General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

A service of the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Technology eReport

American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice

March 2008

Vol. 7, No. 1


  • MacNotes »
    MacBook Air, Time Capsule, and Office 2008 for the Mac.
  • TechNotes
    Imagineering, high-speed wireless computing, and predictions for 2008.
  • SurvivingEmail »
    The advantages of multiple online personalities.
  • Sites for Sore Eyes »
    Fun and handy reference sites that rock.
  • ProductNotes »
    The HP MediaSmart EX475 and JD Supra.
  • DivisionNotes »
    GP|Solo leadership appointments, more on JD Supra, a solo & small firm caucus, the new law student web page, and a call for nominations on a range of fellowships and awards.


Trends in Technology

Imagineering Comes True Revisited

I last wrote on this topic in the May 2006 issue—less than two years ago—when I discussed the announcement by the Technical University of Braunschweig in Düsseldorf, Germany, that it had developed entirely transparent organic light-emitting diode (OLED) pixels. Since then much of the work on transparent OLED panels has focused on their use for lighting, rather than for video displays.

For example, Osram Opto Semiconductors has demonstrated a transparent white OLED prototype that has achieved a luminous efficacy of more than 1000 candelas/square meter. The large‑scale prototype is 55% transparent, whether on or off, and Osram expects ultimately to achieve 75% transparency. Potential applications include partitions that are almost invisible by day and then provide a pleasant diffused light at night.

In the meantime, Sony has brought to market the first in a line of OLED-based televisions—the Sony XEL-1. While small (11" diagonal screen) and expensive ($2,499 MSRP), the screen is only 3 mm thick—about the thickness of a stack of three credit cards—making the XEL-1 seriously cool. Taking advantage of an OLED pixel’s ability to be completely on or completely off, the XEL-1 offers an unprecedented 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, as well as a 178° viewing angle without distortion.

Sony also showed a prototype 27" OLED TV at CES in January, with a 10 mm thick screen. Samsung showed prototype 14.1" and 31" OLED TVs at CES in January, but the 31" device is not scheduled for production until 2010. Toshiba, on the other hand, has shelved plans to sell OLED-based TVs because of the cost of mass production. Seiko Epson, however, still has the honor of having developed the largest prototype OLED display at 40".

Sony also has announced that it has developed a new application for OLED technology called organic thin film transistor (OTFT). The OTFT can be deposited on a flexible plastic display, which is the world’s first full‑color display that can project full color moving images even when the display is bent. Sony demonstrated small-format (2.5") prototype at CES, but with only 160 x 120 pixel resolution. LG.Philips LCD also demonstrated a small-format (4") prototype at CES, with 320 x 240 pixel resolution.

I’m just waiting for an affordable single curved video display that can carry the equivalent of three LCD displays for my computer—and give me the equivalent of a Cinemascope experience if I ever can find time to watch a movie.

High‑Speed Wireless Computing Revisited

In the same May 2006 column, I discussed alternative wireless solutions involving a wireless PC card modem accessing third-generation (3G) networks using UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications service). EV-DO, or high-speed download packet access (HSDPA) is another alternative. At the time, I noted the nominal speed disadvantage of these cellular data networks in comparison to 802.11-based WiFi networks—and the proposed development of advanced UMTS‑HSDPA (3.5G) technology, which promised to offer an order-of-magnitude or greater speed increase over that of 3G networks.

A year later, by the end of 1Q2007, there were 117 million UMTS‑HSDPA users worldwide, representing 68% of all global mobile broadband 3G subscribers. In the United States, that means that Sprint and AT&T Wireless (formerly known as Cingular) customers have access to UMTS‑HSDPA, while Sprint and Verizon customers still are using the CDMA networks of those providers, affording them access to EV-DO technology. That forecloses Sprint and Verizon customers from access to advanced UMTS‑HSDPA (3.5G) technology. In fact, Verizon has elected not to deploy HSDPA technology at all, opting instead for LTE (long-term evolution) technology to replace its current CDMA 1xEVDO Rev A network, and Sprint/Nextel (which lost 683,000 postpaid subscribers and 202,000 prepaid users during 4Q2007) has opted for WiMax.

Some commentators have suggested that advanced UMTS‑HSDPA (3.5G) technology (such as 14.4 mbps HSDPA) never will be deployed because newer, faster, and cheaper technology will be available by the time current-technology HSDPA networks are fully deployed. By that time, HSDPA networks will be thinking about deploying MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) instead of deploying the older 14.4 mbps HSDPA technology.

What does this mean for you in terms of speed? In substance, not much, especially if you are using a newer notebook computer. In the real world, CDMA (EV-DO) and HSDPA are roughly comparable, because one almost never experiences the ideal throughput capability of any network, whether because of traffic volume or because of channel constraints.

What does this mean for you in terms of access? If you have a cellular- and WiFi-equipped notebook, you no longer are tied to WAPs (wireless access points) to access the Internet. Instead, you can have wireless access anywhere you have cellular access to a data network (including courtrooms, libraries, beaches, mountains, bars and restaurants) while enjoying WiFi speed when you are near a WAP (such as your local Starbuck’s 1 ).

You have two options for a cellular- and WiFi-equipped notebook:

  • Some notebooks, such as Dell’s 2 XPS M1530 or Latitude D630, offer the option of both built-in WiFi cards (802.11g, 802.11a/g, or 802.11n) and built-in cellular wireless capability using either EVDO ($149) or HSDPA ($199), with technology that switches seamlessly between the two connections. If you’re on a WiFi WAP and move away from it and out of range, the notebook simply transfers your online session over to the cellular wireless connection.
  • Other notebooks offer only a WiFi card. If you have a WiFi-only notebook in your briefcase, you can add cellular connectivity by adding an external card. They come in three forms—those using a PC Card slot (such as the Sierra Wireless AirCard 881), those using an Express Card slot (such as the Kyocera KPC680 ExpressCard), and those using a USB interface (such as the Sierra Wireless AirCard 595U or the Novatel Wireless Ovation U727). Check with your cellular service provider to see what is available as an add-on to your existing service plan.

Predictions for 2008

It’s the beginning of a new year, and those who pay closer attention to the world of technology than I have offered some suggestions of what to expect during 2008. Here is a sample of the predictions, for which I take no responsibility:

  • The desktop PC (computer, plus separate monitor) will become passé. Instead, it will be replaced by integrated devices like the Dell XPS One and the iMac, notebooks, UMPCs (Ultra‑Mobile PCs), thin clients (think terminals of 40 years ago) for server-based computing, etc.
  • The HD DVD war with Blu-Ray will end. With Blockbuster reporting in mid-2007 that more than 70% of high definition rentals were Blu‑ray discs, and with Blu-Ray outselling HD DVD by about 2:1 during the first three quarters of 2007, it is expected that Blu-ray, originally developed by Sony and Pioneer, will prevail. If that is the case, look into the future for 10-layer Blu-ray DVDs with as much as a 250 GB capacity or 200 GB re-writeable. Unfortunately, while the discs can be produced, reader and writer technology lags behind and does not yet support the additional layers.
  • Cellular networks will move to VoIP. That prediction may be a bit of a stretch, but with Sprint/Nextel moving to WiMax for its network backbone and the other cellular providers using networks that are designed for moving both data and voice, a move to VoIP is not much of a stretch. More importantly, a move to VoIP signals a move to personal telephony—with everyone having a unique telephone number on which to be accessed any time, any where.

We live in interesting times, and the prospects for the future—at least as to technology that will be useful to us—are bright.

1 WiFi access at Starbuck’s requires a T-Mobile broadband account with either a monthly subscription or pay-per-day usage.

2 Dell Inc. is a member benefit provider of the ABA, offering members discounts on Dell products.

J. Anthony Vittal ( ), is in private practice with The Vittal Law Firm based in Los Angeles, California. A former member of the ABA Standing Committee on Technology and Information Systems, a member of the editorial boards for Tech eReport and the Technology & Practice Guide issues of GPSOLO, and a member of various technology-oriented committees of ABA Sections, he speaks and writes frequently on legal technology topics.

© Copyright 2008, American Bar Association.