Fearless Predictions for 2006
This year we're not offering cautious analysis -- "WiMax will continue to emerge blah blah blah…" -- but concrete, real-time predictions for 2006. Take 'em to the bank. And check this space in 12 months to see how we did.
1) At least one major American city will report an outage due to a security breach: Security concerns about wireless will move into the spotlight next year as new metropolitan mesh technology and WiMax networks start to roll out. In the office, enterprise network managers have become quite savvy about securing 802.11, and the means to do so have evolved with them -- down on the street it’s a whole new world. That's why war-drivers of every persuasion are salivating, ready to map and plug into the new municipal networks as they light up.
Indeed, if citywide broadband wireless networks take off, a form of “cyber-mugging” could emerge. Many new WiFi users are unaware that when surfing on the fancy new networks their computer data is pretty much in plain sight. And monitoring a citywide network for rogue access points and general trickery, as an administrator would on a corporate network, seems an impossible task.
2) Crosstown traffic will really suck: 2006 could the year when interference and network congestion really starts to bite, in Bluetooth, WiFi, and WiMax networks running on the public, unlicensed 2.4GHz band. Such congestion is already a recurring problem at most IT tradeshows. With every new laptop, many PDAs, and even phones delivered with 802.11 as standard, as well as the first WiMax networks coming online, interference and congestion will increasingly dog mobile users.
3)The Oscars will add an award for "Best Film for under two-inch screens": Striving to create new movies that handheld users can watch anywhere, anytime, Samsung has funded Ubiquitous Films, to help support "the production of cell-phone oriented films." At Anyfilms.net Samsung carriers can download interactive movies with multiple possible endings, for the really small screen.
4) WiMax will go the way of the Kyoto Accords: Spectrum availability, equipment cost, security fears, and worries about compatibility with future mobile WiMax equipment will conspire to make fixed-WiMax a lame duck in the U.S., except in very specific niche applications. This will give Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) a window to push its alternative vision of Flarion Technologies Inc. broadband wireless stateside, and likely speed up the introduction of mobile WiMax productions based on 802.16e.
5) Bill Gates will fund a WiMax network for the entire continent of Africa: Not content with curing river blindness and malaria, and aghast that his Treo doesn't work in downtown Addis Ababa, Time's co-person of the year lights up the Dark Continent.
6) Client management will get more complicated: One of the side effects of the explosion in new wireless devices and services coming in 2006 is going to be a thumping new headache for the poor IT manager, and vendors will need to develop new ways of tracking and monitoring what’s on the corporate network. A single enterprise could now have different types of wireless services at the workplace: an office 802.11 network, a outdoor campus mesh network, 3G cellular service, and a WiMax or other broadband wireless feed. And the IT guy could be looking at managing corporate devices and monitoring guest access on gizmos that can jump instantaneously between those networks.
7) T-Mobile US Inc. will go on sale: Finding it more and more difficult to compete against cellular megaliths Cingular Wireless , Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), and Verizon Wireless , the North American mobile arm of German parent Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) will become expendable. The obvious buyer would be Cingular, which could use T-Mobile’s infrastructure to supplement its own 3G GSM-based network. But this kind of cellular oligarchy could attract the attention of regulators.
8) RIM will settle, but lawsuits will proliferate: The confused state of intellectual property law in this country, plus the hundreds of new patents awarded in the last decade -- around not only mobile email but also many forms of wireless technology -- will keep high-priced law firms on the clock throughout the coming year. Blackberry-maker BlackBerry , unable to hold out until the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gets off its butt and invalidates the patents held by RIM antagonist NTP, will settle for a sum in the high nine digits. And no, your precious Blackberry service will not go down.
9) Juniper will buy an enterprise WLAN startup: This is the logical next step in Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR)'s expanding enterprise strategy, following the acquisitions of companies like Funk and Peribit. Security-focused startup Aruba Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ARUN) seems like the logical choice, on paper at least, since it has worked closely with Funk developing and integrating software in the past, but Juniper also has partnerships with WLAN startups Colubris Networks Inc. and Meru Networks Inc.
10) Steve Jobs will read your mind: Building on neural implant technology being used to allow quadriplegics to mentally control a cursor, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) will release the iPod Anticipation: a Bluetooth headset that monitors your brainwaves via an easily implanted, permanent neural chip on the cerebral cortex, in order to decide which song to play next on your iPod. Mood-Pods, which change color in response to your desires and the type of music currently playing, optional.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, and Richard Martin, Senior Editor,Unstrung