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Is Wireless Ready for Prime Time? Maybe...

Is Wireless Ready for Prime Time? Maybe...

Before moving into a new apartment a few months ago, I did what any self-respecting technology-obsessed person would do - ensure that all the necessary staples of my existence would be turned on and tested before I arrived. The week before I planned to move in, I scheduled installations of cable, RoadRunner (cable modem), telephone service, and gas (even I need heat and a stove), and arranged for my power to be turned on as well. My landlord agreed to be there for all these installations, and I slept easy knowing that my Internet, and thus my ability to work at my livelihood, would never be very far away.

Arriving on the day of the move-in, I happily noted from the first test of a light switch that there was power (score: Rob 1 - Apartment 0) and upon testing the stove, there was gas as well (Rob 2 - Apartment 0). Confident in my new home's preparedness for me, I proceeded to move all of my stuff into the house. The first thing I plugged in was my telephone - it's got many fewer wires than my computer does....Funny, I thought a moment later, isn't there normally a dial tone when you pick up a phone?... (Rob 2 - Apartment 1). That's okay - I don't need a phone, I've got a cell phone; as long as I have my cable modem I'll be all right. After a frantic search of the house, no cable modem was to be found (Rob 2 - Apartment 2). I tested the cable line in my TV set - nothing there but snow (Rob 2 - Apartment 3). Upon further contemplation, maybe that one wasn't so bad - nothing good is ever on these days anyway (Rob 2 - Apartment 2).

Climbing the walls at this point, I called both the phone and cable companies and found out the disheartening news that it would be three days for a phone and four days for cable/a cable modem. As I sank back into my couch with my BlackBerry in one hand and my cell phone in the other, a question popped into my head: Is wireless ready for prime time?

The next few days proved a test of that question. Could I survive solely on my wireless devices for the next few days? The answer? Almost.

Things ran smoothly at first, with e-mails zipping back and forth, and every time my BlackBerry vibrated I ran over to stay in touch with the office and the rest of the outside world. Then something happened that my technology wasn't prepared for, something I had been hoping wouldn't happen - an attachment came in. I couldn't do anything except attempt to decipher from the file name what it had been. Giving up on that notion, I sent a message back: "Don't have computer up and running, what is it and how soon do I have to look at it?" The unwanted response: "It's important and right away." Grudgingly I trekked over to a friend's house to get my e-mail so I could download the MS Word attachment.

This example was the first - and in fact the only time during the three days - that my unwired lifestyle let me down. At the end of the third day I was back online with a modem. No picnic by any means, but still one step closer to broadband nirvana. There, attachments were able to flow in and out like water.

What alternatives did I have in those three days? I could have bought a wireless modem, but would I have a need for it after the week was out? Probably not. Maybe the next version of the BlackBerry will have more memory and the ability to handle attachments. But how useful would it have been to view a Word file on a tiny BlackBerry screen? More useful than an Excel file, for example, but still pretty difficult to navigate through.

The alternative, of course, would be to use a Palm, or a Pocket PC, but neither device has impressed me as much as the two-way pagerlike BlackBerry that vibrates every time a new message comes in. The other two devices require a manual checking of e-mail, a feature I forget to use when I've tested it, creating a hassle (and a huge download) when I do flip up the antenna and log in to get e-mail.

On the contra side - would I want to download a 1-meg attachment over a 19.2 at best (9600 in reality) connection? Probably not. What do I want? A device that does it all, for a reasonable price, with no hassle.

Too much to ask for? Maybe. But as wireless technologies evolve, it may not be so far off. Maybe, the next time I have to move - I'll be set!

More Stories By Robert Diamond

Robert Diamond is the founder and editor-in-chief of BroadwayWorld.com, the premiere theater site on the net now receiving over 100,000 unique visitors a day. He is also the owner of Wisdom Digital Media - a leading designer of entertainment and technology web sites. He is also the lead producer on BroadwayWorld.com's consistently sold-out Joe's Pub concert series, and Standing Ovations benefit concerts. Diamond was also named one of the "Top thirty magazine industry executives under the age of 30" by Folio magazine. Robert holds a BS degree in information management and technology from the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. Visit his blog at www.robertdiamond.com.

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