Kindle WiFi, WiFi direct, eReader

Update: Amazon now has the Kindle WiFi available for $139.

Olga Kharif at BusinessWeek has an extremely interesting post on a new technology called WiFi Direct that will morph a variety of gadgets into WiFi hotspots and transform WiFi.

  1. What is WiFi Direct? It’s a Technology that turns your phone, eReader, camera, etc. into mini access points – wirelessly connected with other WiFi enabled devices and broadband enabled modems within 300 feet.
  2. When does it arrive? Mid 2010. Intel is already briefing retailers on it and will start pushing it Q1 2010.
  3. Why? Lots of reasons we’ll go into below. On the surface for customers.
  4. Where will WiFi Direct Be? Everywhere. All Consumer Electronics – phones, computers, TVs, gaming consoles, the Flip, hopefully eReaders and the Kindle.
  5. How does it work? Not sure – thought it seems that existing WiFi capable devices can upgrade to WiFi Direct with just a software upgrade.
  6. From Who? Cisco, Intel, Apple and the WiFi Alliance.

The Real Reason behind WiFi Direct

Technology companies are tried of the hold cellular networks have over them.

  1. Amazon has to pay $2 per book downloaded outside the US to AT&T – It’s messing up the entire Kindle value proposition. 
  2. AT&T and its poor network have been thorns in Apple’s side since the launch of the iPhone. 
  3. Google has been bidding on wireless spectrum and trying desperately to open up the airwaves for its own ends.  
  4. Microsoft and Google have to bid ridiculously high amounts to become the ‘default search provider’ on networks like that of Verizon.

With WiFi Direct Intel, Cisco, and Apple (and other technology companies) get two big opportunities -

  1. In the worst case create an alternate wireless network that is free of the control of AT&T, Verizon, etc.  iPhones without $100 a month voice and data plans.
  2. In the best case create their own networks that they control. This would not be done at first, if ever. However, the possibility remains.

Customers with WiFi Direct enabled devices will create an alternate wireless infrastructure – It really is crowdsourcing infrastructure. Millions and millions of iPhones, Flips, Canons, TVs, Kindles, and PCs will form the building blocks for a giant, crowdsourced WiFi network. 

What WiFi Direct would mean for the Kindle, eReaders and eBooks

Lets take a quick look at some of the things WiFi Direct would enable -

  1. WhisperNet style wireless free downloads all over the world.  
  2. Free Internet browsing (or very cheap browsing). 
  3. The x% of ebook cost that goes to Cellular Networks gets cut out.
  4. The y% of eReader price paid to Cellular Networks (if any) gets cut out.
  5. The amount of time Amazon and eReader makers are wasting ‘negotiating’ with wireless companies gets eliminated. Basically, eReaders and innovative new features can spread quicker.
  6. Direct communication with every other Kindle or eReader – would go very well with a sharing/lending feature.
  7. Direct connections from your Kindle to every other device in your house including your PC.

There’d be some downsides too -

  1. A constant security threat. 
  2. Piracy would be totally out of control.
  3. Probably the end of Unitasking.  
  4. Freeloaders who steal other people’s Internet bandwidth.

Overall, the benefits of WiFi Direct far outweigh the downsides. In another 18 to 24 months we might live in a world where every single device has a WhisperNet like ever-present Internet connection.

WiFi Direct would free the Kindle and other eReaders from the clutches of cellular networks.

Of course, eReaders like Txtr that already come with WiFi (and would be able to upgrade to WiFi Direct with a software upgrade) would have a major advantage.

If the Wi-Fi Alliance’s efforts seem bound for success, Amazon would be well served to outfit Kindle 3 with a WiFi chip – perhaps Kindle 3 will be Kindle WiFi Direct.

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