Best in Show

5:45 PM -- I was honored to be a Judge in the “best of WiMax World” awards competition this year, and I’m pleased to say that my choice won in my category (software and peripherals). This is the MAX-100 mobile WiMax PC Card from ZyXEL Communications Corp. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to actually use this product -- we have to vote based on submissions from marketing and PR folks -- but ZyXEL has a great reputation and I am looking forward to putting this card through its paces.

I must confess that I was a little frustrated having to vote based on specs and marketing materials. That’s why I was really looking forward to the show, so I could actually put my hands on all this stuff -- and especially stuff that wasn’t part of the competition.

It turns out that, in my opinion, the coolest product at the show wasn’t part of the “Best of” exercise. To cut to the chase -- as I am repeatedly instructed to do in these blog entries, for all the good it does – it’s the Picochip Reference Design for Femtocells and Home Access Points. (I’m sure their marketing department will be back from holiday real soon with a catchier name.)

This is essentially a single-board computer based on the picoChip PC202 DSP (up to 240 billion instructions per second!) implementing the PHY (yes, this is a software-defined radio, or SDR), an ARM9 to implement the MAC, and -- well, you guessed it, one could implement almost any radio technology with this approach. Assuming a cost of goods of about $100, we could see multi-technology -- multiple radios operating at the same time -- home base stations or WiMax or other microcells along the lines of today’s WiFi mesh nodes. I’m more excited about SDR than ever, and picoChip is to be congratulated for an amazing design -- truly, best in show.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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