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So, why isn't it wireless?


By Scott Bradner


Broadcom has somehow managed to trademark the official designation of the President's airplane and stuck it onto a temporally revolutionary product.  I expect that their new single chip 802.11b (WiFi) solution, which they call "AirForce One," will soon be joined by similar products from other vendors, but Broadcom seems to have a head start on what could be a transformation of the consumer electronics world.  All too soon the question will be "So, why isn't it wireless?"


Broadcom claims that its chip uses 87% less board space and consumes 97% less power (at least in standby mode) than the current multi-chip solutions on the market.  I would expect that successive generations and products from other chip vendors will be still smaller and consume even less power. 


In a sad example of the modern legal system, Broadcom's press release ( was only half about the chip and its wonders, 10% about the company and a webcast Broadcom was holding about it, and 40% was disclaimers telling Wall Street not to assume that Broadcom will suddenly become General Motors with the release of this chip.


What type of electronics will be immune from being WiFied? Certainly not cameras, music players (next gen iPod maybe), cell phones that switch over to VoIP when in the house, office or Starbucks, set top boxes, hand held game players, headphones, computer peripherals (printers, scanners etc), weather sensors, Christmas tree light timers, lawn sprinklers, toy cars & boats, etc.  And then there are all the household appliances including dish washers, clothes washers and dryers, refrigerators, thermostats, burglar alarm sensors and air conditioners -- won't it just be wonderful to have a window pop up on your X-Box to tell you when the dishes are done?  What does that leave?  Not much!  (I was going to say articles of clothing but then I realized that Nike will likely 'just do it'.)


There will be some interesting security and management challenges to be overcome, but that will not slow the proliferation -- too few vendors and far too few consumers think that security is all that important. (I donŐt want to think about someone hacking into those already-far-too-fancy Japanese toilets.)


Combine this trend with the coming surge in radio frequency ID tags from WallMart et al, and school childrenwill not have to learn how to spell "privacy" any more.


Combine this trend with the current surge in WiFi hot spots (free and otherwise) and the cell phone carriers may have some fun times coming.  Why pay Verizon by the minute to talk when you can pay Starbucks by the hour, or talk for free in tens of thousands of places around the world. 


 Combine this trend with the legal establishment and you will get a surge in lawsuits claiming that Broadcom is contributing to Americans not getting enough exercise by facilitating  remote control to such an extent that kids never have to leave their PlayStations (except for enabling adequate input and output operations).


disclaimer:  Maybe Harvard Law School could get some alumni donations from those lawyers but I did not ask the Law School, or anyone else at Harvard, about this topic.