Wireless vs. wireless 10.03.2007

Microsoft’s new Zunes have been upgraded to be smaller, better, sexier than before. It also features wireless syncing. But it doesn’t feature a wireless store. This got me thinking: which one do I see as best following the ideal of a wireless world?

By far, the correct answer is a wireless store.

There’s an age old mantra ingrained into the modern technological sphere that the less wires a device uses, the better the device becomes. A logical conclusion is that the device is better because it is less tethered to an object.

But is wireless syncing truly Wireless in the ideological sense?

To me, the idea of Wireless, with a capital “W”, implies a practical disconnect between physical proximity and content-fetching ability. A cell phone, for example, is truly Wireless because a call can be made in any location, provided a tower is in range. A bluetooth headset, on the other hand, is technologically wireless, but not ideologically Wireless: it only works in relatively close proximity to the host phone.

A similar argument can be made for wireless syncing: it is not Wireless, but rather wireless. As far as I can gather from available information, syncing can only be made to a host computer — but not to a host computer over a network. I cannot, for example, sync to my home computer through my work computer. I must be within wireless range of my home computer.

This proximity requirement essentially regulates wireless syncing to the lower-case “w” realm. It is wireless because it has no wires. But it is not Wireless because physical proximity is still the primary constraint of content-fetching ability.

The wireless iTunes Store, on the other hand, can be considered a Wireless feature: it allows for content-fetching that is unconstrained by physical proximity. I can, for example, download music from the work network, or the home network, or any other accessible 802.11b/g network.

This is mostly academic, in many ways, since in terms of real-use, I’d probably employ the wireless syncing feature much more than I would purchase songs from the store.

But it’s an interesting distinction to consider.

Are we after a wireless world, or a Wireless world?