Thursday, March 15, 2007

USB trumps ExpressCard

Despite—or maybe because of—the news about ExpressCard coming from Cebit and Verizon Wireless today, I have to say the ExpressCard seems to be playing a losing hand in innovation compared to USB and good old system integration.

Novatel Wireless announced today its V740 card is available through Verizon. The card offers 600 Kbits/s to 1.4 Mbit/s downstream and 500-800 Kbits upstream for a cost of $179 if you buy a two-year contract with Verizon, or $299 with a one-year contract. If the relatively slow speeds didn't discourage you, the high price and carrier controls ought to.

In any case, notebook makers are integrating cellular as a top priority, so these cards may soon go the way of their Wi-Fi cousins. But it gets worse.

At Cebit this week the PCMCIA folks are demonstrating some of the 127 products now wearing the ExpressCard logo--including computers and readers. Frankly, outside of digital TV tuners, most are cards are for functions a self-respecting notebook should have integrated—e.g. Wi-Fi, Gbit Ethernet and 1394.

USB has already filled any need for flash-card readers, USB expansion hubs and more. That will only increase when the USB folks start talking in a year or so about a USB 3.0 to leverage the 5GHz Express inside the box. The work is already well under way inside Intel.

Nothing ever dies in the PC, it just slowly fades away. ExpressCard won't fold its hand anytime soon, but its pile of chips is visibly shrinking.

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