So what will happen to Mobile Hotspots?

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Yesterday, when Apple announced the new iPad, it also touted that the new iPad will be able to offer “mobile hot spot” like features, allowing you to share your super-fast wireless broadband connection with five devices. This prompted folks at Fool.com to ask: did Novatel and Sierra Wireless get Garmin’d?

Garmin, if you remember was a maker of GPS devices, that predictably was relegated to marginal existence by iPhone and then a range of smartphones. In other words, Garmin, the device became an app. So from that perspective, Fool.com is right in asking the question. The stock market agreed as well and the shares of two companies declined.

Their question made me think about the future of mobile hotspots. Clearly, a nice market to begin with, the need for hotspots keeps decreasing as more devices such as the iPads and iPhones come packed with WiFi and mobile broadband connectivity. We are also seeing people replace laptops with the tablets on their short trips and thus decreasing the need for mobile hotspots. And the ability to share connections via the iPad/iPhone/Android phone is going to kill the demand from casual hotspot owners. I am one of the casual owners — once I got the Verizon iPhone, I stopped using my dedicated mobile hotspot device

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However, there is one problem with the Pad or phones-as-a-hotspot — battery life. The sharing kills the battery faster than Highlight app notifications. And I think this is the big edge for the dedicated hot-spot makers. They could come up with innovative designs and at the same time work on increasing the battery life of their device. I am thinking they should be taking a cue from the modem makers of the old. Remember when ISDN/DSL because a threat to their business, some modem makers started offering higher speeds by using bonding technologies. I wonder if Novatel and Sierra Wireless can provide a faster, and longer lasting wireless hotspot experience.

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