With its new line of Wi-Fi chipsets designed to plug into a variety of consumer electronics, Broadcom is banking on Wi-Fi beating out other wireless networks for multimedia streaming. It’s not alone in its love affair with Wi-Fi; fellow chip maker Intel, for example, is pushing the standard for personal area networks as well as local area networks. Armed with faster flavors of the technology, an established consumer familiarity as well as a ready source of power from outlets, why not use Wi-Fi for everything, from attaching your keyboard to your computer wirelessly to sending HD movies to your flat screen?
True AV geeks can argue about the merits of picture quality using Wi-Fi streaming, but as a Roku user I can tell you that when the only other choice for my husband and I is to huddle in our office chairs in front of Hulu after our daughter goes to bed, Wi-Fi streamed content via television is eminently watchable. Broadcom’s banking big on the market with its 65-nanometer production plans. By pushing its chips into dongles as well as TVs, DVD players, set-top boxes and speakers, it has the ability to hurt several startups pushing alternative wireless HD technologies such as ultra-wideband, WirelessHD; and the WHDI standard. High-definition purists will gravitate toward some of the HD standards, but the big market will be in Wi-Fi for a while.
The key will be finding both manufacturer support for getting Broadcom chips inside consumer electronics equipment and finding existing equipment that has USB slots so users can easily retrofit them with Wi-Fi dongles. Wi-Fi may have its drawbacks, but for most consumers who don’t want to think interoperability, it’s easy to use. They just want something that works.