Techies agree the future belongs to wireless


Herald Writer

Psst. Wanna know about the next big thing?

Forget the personal computer. Think wireless communication.

That’s what some of the biggest minds at some of Seattle’s biggest technology and venture capital firms agreed Tuesday during a panel discussion assembled by the Associated Press for area business editors and writers.

"The cell phone is truly the thing that will change everyday life," said Richard Tong, a partner in Ignition Corp., a venture capital firm. "It will change the way everyone lives and works."

Tong, a former longtime Microsoft employee who describes his job as "dreaming big", has five cell phones and a monthly bill that runs about $500 to $600.

He said those cell phones are worth every penny.

Unsnapping a tiny phone from his belt, he let his fingers do the walking to a service that accessed his office e-mail and started reading it to him in an understandable voice. He also arranged to have some electronic documents faxed to the next stop on his schedule by sending a few simple commands through the keypad.

"This phone is four times more powerful than the original personal computer," Tong said. "Think about that the next time you make a phone call to your mom."

Paul Bialek, chief financial officer of Real Networks of Seattle, also sees a world where wireless communication is king. His firm is already the world leader in delivering music and other media over the Internet.

He said new wireless Internet devices will change the way we entertain ourselves by giving us anytime access to whatever we want to see or hear.

"Think of the notion of a record store open 24 hours a day, seven days a week on your street corner and everyone else’s street corner," he said. "It’s going to be very, very fascinating."

Bialek said cell phones are considered a luxury in the United States, but noted that many developing countries are finding it cheaper to erect wireless towers and skip the idea of linking everyone with telephone wires or fiber optic cable.

Because cell phones have snob appeal, usage in the U.S. is low in comparison to other countries, Tong said, noting that only two out of every five Americans has one. But that means the potential market is large, he added.

He said Seattle is a "great lab" for technological innovation because many of its residents work in the field. And the wireless companies with headquarters here may help lead the revolution.

"It’s likely that Seattle will be the next wave," he said. "Seattle is the place for the wireless Internet."

Bialek said that wave could come quickly as growing usage around the world drives down cell phone costs.

"We’re going to wake up some day and say, ‘Wow, how did that happen,’ " he said.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

Panelists from different areas of mental health care speak at the Herald Forum about mental health care on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At panel, mental health experts brainstorm answers to staff shortages

Workforce shortages, insurance coverage and crisis response were in focus at the Snohomish forum hosted by The Daily Herald.

Police: Marysville man fist-bumped cop, exposing tattoos of wanted robber

The suspect told police he robbed three stores to pay off a drug debt. He’d just been released from federal prison for another armed robbery.

Most Read