CES Brings Wireless USB, Mobile Search, Storage

Editor's Notebook: Portability is a theme at CES, with new portable hard drives from Seagate, mobile search from Yahoo and previews of wireless USB technology.

LAS VEGAS—The world of wires is going away for good. The nasty mess that tangles desks and floors and offices with USB cables connecting printers, external storage, iPods, keyboards—you name it—will begin to go the way of the dodo in 2007.

Thats because of a new replacement technology, Wireless USB, which will start to appear this year with adapters and native hardware support, said officials of the USB Implementers Forum here at International CES. At 3 meters, certified Wireless USB devices will perform just about the same as the wired USB 2.0s top speed of 480M bps, said Jeff Ravencraft, chairman and president of the USBIF.

"Wi-Fi is a LAN technology, for long-haul communications networking," Ravencraft said, comparing Wireless USB with Wi-Fi. "Wireless USB is for a PAN—personal area network—point to point, with more intensive data throughput needs."

The technology will eventually allow the type of desktop accessories currently connected by wired USB to be neatly arranged on a table or shelf nearby, without any degradation of performance. A device would need its own power source to operate, but could remain in sleep mode until the host "wakes it up," said Ravencraft, who predicts that about 300 million Wireless USB-supported devices will ship by 2010.

The first Host Wire Adapters (dongles) and Device Wire Adapters will start appearing on store shelves in the first quarter of 2007.

In demonstrations, officials showed how a digital camcorder fitted with an adapter could beam video in real time to an in-car entertainment system also fitted with an adapter. Also, chip set maker Alereon demonstrated a Kodak digital camera transmitting photos that appeared on the monitor of a host laptop almost as soon as they were taken.


In other news, Seagate is getting hip, or at least hipper. The storage giant introduced the week of Jan. 8 a new family of portable external hard drives dubbed Free Agent Go and Free Agent Pro.

The sleek designs of the units, which range from 12GB to 75GB, are being marketed more to users who want to take their data with them, in contrast to Seagates Maxtor unit, which is focused more on backup reliability and security.

/zimages/1/28571.gifToshiba and Samsung showcase mobile PCs at CES. Click here to read more.

The Free Agent Go is a iPod-sized unit that can carry a users desktop, complete with applications, browser favorites, and e-mail files and settings. Officials explained that the Go will be useful for users who need to work from multiple PCs frequently, or for maintaining privacy and security of data for users working on the same PC or on a public PC.

"Its not about storage," said Dave Wickersham, president and chief operating officer of Seagate. "Its about my stuff."

Two companies that have taken their share of abuse from Wall Street lately are teaming up to see if they can reverse their fortunes. Motorolas Ed Zander in his Monday morning keynote Jan. 8 announced support for Yahoos new mobile Internet software and service, Yahoo Go, and its OneSearch technology, one of several Yahoo announcements at CES.

With the service, "The Internet fits your phone, not the other way around," Marco Boerries, senior vice president of Yahoos Connected Life unit, said during the Zander keynote. "We do not squish the PC Internet into the mobile device. Yahoo Go is truly the Internet in your pocket."

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Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...