|E-mail Wes Simonds|
Today I am bold and daring... for I wear one black sock and one white sock.
It's no coincidence. I've chosen the wardrobe to suit the day. I'll need that kind of psychological fortification, because I'm tackling something no writer tackles lightly (if it's possible to tackle things lightly).
I refer, of course, to my obligation as a columnist to present for your contemplation, and probable heckling, a few predictions for the coming year.
(In the event I am heckled enough, I intend to start a new trend -- predictions for the previous year -- which I am confident will prove more accurate.)
But let's get to it.
First, WLANs, despite the brutal security thrashing they received from the general media in 2001, will simply refuse to die.
The security issue will ultimately prove a footnote in the WLAN biography; if Microsoft and friends don't solve it in short order with 802.1x, someone else will, and conclusively.
While many have come to think of WLANs exclusively in terms of 802.11b, that's definitely about to change, however. 802.11b's served out its function admirably -- as a proof-of-concept technology.
But the real shift to WLANs as a standard, and not just an appealing subsection of corporate networks, will happen when they embrace the quality of service and the bandwidth necessary to handle next-generation services.
That said, I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb and suggest that of the three primary high-end WLAN standards in the media spotlight today -- 802.11g, 802.11a, and HiperLAN II -- the most likely to succeed in 2002 will be 802.11g, despite the fact that it will probably bring with it the least theoretical bandwidth.
Why? It's all about backwards compatibility. Like its predecessor, 802.11g lives inside the 2.4Ghz band, and while that's an omnibus that's already packed full of technological life, it's also the only one that provides a place for existing 802.11b hardware to breathe.
802.11a and HiperLAN II, by contrast, are faster, but faster is useless if you can't connect at all. And there are simply too many 802.11b cards floating around in executive laptops for WLAN hotspots (in airports, hotels, and even businesses) to limit themselves to alternative bands.
In time, admittedly, slick and sophisticated services will require greater throughput, and 802.11g will give way to bigger and better. But probably not in 2002.
What services, you ask? Consider voice over IP.
VoIP is, of all network technologies, the golden boy that has never quite lived up to its early promise -- not the Tiger Woods of networking, but the Ben Crenshaw.
However, I see that sorry situation at last beginning to change in 2002. WLAN deployment I've already discussed, but other broadband wireless technologies such as fixed wireless and free-space optics are starting to get their time in the sun as well.
After a relentlessly savage market in 2001 for fixed wireless -- such major players as Teligent and Winstar having been forced to file Chapter 11 and undergo major reorganization -- things may at last be starting to turn around.
As a result, between WLANs, free-space, and fixed-wireless, what will we find?
We may just find the wireless data infrastructure we're going to need if VoIP is ever going to emerge as a cellular replacement.
I wouldn't be surprised, in this scenario, to see dedicated devices that look like today's cell phones, but which are in fact tiny computers intended solely to take advantage of both broadband wireless and VoIP to provide limitless and essentially free long distance service anywhere you go.
This, of course, may be asking a bit much for a mere 12 months.
But frankly I dislike cell phones and am rooting as loudly as I can for their demise.
Hmmm. So far I've played it relatively safe, I suppose. Can I, before the end of the column, make it up with something really left field? I say I can. Nobody can accuse me of a conservative bent with this last prediction:
In 2002, the movie Speed III will hit the streets.
In this epic adventure, a Ginger scooter (the super hyped brainchild of inventor Dean Kamen) will be booby-trapped with a bomb set to go off if the scooter drops below six miles per hour.
Walking feverishly alongside the Ginger, Sandra Bullock must work miracles if she is to save the life of the elderly man riding it.
Scoff if you will. We'll see who's laughing a year from now.