September 24, 2010

Wi-Fi gets ready to take itself to the next level

Wi-Fi has become so key — gotta have that Internet connection, sans wires — that a majority of 18- to 29-year-olds say they spend more time (four hours-plus) using Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi devices every day than they do watching TV, according to a poll by ... The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry trade group.

There's little question about Wi-Fi's importance. It's not only used for Internet access on home or work computers, but in smart phones (to save money on data charges from cellular carriers), as well as in tablets, e-readers and DVD/Blu-ray players. The survey, done last month by Wakefield Research, polled 1,000 respondents in the United States and 400 in China, Korea, and Japan, all in the same age group.

Why the poll now? Well, the Alliance is getting ready to unveil Wi-Fi Direct in the weeks ahead. It's a new standard that will allow devices like cameras, cell phones and computers to talk to each other without needing to connect to a wireless network first.

In a story about Wi-Fi Direct last fall, the AP said: "In creating the specification, the Alliance is moving into the territory of Bluetooth, a competing wireless technology that already handles direct gadget-to-gadget connections. Bluetooth uses less power but has much shorter range and a lower transfer speed."

Research firm InStat, in a report today about Wi-Fi, said that Wi-Fi already has achieved "ubiquity, a term often used but seldom realized in technology market-speak ... The number of applications and devices where Wi-Fi is appearing keeps expanding. Not only is Wi-Fi now in nearly every smart phone sold, but in almost every handheld game, tablet, notebook computer, or laptop computer sold.

"Throw in a host of new applications including automotive, digital cameras, e-readers, Blu-ray and personal video recorders (not to mention new medical and industrial applications) and with every device, there is a Wi-Fi chipset. As a result, there is no mystery to In-Stat’s forecast that Wi-Fi chipsets will pass 1 billion units shipped annually by 2012."

Allen Nogee, InStat principal analyst, said in a report Tuesday that while "traditional products like routers, access points, and business gateways are not growing at past rates, many new markets for Wi-Fi chipsets have emerged that more than off-set these slowdowns. Cellular handsets alone will account for almost $2 billion worth of Wi-Fi chip revenue."

He noted that where notebook PCs once represented "the market for most Wi-Fi chipsets, handsets have now passed notebook PCs."

The Wi-Fi Alliance's report mentions there are now about 750,000 Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide (of course, try getting onto a crowded cafe's free Wi-Fi network), and that about 850 million Wi-Fi devices will ship this year, with more than 1 billion next year.

And just to make sure we all know how key Wi-Fi is, the Alliance said, "lest there be any question about how indispensable Wi-Fi has become, 75 percent of U.S. respondents, 64 percent of those in Korea, and 87 percent of China respondents reported they would be grumpier without Wi-Fi access for a week than (going through) a week without coffee or tea."

Source: MSN

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