Imagine being able to head down to the local convenience store and pick up a commodity web browser / communicator. It will cost less than $50 so you will be able to upgrade fairly often. If you lose it, it's no big deal because it doesn't actually hold any data. Your data is all safely stored on the net, at gmail, Skype, Flickr or DataZoomer.
If you want to give your device to a friend, no problem. If you want to share one with other family members, no problem. It's basically a the modern version of what we used to call a 'dumb terminal'. After 30+ years of viruses, spyware, blue screens of death and upgrade nightmares, it doesn't seem so dumb after all.
Now imagine that next generation WiFi is everywhere. And it's free. All metropolitan areas are covered as are most smaller towns. And, this dumb terminal, has software that allows you to communicate via the internet. Just like a telephone - but there's no phone. No phone bill.
It runs a basic set of communication applications, and that's it. You don't won't install applicaitons on the device because they're all available on the net - for free.
This futuristic scenario is getting much closer that some of us think.
Sony has had the PSP Game machine out for a few years and in my opinion, one of the most exciting features of this device is often ignorede. The thing has an awesome display and it can be used for browsing the web via a WiFi connection. Not only that but it also has a streaming media player that can play podcast feeds right off of the net. Pretty cool stuff and it's a few years old.
Well, here is something new from Sony. They call it the mylo personal communicator and get this... it does not have a cell phone! Instead, it has Skype. Very cool. It also plays mp3's, has 1 GB built in RAM, supports memory stick (natch), web browsing, email, chat, .... on and on... you can check out the link for yourselves but for me the idea of ditching the cell phone and using ubiquitous WiFi instead is just awesome.
It's not just about the money (although I do think cell phone rates are outrageous). It's about being held hostage by having your phone number locked, it's about contracts that cost a fortune to get out of and, it's about being nickel and dimed for every little feature for years.
WiFi phones are coming in lots of different shapes and sizes and companies like Sony, Apple and Nokia are getting on the WiFi bus because unlike most cell phone companies, they have a business models that don't have that nasty side effect where your customers end up not liking you.