Computers on the March
2/22/2003

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Future Index

Wireless Is Next for Intel
    Intel has identified wireless-networking technology as the Next Big Thing, and is incorporating wireless capabilities in its forthcoming laptops.
    "The company recently announced it would not be able to deliver its internally-designed 802.11a/b combo chip set in time for the March 12 launch of its next-generation notebook processor, the Pentium M. Instead the 802.11 chip sets will ship in the second quarter, the company said." --Humbled Intel spells out plans for comms group
 - El. Engr. Times .
Wireless Will built-Into Future Computers
    It's clear that wireless networking is going to become standard on computers, rather than optional. The question then becomes: which standard? Obviously, all other things being equal, the 22 Mb/sec. 802.11a spec would be preferred over the 11 Mb/sec. 802.11b data rate. That means that you'll probably be charged more for the 22 Mb/sec. chips even though they're probably no more expensive to manufacture. Also, that will give you an incentive to upgrade your computer a year or two from now.
802.11g: the 56 Mb/sec. Standard
    Beyond the 22 Mb/sec. data rate is another 802 standard: 802.11g, that delivers 55.8 Mb/sec. However, it's future is somewhat uncertain because other radio users are complaining that it interferes with their wireless communications.
Convergent Technologies
     The picture of "convergent technologies", in which TVs, phones, CD's and DVD's go digital, and more and more, run off the Internet as it gets faster, must be a guiding light among electronics companies. Behind this enthusiasm for wireless linkages is, I suspect, Intel's and Microsoft's plan to make our desktop PC's the hubs of our family electronics menagerie. Wireless links to TVs, audio speakers, laptops, and other desktops will allow our TVs to record TV shows on our desktop PCs, and to display Internet TV feeds on our family TV screens. PC sales are approaching saturation in the United States, and have become a low-margin commodity. In order to expand sales much beyond their present PC-replacement scale, Intl and Microsoft need to "invade" other territories, such as consumer electronics.
    Telephones still aren't generally hooked up to our computers for display, and for call management.

   Another interesting development is a four-year, $19 billion European initiative, called "PolyApply", to develop plastic circuits and displays. These might be printed on flexible plastic substrates, using a modified inkjet printer, to create lightweight, low-powered, wall-sized displays, and throwaway electronics--e. g., for supermarket checkout and inventory control.
    The market potential for inkjet printed, disposable circuitry would seem to me to be enormous.
    Lightweight, large-screen, organic LED displays are waiting for improvements in operating lifetime, and the ability to scale them to to large sizes. The first organic displays are expected to appear in cell phones next year.
Time Table
    A definitive timetable certainly isn't feasible. However, as one who rushes in where angels fear to tread, I'll suggest that the latter years of this decade might see "soft screens" making their consumer debut. Given higher Internet transmission speeds (e. g., 10 Mb./sec.), with wireless links possibly bridging the last gap in the "fiber-to-the-curb" implementation plan, I could imagine nearly-wall-sized displays within ten years. Whether those are soft screens or whether they employ some other kind of technology such as digital light valves is hard to call. Actually, today's 60"-and-up displays already anticipate this future. I would expect to see them quite a bit cheaper and more ubiquitous than today's 60"+ displays.

Speech Recognition
    This article, Speech-recognition software has writer at a loss for words
 - Seattle Times, corroborates the kind of time estimate (2010) that yesterday's "editorial" suggested for the advent of highly accurate, useful text-to-speech conversion.

Revealed: 17 British firms armed Saddam with his weapons - Google