July 16, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Wireless USB gadgets trickle into marketplace

Wireless USB, a cable-free version of the ubiquitous device connection technology, is finally becoming a product and not just a promise.

Last week, Belkin announced a Wireless USB hub, and Lenovo debuted its T61p notebook, which will support Wireless USB as an option. This week, a raft of other PC and peripheral makers are expected to announce their products.

And not a moment too soon: Wireless USB (Universal Serial Bus) is arriving about a year later than promised. And other wireless communication standards, Bluetooth and 802.11 Wi-Fi networking, are established already.

"It's time for Wireless USB to move from the PowerPoint slides to the real world," said iSuppli analyst Jagdish Rebello.

If it lives up to its backers' hopes, it will spread in coming years to printers, hard drives, set-top boxes, cameras, digital music players and mobile phones. Several products, including PCs and hubs, are now in testing to receive the "Certified Wireless USB" logo, said Jeff Ravencraft, president and chairman of the USB Implementers Forum.

Chicken and egg
Like wired USB was more than a decade ago, Wireless USB is a classic example of a "chicken-and-egg" technology problem, where two parts of the industry depend on each other to make products useful. In the case of Wireless USB, the parties involved are, on the one hand, computer makers who must build Wireless USB support into their PCs and, on the other, device makers whose products are at the other end of those connections.

Wireless hub products could help jump-start the industry by bridging from the existing wired USB world to a wireless future, and Belkin competitors likely will announce their own products as soon as this week. Such systems typically have two components: a "dongle" that plugs into a PC's wired USB port and gives the computer Wireless USB abilities, and a hub with four wired USB ports for connecting current devices.

Photos: Wireless USB devices

The dongle can communicate with future Wireless USB-enabled products and, of course, with the hub. And next-generation PCs with Wireless USB built-in will be able to communicate with the hub and whatever wired USB devices are plugged into it. Wireless USB has a maximum range of about 30 feet but isn't designed to penetrate walls.

Strong backers of Wireless USB include companies such as Staccato Communications, WiQuest Communications and Alereon.

iSuppli expects the market for Wireless USB radio-communication chipsets to grow from $15 million in 2007 to $2.6 billion in 2011. That growth matches the expected spread of the technology, from 1 million Wireless USB-enabled devices this year to 500 million in 2011.

Much of Wireless USB will work like today's USB, only without the cables. But Mike Krell, Alereon's director of communications and business development, likes to paint pictures of new possibilities as well. For example, a digital camera user could store photos to a separate portable hard drive with much more capacity than a flash memory card, or download them to a photo-printing kiosk without worrying about having the right cable or memory card support. The user could also display the pictures on a big-screen TV on the other side of a room.

"I want to put my camera on the coffee table and look at them on a 60-inch screen," Krell said, and not be tethered by a short cable.

CONTINUED: The adoption rate…
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36 comments

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Still giggling
I'm having a fine giggle at being the first comment on this article. What's wrong guys? No opportunity in this one for Mac-MS bashing?
Posted by IlanaGolan (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Silly discussion from WINDBAGS?
Are you guys just windbags ALL the time or just on these discussion boards?
Take up bag pipes why dont you !
What is the topic here? New technology or ancient history...........................

He said She said blah blah blah .....
Posted by eeemang (217 comments )
Link Flag
Why bash?
The article was pretty accurate. It was Apple's iMac that finally
broke the chicken-egg logjam. Peripheral makers finally had a
computer that broke completely with the old interfaces (serial
and parallel) and gave them something to create USB peripherals
for. PCs then followed quickly after that.

Just like WiFi, Apple was a year ahead of the rest with putting
the capability in all of their laptops. Dell was second almost a
year to day day later.

But when the rest took off with USB, they quickly outpaced even
Apple's superior Firewire technology. So now even iPods have
gone with the much slower USB 2 interface. (Theoretical limits
are a joke, Firewire 400 is much faster in actual practice.)

If Apple was smart, they'd put wireless USB in the new iMac due
out soon and take the lead once more. Maybe with their
increasing market share (growing twice as fast as PCs these
days) they could have a faster impact on the overall industry.
Dell, I'm betting would follow within months.
Posted by ewelch (767 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Really???
I remember having USB a year or two before the iMac.

I believe it was a Microsoft natural keyboard around 1997 that really had me going OOOH and AAAAH.

If memory serves me correctly the iMac came out in 99 but USB was out around 96. So why are you suggesting that the iMac get all the credit for this?

Remember, Apple was trying to push FireWire but licensing of the technology became an issue and USB took off after that... the iPods were firewire at one time and now they are all USB. Go figure!
Posted by SeizeCTRL (1333 comments )
Link Flag
Why?
Just at first glance, I don't understand why we need wireless USB. Bluetooth does exactly the same thing, and already works at the same range. What's the advantage?
Posted by cuwickliffe (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
reporter responds: better than Bluetooth?
Here are a couple reasons I heard from Wireless USB advocates. Today, Bluetooth's data rate is way too low to make it practical for things like hard drives, CD recorders or transferring large quantities of digital photos or video. It's available in mobile phones and many laptops, but not in printers, cameras, GPS receivers, and any number of USB-enabled devices. Bluetooth 3.0 will offer better data transmission rates, but it's not due out for a couple years, and it will face its own challenges. The Wireless USB advocates also argue their technology is more familiar to average folks who may not have any experience with Bluetooth but likely have with USB.
Posted by Shankland (1858 comments )
Link Flag
Two words, backwards compatability
backwards compatability
Posted by flitcraft33 (31 comments )
Link Flag
AM I THE ONLY ONE ON CRAZY PILLS??!??
Hello, make a wi-fi USB dongle that plugs into ANY USB port and wirelessly connects to a hub. Have a slot in the hub where you plug in the dongles that imprints a network serial number unique to the hub so your devices only connect to your devices.

Make the dongle a USB-wireless bridge. VOILA! no more ^&(&^($!! usb cables for ANYTHING. Make the dongles port powered.

WHY IS THIS SO HARD???? What are these people thinking with this chicken and egg BS??? Just make it work with existing devices effortlessly.

Jeeze, if I had some venture capital I would market it myself. This is not rocket science.

Dan Sichel
Posted by flitcraft33 (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
reporter responds: that's what they're selling, but...
The dongle/hub combination you describe sounds similar to what Belkin is selling and others will soon sell. It indeed is a help with the chicken and egg problem but it only goes so far: if your current devices all attach via wired USB, why buy some extra wireless widget just to move the cables one step farther away from your PC? Ultimately, the utility of Wireless USB will depend on devices and PCs having native support.
Posted by Shankland (1858 comments )
Link Flag
This will only allow hackers
to break into your personal USB connections.

What were they thinking, man?
Posted by Troll Hard (182 comments )
Reply Link Flag
With a range of...
...30 feet and an inability to penetrate walls? I would be suspicious of the stranger who walked into my living room uninvited long before he opened up his laptop and booted up...
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
... that can break AES-128 encryption
WUSB uses AES-128. This encryption scheme is almost impossible to crack without knowledge of the master key. The master keys are 128-bit random numbers.

The wireless association method that the author calls "numeric comparison" actually uses a Diffie-Hellman exchange of a pair of 3072-bit public keys "under the hood". Diffie-Hellman is the basis of the most secure public key exchange methods used today.

128-bit master keys and 3072-bit public keys are far, far more secure than current SSL protocols - something you probably trust to secure your online bank transactions.

- Joel
Posted by joelcorley (15 comments )
Link Flag
Wireless USB
I'm looking forward to the day that I can finally get rid of all my cables on my computer (except for the power cable. However, being that this is new technology I am willing to wait until the bugs are worked out. I hope that with this wireless technology they will go ahead and implement some kind of WPA type technology like we see in wireless routers.
Posted by Michael00360 (58 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I hope this is a huge step ahead of the USB wireless mice and keyboard
The current crop is dismal.
Posted by The_Decider (3097 comments )
Link Flag
Why the need for a hub?
Couldn't the Wireless USB "ports" be built into the motherboard of the computer? This would eliminate the wired connection from the hub to the physical, wired USB port. I guess this wireless hub is temporary until the technology itself is built into the motherboards?
Posted by whizkid454 (157 comments )
Reply Link Flag
reporter responds: yes, exactly
The Wireless USB hub is potentially useful as a way to attach various wired USB devices. If you tote your laptop to work, school, home, or some other place, you don't have to unplug anything when you leave or plug it back in when you return. When the technology is built into computers (it's first showing up as optional miniature PCI cards, but will make its way onto the motherboard, no doubt), it'll be a lot more useful. Another reason you might want to keep a hub around: a lot of portable devices charge off powered USB ports.
Posted by Shankland (1858 comments )
Link Flag
the other way around
whizkid, sorry but I think you got it wrong, the hub won'tbe connected. The article failed to explain it correctly. The whole wireless USB package will consist of a dongle, which you connect to you computer to receive the message from and a hub where you connect to it devices which does not support wireless usb, like most devices today. so instead of connecting your printer or scanner to your computer, you connect them to your hub, and the hub negotiantes from afar with your dongle connected to your pc. You got what I'm saying. but the hub itself is not connected to your pc, its connected probably to a power outlet or it takes its power from the connected devices.
Posted by ashrafkadry (24 comments )
Link Flag
Wow.... to point something out here..
usb is inferior. And that's because it capped bandwidth: a good protocol will scale up to whatever hardware will handle. Multiple pins included. I want a protocol that will scale from wimax to pci-e.

And I don't think that's as far fetched as it sounds. More on that idea at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.ethana4.blogspot.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.ethana4.blogspot.com/</a>
under "usb 3.0"

tell me what you think- ethana2@gmail.com
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Recently the Wireless USB display adapter was introduced to the market, which enables to stream video and internet from PC to TV.
Posted by wirelessUSB (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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