At its main CES press conference, Asus pleaded the case for WiMAX flanked by partners Intel and Sprint. It's an interesting gamble, which it is placing a new second generation Eee PC right at the middle of.
The second-gen Eee is due "in the second quarter" of this year according to Jonney Shih, the chairman of Asus's Computer division. Asus know they are onto a winner with a new machine - they've already shifted 350,000 of the old ones in a couple of months.
"Welcome to a new world of mobile internet," he said, talking of WiMAX as truly enabling the fourth stage of internet connection after modem, wired broadband and wireless broadband - "the true mobile internet" said Shih. He added that WiMAX would mark the end of the 'hotspot' concept.
Asus expects to have WiMAX in as many as 15 per cent of its laptops by the end of this year and will doubtless forge other partnerships as it seek to push its WiMAX 'advantage' over other manufacturers. Shih said the Eee in particular would push things forward saying the machine "removes price point and technical sophistication as barriers to WiMAX, making it a true universal standard." Asus and Intel are partnering with Sprint's XOHM WiMAX network in the US.
'Global support' for WiMAX, says Intel
Next, Sean Maloney, Executive VP at Intel took to the stage. "About 2002 it was apparent to us that Wi-Fi, while extremely successful, was frustrating when you were out of range of a hotspot," said Maloney. "2008 is the big year. The way that people use the internet is changing."
"The big thing is that [WiMAX standard] 802.16e has a lot of other global support. My anticipation is that it will be Intel and a couple of other silicon suppliers [involved]."
But will WiMAX really take off? Asus and Intel seem to believe that it could have as great an impact on connectivity and laptop architecture as when Intel announced Centrino back in 2003. Even if they are convinced, we believe there's a little wishful thinking involved, especially when you consider that WiMAX adoption in a country like the UK is miles behind what Sprint is doing in the US.
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