Two upstream standards have been making news in the last day or so: 802.11n
and Blu-Ray Disc (BD). 802.11n
is the next general Wi-Fi connection standard, aiming to meet or exceed
the throughput (not bitrate) of 100-Base T wired networks. Blu-Ray Disc
is a DVD recording standard that will fit 27 GB of data (!!) on a single
disc no larger than our current DVDs. Products based on both standards
are likely to hit stores by early 2006.
The story we watched as 802.11g unfolded is set to begin again. Anxious
to grab market share, network hardware vendors are preparing “pre-N”
designs that, especially at this early stage in the 802.11n standards
definition process, may or may not even remotely resemble the final standard.
(Note that they don't call it “draft-n”!) Belkin
is the first, but I'm sure engineers all over the world are bent over
their drafting tables, preparing the deluge.
This would seem madness, but only when you consider the balance between
what the gear will cost (under $200 street, and that's on Day 1) and what
it will do, well, people who need the speed will be able to justify the
money much more easily than in 1999 or 2000, when the newborn 802.11b
gear came in at $1000 or more. And when the final standard happens, the
early pre-N gear will be most of the way off the end of the depreciation
schedule, and the IT people will shove it down the food chain or give
it to their kids. Belkin will not lose money on this, nor will anyone
else who comes out with a pre-N design, no matter how much we bitch at
them for jumping the gun. We know so much about 802.11 microwave techniques
now that the designs can be created very cheaply. The basic modulation
Frequency Division Multiplexing, or ODFM) is used in both 802.11a
and 802.11g and is no longer exotic.
It's kind of silly to ask if anybody really needs that kind of throughput.
One reason Esther Dyson always came off as a technoditz to me is that she
persisted in saying dopey things like, “Ordinary users will not need
the power of the 80286. We'll only see it in servers.” A month or two
later, IBM came out with the 286-based PC AT. If throughput is cheap, people
will buy it, and we'll figure out what to do with it after the fact. 802.11n
is fast enough to stream HDTV, so there's one idea, and as I've mentioned
a time or two before, add massive throughput to massive storage, and you
get massive heartburn for Big Media. My popcorn bowl is standing by; it's
gonna be a helluva good show. [Jeff Duntemann's Diary]