BOSTON — Wi-Fi
off until the late 1990s. By then, laptops were common and consumers
wanted to use them for un-tethered network access from airports, coffee
shops, hotels and homes.
“Every successful wireless technology needs a dominant application to get it
started,” Charlie Giancarlo, Cisco
CTO, said in his
keynote address at the Next Generation Networks trade show here today.
For some technologies, those applications still aren’t clear, said
Giancarlo, a Cisco veteran who was promoted
to CTO in July.
Giancarlo cited ultrawideband
examples. Cisco, a network equipment giant, was an early investor in UWB
startups, Giancarlo said.
“I’m not sure home networking around entertainment is going to be [a
dominant driver for UWB],” he said, adding that new iterations of Wi-Fi
will be focused on enabling the digital home. There may still be uses for
UWB in tying together networked components in a small environment, he said.
many have already begun 3G build-outs.
That said, Giancarlo, who in addition to being Cisco’s CTO is president of
its Linksys home networking unit, sees a number of cases where consumers
are forcing networking players toward convergence.
Giancarlo sees four areas — entertainment, communications, personal
computing and home management — that are moving together, both from an
application and device standpoint.
Applications, such as VoIP
music and video downloading, are blurring the lines. New applications are
also emerging. For example, putting live voice capabilities in game consoles
has worked in China.
“[The feature lets] gamers hurl insults at each other at the same time they
are shooting each other while gaming,” Giancarlo said. “It turns out they
are willing to pay for that ability.”
There are still hurdles to greater convergence and usability, not the least
of which are security and digital rights management, Giancarlo said. For
the most part, these challenges require a broad industry approach, he said.
On an individual company level, Cisco and others need to make products
easier to use.
“If we’re to continue this broadband revolution … the service and the
equipment need to be much more tightly tied so the experience is easy for
users,” Giancarlo said.