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Wednesday
Nov122003

Thoughts on Wireless Lifestyles

My friend Lorenz Szabo sent along an interesting essay on his wireless adventures in Austria, which he wrote and posted last weekend. Lo has been influenced by several other webloggers like Jeffery Belk, Om Malik, Steve Patriquen and Phillip Torrone, who have all written about their use and experiences with both WiFi and cellular wireless networks. Lo doesn't really use WiFi at all, preferring UMTS, GPRS and Bluetooth connections for his link to the Internet, via phone and PC card to his Tungsten T and Windows laptop.

His article got me to thinking about wireless use and how each person's environment and lifestyle influences their wireless choices, which is why I believe many wireless options are better than fewer, or just a single option (like WiFi vs. GPRS).

As an example, Lo has a very mobile lifestyle and his environment changes quite a bit over the course of an average day. He might spend time in his flat, on the train to work, in the office, at the gym, at Starbucks or many other places around Vienna in his daily routine. Lo carries a mobile phone and a Tungsten T, which he connections via Bluetooth. He can also connect his laptop to the Internet via GPRS data card if he needs more 'full-featured' Net access. Lo says he wouldn't want to live without Bluetooth, GPRS or UMTS, but has no real interest in always-on broadband, as he spends very little time at his apartment and has no interest in streaming music or other high-bandwidth activities.

Meanwhile, I spend most of my day in my home office and only a small percentage of my time being mobile. Because I'm not very mobile during an average day, I have no real need for a mobile phone or Bluetooth for that matter. However, the broadband connection and the WiFi network here are very well used on a daily basis. I'm required to be online during my workday and while working I'll often listen to streamed music or might have an IRC discussion with a work colleague. Meanwhile, my wife uses a Mac Powerbook with a WiFi card to check her email and surf the web.

So, my conclusion is that your environment and lifestyle really drive your needs for wireless access. I have no need for Bluetooth or a mobile phone because my environment is generally a single location and my lifestyle is not very mobile. Lo on the other hand, has a very mobile lifestyle and spends his days in multi-environments. Others, I'm sure, have mixed needs in between these two extremes.

Therefore, I hope that Bluetooth, WiFi, GPRS and a wide mix of standard ways to access the Net remain available so we can all choose the way we want to reach the Net. I have never understood the WiFi vs. Bluetooth or WiFi vs. GPRS battles I've come across, because to my mind, those are all complimentary rather than competing technologies.

In the end, my hope is that PDAs, notebooks, PCs and other electronic items which can take advantage of wireless connections, will begin including multiple options as standard features. At least offer SDIO slots or add-on features so that these technologies can be tacked on to our devices as we see fit.

What you think about wireless access? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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