Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Magic Black Object

While I was growing up, I read a ton of work by the established Science Fiction greats. In fact, until just a very few years ago, the term Science Fiction meant to me, a book or a story written (on paper) by someone who actually had some education in a field of science.

So I was raised on (often) bright visions of the future in which the ingenuity and creativity of man had resulted in devices that seemed incredible, nearly magic.

In fact, it was Arthur C. Clarke, one of the undisputed giants in the field of SF, who said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." (Profiles of the Future, 1961)

Well today I hold in my hand an artifact that demonstrates the truth of Clarke's vision.  It is, by inspection, simply an inert black object. But when powered up and operating correctly, it is just the thing I've been waiting for.
What I'm talking about of course, is the new Sierra Wireless Overdrive 4G mobile hotspot. This device provides me a hotspot region around me that will support up to 5 devices any place where I can get a signal from my cellular provider. (In this case, Sprint.)

The PC Magazine review on the Overdrive was lukewarm, but that was when compared to devices on other cell carriers (not an option to me, or to you since it means abandoning the service contract), and when compared to the U301 which is nice,  but must be connected to a USB hub on a laptop or computer.

The Overdrive sits by itself, it doesn't require me to add driver software or management software to my computer (which) and it allows a connection by any type of device that uses WiFi (802.11).

There are two shortcomings with this device.  The first is that it has pitiful battery life.  (Much like the Palm Pre, various iterations of the iPhone, the Motorola Android phones, and many other devices in their first edition.)

The other shortcoming has to do with Sprint.  Right now, they are charging their customers "by the minute" rates to use the device on the 3G network, but unlimited time is available on their 4G network.  What sucks about that is that they have 4G available in very few markets right now.  In fact, they don't even expect to turn on 4G in the San Francisco Bay Area (including Silicon Valley) until December.

So Sprint is telling me, "We have this amazing new device, and you can use it in an unlimited way everywhere we've installed the new network, but sorry, we haven't done that in your area yet."  NOT so customer friendly.

For me, the good news is that I don't use the device continuously. I only have it for the times when the available WiFi in the vicinity is missing, weak, or tariffed.  Also good news for me, is that by the change in the calendar year, I should be able to count on 4G coverage in the areas where I live and work.

So time will tell.   But in the meantime, I am amazed by the concept of this device, and I really loved the little promo video that Sprint released about this device.

Let's see how it goes...