Wireless Breakthroughs Worth Watching

eWEEK Product Update: RIM makes the jump to the 2.5G GPRS wireless network, and Danger is poised to deliver plenty in a $200 handheld.

As the ordained gadget guru here at eWEEK Labs, I get a lot of questions about which cool new device to buy, and almost everyone defines "cool new device" along the same lines—small, cheap and wireless.

Of course, "small, cheap and wireless" has often been too tall an order for mobile device makers. Palm will get you small and cheap; Pocket PC delivers the bells and whistles; and Blackberry handhelds maintain Karl Malone-like efficiency in delivering the mail.

Were still awaiting the total package, but some of the new integrated wireless devices on the horizon show promise. RIM has done a great job with its messaging devices so far, so Im looking forward to putting the BlackBerry 5810 through its paces. With the 5810, RIM makes the jump to the 2.5G GPRS wireless network, which will deliver fast, always-on data connectivity and voice capabilities to the new device. Based on Java 2 MicroEdition, the 5810 will make it significantly easier for developers to target their wares for the device.

Whats caught my eye the most about the Danger Hiptop, another upcoming wireless device—aside from its stubbornly receding release date—is its surprisingly low projected price. At $200 for a GPRS device with Web and voice functionality, Dangers offering promises to make a big splash in this space.

Of course, for both of these devices, the true price will depend heavily on the sorts of service plans that wireless carriers opt to offer. Although it is painfully shortsighted of them, wireless carriers appear to be setting themselves up to relearn the hard lessons that ISPs learned during the Webs breakout years. Like their predecessors, the carriers are nickel-and-diming users with their data-access price plans rather than promoting the sort of all-you-can-eat services that drive wider usage.

Weary of carrier foot-dragging on high-speed data rollout and Bluetooth handset availability, Ive taken to cheering for unlicensed wireless opportunities. I hope that technologies such as UWB (ultrawideband) networking that take carriers out of the picture will develop someday to power a new generation of simpler, faster-moving solutions.

E-mail eWEEK Labs Technical Analyst Jason Brooks

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