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

Funko mascots Freddy Funko roll past on a conveyor belt in the Pop! Factory of the company's new flagship store on Aug. 18, 2017.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Lawsuit: Funko misled investors about Arizona move

A shareholder claims Funko’s decision to relocate its distribution center from Everett to Arizona was “disastrous.”

1 stabbed at apartment in Lynnwood

The man, 26, was taken to an Everett hospital with “serious injuries.”

A firefighting helicopter carries a bucket of water from a nearby river to the Bolt Creek Fire on Saturday, Sep. 10, 2022, on U.S. Highway 2 near Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Red flag fire warning issued west of Cascades

There are “critical fire weather” conditions due to humidity and wind in the Cascades, according to the National Weather Service.

A house fire damaged two homes around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 6, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Fire burns 2 homes in Marysville, killing 2 dogs

Firefighters responded to a report of a fire north of Lakewood Crossing early Tuesday, finding two houses engulfed in flames.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Mountlake Terrace eyes one-time projects for $2.4M in federal funds

Staff recommended $750,000 for a new roof and HVAC at the library, $250,000 toward a nonprofit facility in Lynnwood and more.

The Snohomish River turns along the edge of the Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve at Thomas’ Eddy on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
To build a healthier Snohomish River, more log jams

About $2.8M in grants will help engineer log jams, tear down levees and promote salmon restoration at Bob Heirman Wildlife Preserve.

Dave "Bronco" Erickson stands next to the pink-and-purple 1991 Subaru Justy hatchback “Pork Chop Express” car that he is seeking to re-home for $500. The car has been on Whidbey Island for years, mainly as yard art. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
For sale: Whidbey’s fabled ‘Pork Chop Express’ gets great smileage

Asking price is $500 for the 1991 Subaru Justy, a three-cylinder econobox with 65K miles and a transmission as rare as hen’s teeth.

People begin parading down First Street with a giant balloon “PRIDE” during Snohomish’s inaugural Pride celebration on Saturday, June 3, 2023, in downtown Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Your guide to Pride in Snohomish County

Mark your calendars; Pride Month is upon us.

Twin sisters Lyndsay Lamb (left) and Leslie Davis (right), co-hosts of HGTV's Unsellable Houses. (Photo provided)
Meet and greet HGTV’s ‘Unsellable Houses’ twin sister stars in Snohomish on Friday

Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis have made Lamb & Co. a #twinwin home-selling, home-goods brand.

Most Read