The most unsexy gadget in mobile just got a lot more attractive. Clearwire has started to sell a new WiMAX dongle that users can plug into laptops, tablets or netbooks and get instant mobile broadband access – without installing any device management software or messing about with logins. It’s basically a plug-’n’-play modem that can bring 4G to a much wider variety of devices, including Chromebooks and Android tablets.
The $50 Clear Stick Atlas, manufactured by Ubee Interactive, eschews device management software required for all other modems by simply shaking hands with the connection software already built into common operating systems. Currently, any device with Remote Network Driver Interface Specification (RNDIS) support or Communication Device Class (CDC) support can make that handshake. Today that includes Windows XP through 7, Mac OSX, Linux, Android and Chrome.
By hanging off the OS, the Atlas becomes the first truly device-independent mobile broadband modem in the U.S. market, according to Clearwire. Even 4G hotspots like the Novatel Mi-Fi require software on your primary computer to activate and manage the device.
That means there is a lot of upside for devices like the Atlas. Operating systems with their own connection managers are making it into a variety of gadgets, from game consoles to TVs. As the list of supported OSes on the Atlas expands, so does its potential to bring wide-area connectivity to more of our electronic appliances.
The Atlas is WiMAX only, so if you’re not in a Clearwire market (you can see a map here), it’s of little use. But Clearwire is also one of the few remaining operators to offer unlimited data plans, though it will throttle back speeds on customers it deems to be consuming too much data.