Whatever happened with wireless USB?

9 Comments

578pxcertified_wireless_usbsvgUSB has become a part of most of our lives since it became the de facto standard for connecting peripherals to our computers at home and work.  Firewire may have been first on the scene but it’s been solidly bumped by USB since 2.0 became the standard.  Apple has taken a lot of flack for dropping Firewire from the new MacBook but truth be told they see the light and it’s powered by USB.

A couple of years ago we started hearing about the Next Big Thing in USB, the wireless version that would free our desktops from the coils of tangled cables that are the norm.  Laptops and other devices would incorporate integrated wireless USB and peripherals would start appearing in great numbers to push us firmly into the wireless desktop age.  So what happened to that scenario?

I have never seen a device in use with wireless USB capability nor have I seen word of any peripherals sans cables.  The only devices I have seen at all with wireless USB technology are a few USB hubs that frankly defeat the whole purpose of the concept.  Sure you can hook up all your old wired USB peripherals to the hub that then can connect wirelessly to your PC but that only removes one wire out of many from the desktop.  All those peripheral wires are still all over the place with only the one hub cable replaced by wireless technology.  Not what we were hoping for.

Two years ago Toshiba showed off their cool wireless USB dock with the hot new Tablet PC, the R400.  Those of us in the crowd at the first public demonstration were wowed by not only the wireless USB peripherals but also the wireless connection to the external monitor.  One device, no wires.  It was cool and foretold of great things to come.  So what happened?  The R400 never took off and we never saw the wireless dock mentioned much again, which is kind of the situation with the whole wireless USB thing.  Come to think of it not even Toshiba produced any other products with the demonstrated technology.  Does anybody use the technology currently and if so, how is it?  I have a mound of tangled cables beside my desk that needs to go away so my interest is personal.

9 Comments

anonymous

The WUSB products are based on the WiMedia Alliance UWB radio, which happens to be the exact same UWB radio which is powering the upcoming boost in speed for Bluetooth. The technology is a very wide pipe, with multiple PAL’s sitting on top of a Common Radio Platform. WUSB has had a difficult start with some technical problems, that are being ironed out. Kensington has a dock out, Dell and Lenovo are shipping notebooks with UWB radios built in, and a handful of various peripherals are starting to come to market, such as a UWB harddrive that sits in your backpack but is available, so say… that UMPC or netbook you’re working on. WUSB will compete head to head with the speed boosted bluetooth once both are on the same base UWB radio, can’t predict if both will continue of one will kill the other off, both are possibilities. The launch of WUSB has served to help work out the kinks of the technology, which will help both the Bluetooth and eventual IP PAL’s to roll out smoother. Cost of the UWB radio has kept adoption rates low, as the early radios are a bit expensive for consumer products to carry. Remember, early Bluetooth radios were over $8 each, now they’re under $2. The same will happen over time to this new radio technology, and once that happens, and the value proposition to have one improves, adoption will take off. Keep in mind, that right now, its only WUSB with a limited set of peripherals. Not too many peripherals since there aren’t that many hosts to connect to. Not too many hosts, since there aren’t that many peripherals. That egg thing. In the near future though, once Bluetooth is on the radio as well, and/or IP along side of WUSB, now we’ve got more reason to incur the cost, and more reason for a consumer to spend a few more bucks to get it. We’re just not there yet, be patient.

Jacob

It’ll probably take off eventually, bluetooth and wifi had trouble early on too. I suspect in the next year we’ll start to see more devices with WiUSB

Nathan

I had an R400 for a while and I was very under-whelmed with the performance of the WUSB. Even at a range of 6″ (well within the advertised 30″ range), the throughput was pretty low. Audio was unstable, burning to an external DVD burner was unpredicable, certain USB devices like my WD external hard drive were not supported, and the monitor resolution was limited to 1280×800 (which looked horrible on a 1920×1200 monitor). Given, I might have had a bad unit, but Toshiba’s customer support wasn’t willing to warranty it unless I had bought it through them (I bought it through a reseller – who wouldn’t warranty it either). At any rate, if you can, try before you buy…

David

It hasn’t taken off because it is too expensive. The chips have been running at $15 a piece and that is too expensive for laptop/desktop manufacturers to incorporate it as a standard feature. Bluetooth and Wifi took off as standard features when their price dropped to $5 per chip. This is expected to happen with wireless usb next year, and it could lead to it becoming more mainstream. Wireless usb has real advantages over wifi and bluetooth in terms of data transfer rates and power consumption. I think it will find a place in the world of consumer electronics in the next couple of years, it was just a little slow in getting started.

chad

I agree I bet it was over manufactures wanting everything their own way with out compromise.

May now that the disappointing trend in Bluetooth is simply to support the headset profile HSP, since less devices now work with OBEX, DUN, PAN. heck even the MP3 playing iPhone wont work with A2DP or HID (iPhone would be a killer device if I could pair my keyboard with it for long email responses while I’m remote)

If we could simply get a full Bluetooth implementation with VDP (Video Distribution Profile) or GAVDP (General Audio/Video Distribution Profile) you could have a cable-less docking station.

But it would seem the support for all these existing profiles is lacking… OSX is horrible with BT, Microsoft isn’t much better and don’t even get me started on linux (altho it is getting much better) Cell phone providers want to limit all the features. No one is interested in providing a useful device.

Imagine if Apple added the GAVDP BT support to the apple TV and iPhone/iPod you could wirelessly watch your video’s on your TV with no cables.

Oliver

bluetooth doesn’t have anywhere near the bandwidth of USB. Ever tried to, say, sync a palm via BT? (compared to USB it’s dreadfully slow). No way would it work for monitors.

Stephen

It sounds like you’re describing Bluetooth. I would speculate that what killed WUSB was the usual disagreements over standards and reluctance of manufacturers to invest in a standard that would pit itself against BT (a technology that people were already warming up to.)

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