As phones get smarter, smaller and faster and enable users to connect at high speeds to the Internet, is the mobile phone handset turning into the next computer? Newsweek Silicon Valley Correspondent Brad Stone examines the possibility in the 7 June cover, "Next Frontiers: Way Cool Phones". Stone looks at the sophistication of mobile phones, how pervasive wireless communications have become around the world and talks to experts about the possibilities of telephones replacing the computer. "One day, 2 or 3 billion people will have cell phones, and they are all not going to have PCs," says Jeff Hawkins, inventor of the Palm Pilot and the chief technology officer of PalmOne. "The mobile phone will become their digital life."
By the end of this year, half of all laptops shipped will be Wi-Fi equipped, allowing laptop owners to set up temporary offices in the local cafe or public park. "Hundreds of millions of people are not going to replace the full screen, mouse and keyboard experience with staring at a little screen," says Sean Maloney, an executive VP at chipmaker Intel, which is investing heavily both in Wi-Fi and mobile-phone technology." Yet mobile-phone innovators are working to solve that tricky problem, too.
Newsweek's "Next Frontiers" is an ongoing series looking at how technology is changing the way we live and work. Also in the cover package: Technology Editor Steven Levy writes in a column that the same phone technology that keeps us connected to work and family may lead us to a future where cell phones track us, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes when we're not aware. "My guess is that the widespread adoption of tracking won't be done against our will but initially with our consent. As with other double-edged tools, the benefits will be immediately apparent, while the privacy drawbacks emerge gradually," Levy writes.
Hermiston, Ore.: The home of EZ Wireless, which built the US largest regional wireless broadband network, a 600-square-mile Wi-Fi blanket, and activated it this February.
San Diego, Calif.: A community group called SoCalFreeNet has installed a dozen public nodes in the city and suburbs to give everyone free wireless Web access.
Auckland, New Zealand: Six months ago, Auckland became one of a few communities to deploy a single high-speed wireless network that blankets the entire city. Users can surf the Net at high speeds from the beach, their office, their homes or even a moving bus (in this case Newsweek cites Woosh).
Las Vegas, Nev.: Not only are hotels offering Wi-Fi access in their rooms, but one RV Park owner offers his residents a hook-up for a $36 monthly fee, which brings customers to his property.
London, England: Soho is about to become the first wireless law-enforcement district in London. Fifty wireless cameras and sensors will be installed around the neighborhood that will take videos good enough to be admissible in court.
New York, N.Y.: Wi-Fi network access covers the city, from Columbia University and Bryant Park to the East Village where one group stitched together a network that operates from rooftops.
The Bay Area (San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland), Calif.: Chosen as the most unwired "city" in America in Intel's annual survey, even the Giants' ballpark is a hotspot.
Washington, D.C.: Last month, Silicon Valley wireless firm Tropos brought free wireless Internet access to the eastern corner of the National Mall. Next: unwiring the entire two-mile-long Mall, Capitol Hill and all.
Tokyo, Japan: Just about every person over the age of 12 in Tokyo owns a mobile phone, of which a fifth are high-speed 3G phones that are Internet-enabled.
Austin, Tex.: Since last year, volunteers of the Austin Wireless City Project have been coordinating the city's free networks and helping residents and visitors get online with a single user name and password anywhere on the network.