Andrew Seybold: Kindle, Chumby and Gobi

The Kindle is an electronic book from Amazon that receives purchased books via Sprint's EV-DO network. You don't need a Sprint account; when you purchase a book for $9.95 and turn on Kindle's wireless switch, it shows up in the menu. No fuss, no bother. The Chumby is an alarm clock (yes, an alarm clock) that has WiFi built into it, and a Chumby website provides information services through your DSL or cable Internet connection and your WiFi access point to the clock. You can get weather, MySpace, Facebook, news and lots of other content. It does not have a keyboard or a browser and is more of an information delivery tool.

What is Gobi? It is a chipset made by Qualcomm for embedded wide-area wireless in notebooks for now, but soon it will be embedded in all sorts of devices and appliances. Why is it different? Because it is a worldwide chipset that provides wide-area connections to CDMA and GSM/UMTS systems and it supports all of the frequency bands in use around the world for these technologies. This means a notebook with a Gobi chipset inside sold by Dell or HP, for example, can be shipped anywhere in the world and customers can sign up for whatever broadband wireless service is available. Just as important, I believe, is that it will begin to show up in devices such as the Kindle and many other appliances including dashboard navigation systems, game consoles, plush pets that can talk or recite a poem and the list goes on and on.

Ubiquitous wireless connectivity is where we are heading and we are moving at a fast pace. I have said many times that 100 percent penetration is just a number, and that we will end up with 300 percent or more penetration because all of sorts of devices will be enabled with wireless. Think about the Chumby. What more could we do with this clock radio? Well, how about if we put a Zigbee module into it? Zigbee is an in-home wireless system for controlling lights, music, video, temperature and many other things. So we set the alarm clock to 6 a.m. and, in turn, it sends out a signal over Zigbee to turn the heat up 3 degrees and turn on the coffee pot 15 minutes before you get up. OK, that's neat, now let's add some more wide-area capabilities to Chumby.

Let's have it monitor our route to work including the traffic patterns and the weather, which impacts the traffic, and have it send out an alarm plus or minus the time we set it for depending on the circumstances. Naturally, it would also automatically change the time for the heater and coffee pot to come on. But wait, there's more! Suppose our wireless phones were also our profile devices--that is, when we get into our car they set our seats, mirrors, radio station and the temperature? The phone would talk to our car, check the time, know we were headed for work, check traffic and select the best route. At the end of the day, if we needed to run any number of errands, our system would calculate the best possible and most efficient route between work and home.

I have often made reference to the fact that virtually anything we take mobile can and will be wireless in the future, and with tongue in cheek I refer to a dog collar complete with GPS and wireless capabilities so we can track the dog and tell it to come home or find it if it wanders off. Well, there are now products on the market that offer this for dogs, probably as an off-shoot of the kid-finders that are also available.

You would never recognize the Kindle as a wireless-enabled device unless you knew how it worked and what service it used. I have read some interesting speculation that it works over free Wi-Fi access points, but we know that is not true. The point here is that all manner of devices will become wirelessly enabled--with the Gobi chipset, Intel's WiMAX chip or perhaps both in some cases.

Today, instead of wearing a heart monitor that records your heart beats for a period of time, you wear a device that not only records the information but sends it back to the diagnostic client. If there is a problem, medical personnel can get in touch with you quickly, potentially saving lives. We will see more of these devices designed to help track those who need to be monitored on a part or full-time basis, which will, in turn, provide patients with increased freedom to live more normal lives.

All of these new devices and gadgets will be wirelessly enabled using wide-area technologies and, in most cases, the wireless access will be seamless. We won't pay extra for it. We may not even know which network it is using. But we will know that we have a mobile device with a lot more capabilities because we are receiving updates and information seamlessly behind the scenes. Isn't that the way it should be?

Andrew Seybold is an authority on technology and trends shaping the world of wireless mobility. A respected analyst, consultant, commentator, author and active participant in industry trade organizations, his views have influenced strategies and shaped initiatives for telecom, mobile computing and wireless industry leaders worldwide. For more, check out