Why Don't We Do It in the Road Ahead?
—Part 1, Infrastructure Realignment
> Wireless networking
Second principle of infrastructure realignment: anything that's already wired, including the internet/web, will become wireless.
This shift to wireless networking was boldly and presciently popularized by Nicholas Negroponte in his 1996 tome Being Digital. "WiFi" networks based on one or another of the 802.11x protocols are becoming ubiquitous. Antennae for the 11Mb/sec 802.11b system have become near-standard equipment on new PCs, including the TabletPC (for which wireless networking is a crucial enabling factor). A few vendors offer devices with dual antennae/receivers for 802.11b and the faster (54mb/sec) 802.11a, although Apple—in typical Apple fashion—has chosen a different course (Apple's newest systems sport "802.11g" connections that are as fast as 802.11a, yet backward-compatible with 802.11b as used in Apple's original AirPort system; problem is, 802.11g is not yet finalized as a standard, nor will it be cross-compatible with 802.11a).
Wireless networks are not confined to offices (and/or home), but are emerging in urban "hot spots" such as coffee shops and airports, as well as in metro-area-wide wireless zones. In some cities it already is possible to carry a notebook PC or TabletPC from home to office to construction site while maintaining a LAN-speed WiFi connection. WiFi is even turning up in non-PC devices, such as LCD projectors that can display PowerPoint or other images from untethered devices (no more switching laptop cables during multi-speaker presentations).
For true data-roaming, especially across national borders, 3G (third-generation) and 2.5G wireless technologies ride on top of the digital mobile phone base, via hybrid phone/PDA (personal digital assistant) devices. However, anybody who's shopped for such an all-in-one gadget knows the cross-fertilization of phone and PDA hardware still needs another year or so of gestation. Similarly, the enabling Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) wireless networks are not yet sufficiently universal to seamlessly support global nomads (widely available in the rest of the world, GSM/GPRS coverage remains spotty in the USA).