MobileWise has developed an electrically conductive pad that could displace other device chargers. The Wire-Free Electricity Base will be used next year by Acer laptops and PDAs.
MobileWise-enabled devices can be charged through conductors that touch the charging pads contacts (see photo). The pad can provide about 200 watts of DC power, allowing simultaneous charging of several devices (my laptop requires 50 watts). An enabled device executes a handshake protocol with the pad, passing on desired voltage, current and polarity. The conductors in contact with the device are powered up only then, leaving the other contacts inactive (and safe to touch). The pad will not damage magnetic media.
How big an advance this is depends on how effective MobileWise is at convincing OEMs to sign up—getting rid of charger tangles would be my only real motivation to use it—and how inexpensive the pads end up being.
Competitor Splashpower is designing a similar multidevice charging system thats inductive instead of conductive (and so doesnt use contact probes), but Splashpowers system targets devices that require 10 or fewer watts.