Did you ever watch any of those old, black-and-white science-fiction movies? They were so forward thinking in their depiction of technology. A spaceship crew, for instance, was often shown talking via handheld devices that were part of complex communications systems. Yet the moviemakers' imaginations only went so far, as the films always showed wired devices. As we begin 2005, the situation is the opposite: It's becoming harder to imagine a world that's not wireless.
Over the past few years, wireless has gained a foothold in many aspects of users' everyday lives. What does that mean for applications in the near future? Christian Kermarrec, Analog Devices' (www.analog.com) Vice President of RF and Wireless Systems, summarizes: "The handset will shift from 'phone' to 'multimedia device' in the eyes of the consumer. The availability of new data-centric handsets will increase, causing content to move beyond voice to music, high-definition images and video, digital TV, and more."
Ed Healy, Vice President of Silicon Laboratories' (www.silabs.com) Wireless Products, emphasizes that killer applications in the handset also will include AM/FM/satellite radio and video capability. Steinar Svalesen, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Mobile Media North America (www.telenor-interactive.com), points to the rise of DVB-H technology. With this technology, Svalesen says that it is possible to bring TV-like services to mobile devices. People could then watch what they want—whenever and wherever they wanted to watch it.
On the topic of "what" people want to watch, I came across an unexpected topic as I surveyed industry experts about what's coming down the pike. Quite a few people pointed to the certain rise of adult entertainment. With the extra data rates that 3G will afford, UbiNetics (www.ubinetics.com) CEO Bjorn Krylander says that applications like interactive betting and adult content are certain to be profitable. inCode Wireless (www.incodewireless.com) also points to adult entertainment as a potential revenue source. Under the term "adult entertainment," inCode bundles gambling, games, and pornography. For the short term, inCode's prediction is that adult entertainment will stay mainly in Europe. Before they can offer it, manufacturers and carriers must devise a way to block adult content to underage subscribers.
Adult entertainment isn't the only area of services that will require special treatment. The industry also must gear up for the fight against handset spam. inCode predicts that the industry will begin this battle in the near future. Although it will do what it can to protect users, the industry probably won't be able to stop mobile marketing. Eventually, major brands will most likely begin permission-based mobile marketing to handsets.
For designers, the rise of such multimedia applications translates into a drive for better power consumption, memory management, higher integration, and an increasing reliance on software. As consumers invest in new handsets so that they can subscribe to such services, we can all look forward to lucrative and busy times. Yet we'll certainly look back on these early days of wireless as simple and uncomplicated. Someday, we'll talk about the "good old days" of wireless—when many devices in the home and outside it were still wired and no one was worried about racy wireless services and spam. Feel free to send me feedback at [email protected].