RealTime IT News

Mobile Fans Converge on 'One Unwired Day'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Reminiscent of the Hippie movement of the late 60s, several mass gatherings scheduled for Thursday will celebrate wireless Internet access -- commonly referred to as Wi-Fi .

Spearheaded by Intel , "One Unwired Day" is designed to get the word out that wireless had arrived. The festivals are being held at South Street Seaport in New York City, the North Riverside Plaza in Chicago and Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco as well as an event in Seattle. All will feature live concerts, product demonstrations, and prizes.

"Road warriors were the first consumers to make cell phones part of their daily business lives more than 10 years ago, and Wi-Fi is following a similar life cycle," said Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney. "Right now, we see business travelers and technology buffs using Wi-Fi, but the technology is spreading to general consumers even faster than it did with cell phones."

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip making giant said a large portion of its multi-million dollar wireless advertising blitz is being spent on providing free Wi-Fi Internet access as at many hotspots as will participate. Intel has lined up a host of providers and partners to encourage attendees to try Wi-Fi services free of charge and provide opportunities to try notebook PCs based on Intel Centrino mobile technology.

Sponsors include Intel's ISP investment Cometa Networks, IBM, MUSICMATCH, Panasonic Computer Solutions, PC Club, SurfHere Service by Toshiba, T-Mobile USA, Toshiba and Verizon. Wireless ISPs like Boingo and HOTSPOTZZ say they will also offer free wireless access for the day for their customers.

Intel is also working on "unique media opportunities" to let people know more about Centrino and wireless. The first is the announced Zagat Survey mini-guide of 2003 Wi-Fi Hotspots, a listing of 50 recommended hotels and restaurants in five cities that also have hotspots. Intel has a PDF version of the guide online.

Intel says there are currently 92 models of notebook available with Centrino. The company anticipates that number will grow to 130 by the end of this year.

Rise In Wi-Fi Usage
Merely 5 years ago, it was absurd to bring a laptop into a coffee shop and expect to get Internet access. Yet today, industry leaders say coffee shops, airports, hotels and other locations must have Wi-Fi to stay competitive.

According to an international survey of business travelers released by Intel, 71 percent of road warriors are convinced that Wi-Fi will enable business travelers to seize a communications advantage over their competition. While only one in ten road warriors has tried Wi-Fi, nearly 90 percent see wireless computing in their future. A third of Asian road warriors said they plan to try Wi-Fi within the next three to six months.

Along the same lines, analysts also foresee dramatic growth in sales of wireless-enabled notebook PCs. Market research firm IDC predicts that wireless-enabled notebooks will represent 42 percent of all mobile PC sales in 2003 and 95 percent in 2006.

However, the Wi-Fi rage may not be as hot as first thought. A report coming out next month by Jupiter Research suggests there is increasing familiarity with Wi-Fi despite the fact that only 6 percent of online users surveyed have taken advantage of hotspots in publicized areas.

More often, according to the report, people have noticed advertising for wireless and have seen placards in stores and kiosks. A staggering 30 percent of online users surveyed have never even heard of wireless Internet access.

Editor's note: Wi-Fi Planet editor Eric Griffith contributed to this report. Wi-Fi Planet and Jupiter Research are owned by Jupitermedia, the parent company of this Web site.