spec highlights include 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera, 512 MB ROM and 512 MB RAM, and 802.11n WiFi. Optional accessories for the Looking Glass include a 3G modem (mini card type) and a digital TV module. Expect the Looking Glass to launch in Q4 2010 on AT&T. Early renders for the device show U-Verse integration, which is AT&T’s fiber optic network.

Apple TV Reasons:

Apple recently redesigned the Apple TV to run on the same A4 processor powering the iPhone and iPad. Essentially, it’s a smartphone, without a screen, in a box.

Apple TV conveniently puts its storefront for iTunes in the middle of your living room, allowing you to buy Apple content from Apple. And hey, you can watch Netflix this year, too, YouTube and Flickr.  Apple has proven to make this closed shopping experience feel cozy and convenient as in the past it has done with all of its devices and media offerings. Being a proven solution is a BIG advantage here.  And Apple is so far the only ones that can say this.

Apple has got it down and has sold millions of iPhones, iTouch’s, iPads and other connected devices AND content for years now. This is not an easy trick – as it not only requires the hardware to be stupidly simple and easy to use for the masses, but its software must be self-healing and not require the ‘patches’ and the many problems we have all had with things like syncing your Outlook to a Palm or Crackberry and maintaining ALL of your information. How many of us have had problems doing this because we were running one of the many Microsoft operating system versions or incompatible updates for our MS Outlook or office.

Apple is also easing restrictions on the use of third-party development tools to create iOS app—a move that might clear the way for developers to create apps for the iPhone using Adobe Flash CS5. (Note this is not the same as letting Flash run on the iPhone.)

When Apple debuted iOS4 back in April (then called iPhone OS 4), it unveiled restrictive terms in its developer program license that prohibited developers from using third-party application development tools or middleware to create iOS applications. In an open letter later that month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said Apple did not want the iOS platform to be “at the mercy” of third party development tools. Apple has not changed those provisions to permit the use of third-party development tools, so long as the applications do not download code to iOS devices. “This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need,” Apple wrote.

Slingbox Reasons:

For the uninitiated, Slingbox is a “places shifting device.” Connect it to a video source (cable or satellite box, DVR, TV antenna, and so forth), and the Slingbox digitizes the video output for access on a wide variety of PCs and smartphones and iPhones–essentially allowing access to your home TV anywhere you can access the Internet. People prefer the benefit of mobility and they will accept just about anything – even frequently dropped calls – for the ability to have a media session (voice call, video chat, whatever) while they are wherever they are.

If you can watch whatever is on your home DVR, TV or better yet live HDTV on your iPad, wherever you are, then the broadcasting companies have lost total control of advertising as it relates to geography. This is an interesting notion (Nielsen please take note).  This has huge implications. One example is sports blackouts. Often local TV stations will not carry a local team game to force local people to go to the game to see it, or a particular company owns the rights to the broadcasting and will not allow it to be shown in that area. The entire concept of locality is gone.

There are buckets of content that come through cable still unavailable from the Web. Google TV and third party hardware/software boxes connecting to cable boxes and other hardware can and does cause setup nightmares that negate all of its potential capabilities and benefits. After all – a home theater PC can already do pretty much everything Google TV will – but how many people do you know with computers under their TV sets?

All in all, its going to get very interesting in the very near future. For now, I’ll take my simple basic cable set-up, throw a slingbox in my house, download the iPhone app on my iPhone or iPad and I’m good to go anywhere. Keep it simple.



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Steve Jobs said “They want Hollywood movies and TV shows whenever they want them,” went his description of consumers’ wants. “They don’t want amateur hour.”

DVD
Image via Wikipedia

I couldn’t agree more. Asking consumers to put out ANY cash for ‘clips’ on youtube and the like is indeed amateur hour. Not that we don’t want to watch an occasional youtube clip ( I have a laptop for that), but not while we can see ‘The Expendables’ streamed to my flat screen TV day and date with DVD. Goodbye plastic DVD via Apple TV.

Doesn’t this smell like the the death of the DVD – reminiscent of the music CD ?  It does to me.

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