Will Wi-Fi Fly?

The cover story in Barron’s this week was entitled “Will Wi-Fi Fly?“. The sub-title was “Wireless networks are proliferating, but making money will be tricky”. Eric Savitz did a really good job covering WiFi in a very comprehensive way. I enjoyed discussing my views with him and he quoted me several times in his story.

First was “Telephony is just another Internet application,” says John Patrick, a consultant and author who until his retirement a year ago was IBM’s chief Internet guru. “The telecom industry thinks of the Internet as one of the things you can do with telephony services, but it is exactly the opposite. Telephony is one of the many things you can do with the Internet.” I also said “Business travelers with 30 minutes to check e mail don’t want to go looking for war chalking,” says former IBMer John Patrick — meaning they don’t want to take time hunting down free access points. “I happily pay T Mobile for that reason. When I get to an airport, I head to the Admiral’s Club, log in, and as soon as I hit the browser and enter a password, I’m a happy camper.”

Eric wrapped up his story with “We’re very much in parallel with where we were with the Internet almost 10 years ago,” he says. “I remember looking at the Internet at IBM in 1994 and thinking: ‘This is really cool, but where’s the money?”’ The questions people have about Wi Fi now are the same ones we had in ’93 and ’94 about the Internet. Skeptics say it doesn’t scale, it’s not secure, it’s not industrial strength. It’s the same things people said about the Internet. But there’s no stopping Wi Fi. It’s a grassroots technology, totally distributed, standards based, global, with nobody in charge. Those are the reasons the Internet has flourished. And the implications are huge.”