Merry Christmas to one and all!

We're taking a bit of a break to be with our loved ones over the holiday, and we hope you are too. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, and we'd like to pass along a heartfelt "Thank You" for your readership. We'll be back posting again tomorrow once we can burn off some of the egg nog!

"ZigBee-certified" products ready to hit the streets

It appears that ZigBee wireless technology will begin entering the marketplace en masse with a number of products getting the stamp of approval from the ZigBee Alliance.

As a result, a number of ZigBee-certified wireless network products are about to hit the streets. According to the Alliance, certification ensures that a product will perform in ZigBee networks as promised. In addition, all products have undergone a testing process to prove their adherence to ZigBee standards. Certified products will have the ZigBee logo prominently displayed on them which will alert end users that these products have been assured of networking performance.

Among the certified products are:

  • NEC Engineering's ZB24FM-Z family of embedded modules allow for the monitoring and communication with any person voluntarily carrying the device as they enter or exit a defined location. An example application includes system facility managers having the ability to conduct accurate headcounts at private events or locations and improve emergency response planning.
  • The Sensor Network Infrastructure (SNI) from Software Technologies Group enables rapid development of ZigBee-based sensor network products for a variety of commercial and industrial applications. Users will be able to install sensors and other control mechanisms wirelessly and connect to a remote master control area. SNI products have been tested in various real-world sensor applications, including a 250 node deployment of a wireless fire extinguisher monitoring

system.

Mobile WiMax to undergo a major growth spurt

Little by little we are seeing WiMax being implemented in a number of situations, including the announcement by Clearwire to bring their WiMax platform to the Seattle market.

According to a new report by In-Stat, the mobile version of the technology is set to grow at a tremendous rate in the next three years. Their study indicates that overall WiMax users will grow from 222,000 this year to 19.7 million subscribers by 2010, and many of these new users will be leveraging the 802.16e mobile WiMax spec.

In addition, WiMax seems to have seen steady growth in Asia, but we're sure to see more deployments in the U.S. beginning early next year.

Motorola joins up with Qualcomm for W-CDMA chips

Qualcomm, the CDMA pioneer who also makes most of the chips used in global CDMA handsets, will now be supplying global handset manufacturer Motorola with W-CDMA chips. W-CDMA is the migration path from TDMA-based GSM technology to a CDMA-based GSM technology that allows for more flexibility as more and more subscribers sign on with wireless carriers.

Since Nokia has been just about as stubborn as anyone in their W-CDMA plans with its Qualcomm dealings, this new partnership should solidify support for W-CDMA as the standard that GSM is moving to as time goes on. As HSDPA is a data standard, one of these days GSM voice will be changing to the W-CDMA standard. Who knows when, though.

Mobile phones as a basic human right?

This is a weird story, but is a sign o' the times. iSuppli -- the odd analyst house that like tear electronics apart to arrive at a bill-of-sale amount for the world on things like iPods and cellphones -- says that mobile phones become increasingly ubiquitous, even among low-income subscribers in developing regions of the globe.

iSuppli figures that the manufacturers of mobile phones have a weird crossroads as they are now challenged but with large opportunities as they all strive to offer cost-reduced products that appeal to the third world. iSuppli referenced the "Ultra Low Cost Handset" -- or ULCH -- as part of the mainstream strategy for all mobile phone manufacturers.

Perhaps there are margins there? There better be -- cellphones will only be as ubiquitous as there are margins to be made.

Will the 802.11n WiFi spec become obsolete before too long?

I think the public atl-large has gotten the message that WiFi is all the rage. It seems that everybody is buying a device (or devices) that are WiFi-capable. No one wants to stay tethered to one place anymore just to surf the web.

This story in the New York Times discusses the proliferation of WiFi routers and adapters being manufactured for laptops and desktops, and the fact that most of them are being built under the 802.11n spec, which probably won't be ratified by the IEEE until sometime in 2008.

The thought here is that should consumers, as well as enterprise customers, spend the money to purchase these "Draft N" products before the spec is made official? What if a serious glitch is discovered or, better yet, a new spec is developed that will make 802.11n obsolete? What happens then?

Of course, if these Draft N products are the best in existence and they promise to make your WiFi experiences productive ones, then there really is no other alternative. WiFi is still an evolving technology, and it will take several more years of research and development before a spec comes along that will make things "perfect", if there is such a thing. Until then, we'll have to make do with what is currently available, and see where it will take us.

Cingular's newer RAZR no longer features iTunes

The newest Motorola RAZR, the V3R, no longer features Apple's iTunes software built into the phone, but instead uses another Motorola-based MP3 player inside the phone's software.

In a "cover" PR statement most likely, a Cingular spokesperson said that "This would be in line with our strategy of providing consumers with many different ways to listen to music, including iTunes, Napster, Yahoo, emusic, MobiRadio and XM Radio."

But, with Cingular now selling the nearly two-year-old RAZR with and without iTunes, what does that signal? Perhaps that the current iTunes-capable RAZR will be the last of its kind most likely. Since I doubt customers are buying RAZRs for iTunes (with the 100-song limit and all), iTunes phones outside of an Apple iPhone are most likely going away for good. So much promise, so little delivery.

Nokia's offbeat Cartoon Network service

Looks like ideas -- any idea - will pass for trying to get customers to use more mobile multimedia content these days. Nokia has announced that it will be working with Turner Network Television to bring Cartoon Network programming directly to wireless users soon.

Nokia's Content Discovered app, which is embedded in many of the company's Series 40 and Series 60 phones, will have a link directly to video clips, games and other Cartoon Network content soon. Nokia will have a battle trying to get customers to access this new content unless carrier partnerships are robust if you ask me. Off-deck content can get increasingly hard to find these days.

Qualcomm's MediaFLO coming to a phone near you as "Sprint Vue"

Qualcomm's MediaFLO offering, which from many accounts is much more conducive to mobile video broadcasting and related multimedia offerings than global competitor DVB-H, has been making headlines recently as carrier Verizon Wireless announced support for it.

Now, Sprint Nextel will brand its use of MediaFLO as "Vue" -- and we've heard of Sprint Vue before. To differentiate Sprint's newer (and hopefully, much better) mobile television service, it adopted the brand name "Vue" to distinguish the yet-to-be-launched service from Sprint's "Sprint TV", which currently offers TV channels (live and non-live) powered by MobiTV over the carrier's EV-DO network.

In a quote I just love -- and completely agree with -- a Sprint Nextel spokeswoman said this in relation to the upcoming launch of Sprint Vue: "Ultimately, customers don't care about the underlying technology ... they want a service that is easy to use and delivers a satisfying experience."

Showtime coming to mobile phones near you soon

With so much buzz going on right now with mobile multimedia applications and mobile access to video content, Showtime Networks -- the famous pay-TV cable and satellite network -- has announced that it will soon be offering an off-deck WAP portal that mobile carriers and customers can use to view Showtime content for the first time over the mobile airwaves.

The Showtime WAP portal will give instant delivery of Showtime programming over the air to wireless devices and customers, and Showtime's content will be offered to 2.5G and 3G handset owners. This tells me that the optimization will be geared towards lower-quality, pixelized video so that even GPRS users and 1xRTT users will be able to join in on the fun. What would be really nice would be video streams optimized for EV-DO and HSDPA networks.

ZigBee Alliance announces enhanced standard

The ZigBee Alliance announced today that they have enhanced their standard to offer a host of new features which will be available in the first quarter of next year.

Key features of the enhanced standard include:

  • Group Devices -- developers will have the ability to create groups of devices while allowing individual devices to belong to multiple groups. The alliance provides the example of all lights in a home could be turned off, or all of the lights on a single floor or a single room, can be executed by pushing a single button.
  • Maintenance – The ZigBee technology can prevent a single point-of-failure on the network and allows for replacement or repair of devices through the storage of a device's information onto a nearby device.
  • Targeted Broadcasts – Broadcasts of commands can be specified for specific types of devices: routers, "awake" or "sleeping" devices.
  • Over-the-Air Setup – Allows for new setup tools that can be develop to facilitate the addition of devices onto a network.

PeerMe wireless VoIP comes to Sprint Nextel's EV-DO network

PeerMe, a company that makes wireless VoIP software, says that it has made its service available to Sprint Nextel's EV-DO customers so that PeerMe users can make free and unlimited global voice calls using its VoIP network.

Customers will need to pay a fee to Sprint Nextel to have access to the new service, but the calls will be free and unlimited anytime, to anywhere. This almost sounds like a contradiction in terms compared with Sprint Nextel's traditional wireless business, yes?

PeerMe makes a good point in that its service will target international calling, where traditional costs are very expensive. In fact PeerMe's service could upend that industry if enough customers used the service and found it useful.

IEEE 802.20 standard set to get new "ground up" start

With the childlike bickering that has apparently been going on with the 802.20 working group, the IEEE has fired the leadership of the group amid a new reason to start the ratification process over. This is good news, as sometimes these working groups must have agendas in their pockets since they take so long to ratify radio standards. This would not be the first time.

With the 802.20 standard set to possibly become a competitor to the WiMAX standard in the near future, this is one important standard to get right, that is for sure. Qualcomm even complained that Intel -- a huge WiMAX proponent -- was purposefully stacking the 802.20 meetings so that the standard would be delayed.

When mobile operators get together to move beyond 3G

Some very influential mobile operators from around the globe have come together to advance the cause of post-3G wireless data initiatives. Being 2006 and all, I guess it is about time, yes? Sprint Nextel, NTT DoCoMo, China Mobile, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and KPN are the global wireless carriers who have formed the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) alliance to advance wireless beyond 3G speeds.

The NGMN alliance will work out of the U.K. to help guide companies into the next generation of mobile networks by facilitating newer standards that stretch beyond 3G. One of the most important priorities will be to create a much faster data transmission standard with as low of a latency as possible. This, to me, sounds like broadband Internet -- but completely wireless (and different than WiMAX, I suppose?).

Google unveils AdWords service for mobile advertising

I've been waiting for Google to get into the mobile advertising space, and it looks like the search leader has done just that. Google has announced that it now has the Google "AdWords" program available for mobile devices (cellphones, smartphones, etc.) that use a mobile web browser.

So, if you're searching using www.google.com on your wireless handset, you may see text ads next to your search results soon, if not now. The good news is that these ads will be like Google's normal text ads -- very unobtrusive and relevant to the search you're performing.

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