Innovations in wireless networking technologies, notebook batteries and mobile processor architectures are combining to make the dream of anytime, anyplace wireless computing a reality for small businesses.
That is the word from David Drummond, country manager at Acer South Africa. He says that the growing maturity of standards such as WiMax, WiFi and ultra-wideband (UWB) radio are ushering in a world of seamless wireless communication.
David Drummond, country manager at Acer South Africa
Says Drummond: "Wireless and mobile work is already a compelling reality for many users. Improvements in battery life and the proliferation of wireless networks (including cellular connectivity, WiFi hotspots and broadband wireless) have already enabled many small South African businesses to boost their productivity by going mobile.
"However, new standards and technologies under development will help users to finally cut the last wires that hold them back. Not only will they be able to work for a full day without charging their notebook batteries, they will be able to seamlessly roam between various wireless and fixed line networks as their needs dictate."
Most notebooks now ship with WiFi connectivity as a standard, while products with integrated HSUPA, 3G and WiMax connectivity can also be expected to ship within the next year. At the same time, South African service providers can be expected to rollout broadband networks based on WiMax over the next two years.
WiMax could essentially turn entire metropolitan areas into giant ‘hotspots’ where users can easily access the Internet at nearly any location.
"WiMax is a last-mile connectivity technology that can easily be used to blanket cities with high-speed wireless Internet connectivity. It promises to do for the metropolitan area network what 802.11 did for the local area network," says Drummond.
At the level of the personal area network and short-range network, UWB is emerging as a standard of choice. UWB allows for short-range transmission of bandwidth-intensive data such as audio and video at very high rates. Many observers see it as a possible successor to Bluetooth, and a potential replacement for the USB cable.
For example, UWB could be used to connect several laptops to a single projector to handle video or slide presentations in the work environment, or simply to connect a notebook to peripherals like printers without any cabling. The first products to be manufactured under the UWB-based Wireless USB standard are currently undergoing certification.
Hardware vendors are working on issues such as power consumption and processor performance to build notebooks that are capable of running the latest high-end multimedia applications while offering enough battery power for users to be productive away from a power point for many hours.
Says Drummond: "Along with advances in wireless networking, the industry is also seeing continued innovation in areas such as processors and batteries designed for mobile notebooks. The latest Intel and AMD processor architectures offer price/performance for notebooks that compares favourably with desktops, yet are designed for low power consumption and are compact, light form factors."
In future, Drummond says that vendors might take advantage of the fact that Windows Vista can be booted from flash memory to build ultra-portable notebooks that use flash storage rather than hard drives. These light notebooks will offer better battery life than traditional notebooks with hard drive storage.
Some notebooks in the market already offer battery life of four hours or more, but vendors are working towards products that offer more than eight hours of battery life. Many are looking towards fuel cell technology as a solution. Fuel cells are expected to offer between five and 10 times as much power per unit of weight as lithium-ion batteries. The first prototype fuel-cell notebooks and handheld computers have already been built and commercial models should reach the market in the next two years.