Things are happening so fast in the world of wireless that a little historical perspective might help foretell the future, and the future looks awesome!

times are changing in wireless industry. predictions.Before cell phones, land-line competition mimicked wireless carriers in many ways, i.e. competing calling plans, discounting long-distance calling rates, etc. Of course, land-line service providers had no control over which phone you used; it simply didn't enter into the equation or business model.

If you had MCI for your land-line service, MCI had no idea what "phone" you were using as their business model did not profit from it.

The cell phone business broke wide open over a decade ago when Motorola produced a remarkable device called the Startac. The Startac was the small, sexy alternative to enormous "portable" brick phones, and almost every expert at the time believed the idea behind the Startac would never work. But it did and in a big way! The Startac is the fossilized analog predecessor to all the "cool" phones we talk about and use today.

In those early days there were complicated calling plans, frugal "anytime minutes", and all kinds of restrictions. Determining coverage, figuring out if it was a roaming call or not, and where and when you were talking long distance, ugh! it was all very confusing to just about everyone. Remember those color-coded cell phone coverage maps!?

But the novelty of the then new wireless technology was so compelling, consumers put up with all the complicated details in order to have the freedom to place a call anywhere, anytime. And Motorola's Startac model worked! By the standards of the day, the Startac was a reliable communication device and it literally changed the way we lived.

Those early days were frenetic and companies were deciding independently on how to proceed. Nationwide cellular networks were built from the ground up using different technology platforms. There was CDMA, TDMA, IDN, Oh my! Can anyone say proprietary? And there were dropped calls, batteries with limited talk-time, and phone form factors that were not about to win any beauty awards.

But it was a start, and heady days for geeks of all stripes who saw a future when people would eventually carry "pocket computers".

Today there are new issues and new challenges, and what I want you, dear reader, to understand, is that there is a populist movement in play that will benefit YOU!

Carriers are beginning to realize that their role cannot remain "all things to all people". Carriers provide the network, but there may be a third-party alternative that can provide a better song site. Carriers can provide macro network enhancements, but they are beginning to wonder if they should be the ones developing the operating system for their devices.

Think of it this way: If you have Verizon, your view of the internet is different than what one see's as an AT&T Wireless customer. You need to understand how odd that is, and how unfair it is to end users. A viable analogy would be to say that since you own a Dell home computer, you "view" a different internet than I do, because I own a Gateway computer. Ridiculous, right?

Developing phones that are "locked" is beginning to resonate poorly as more consumers realize that the rest of the world does it another way. Google has stepped in with "Android", a powerful operating system that potentially rivals anything on the market today. Google has partnered with a number of other companies to form an alliance to promote this new way of viewing "access", and again, the end user will benefit.

Let me repeat: The rest of the world does it differently. Anywhere else, you can walk into a store and buy any cell phone you want, and you have the freedom to sign on with any carrier. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

The history of wireless technology is sprinkled with exciting moments, as when Motorola again revolutionized the form factor with the Razr, and more recently Apple's iPhone entry with it's touch-screen interface. (It's worth noting that Palm invented the touch screen interface over 20 years ago, but lacking the drive and imagination of Steven Jobs was never able to create the kind of compelling device that would have customers beating a path to buy one).

So here are several predictions for the next 48 months:

  • Operating Systems will greatly improve, allowing users to interact easily with a rich graphical environment, instead of a watered-down version of the WWW.
  • Data plans will go from being an expensive option to virtually standard on most every model.
  • Third parties will enter into agreements with major carriers, allowing customers to download software programs just as they can do with their home computers.
  • The current a la carte manner in which we purchase services will give way to a more standardized package that will include GPS, internet, etc. You will not have to "purchase" functionality piece-meal.
  • Finally, cell phones will truly transition from "a cell phone that does some other cool stuff" to a true, seamless all-in-one convergence device.

As you know, one of the cool things about technology is that devices get better and cheaper, not the other way around.

So as congress and carriers battle over the 700Mhz spectrum, and Google inserts itself into the fray, and carriers realize they can make more money defining themselves as a service provider, as exciting, imaginative new upstart companies develop mind-bending applications, well, dear reader, it will be the end user who will benefit in the end.

So stay tuned! As Bachman Turner Overdrive once said, "You ain't seen nothing yet!"

I invite your comments and look forward to hearing what others have to say about where this fun and exciting industry is heading.