3G 4G Macbook Air
It appears that a splendor feature aimed at business travelers a decade ago, implanted 3G, and now 4G, have become ever more customary in PC laptops aimed to consumers. Apple's most recent MacBook update in the rear-view mirror, now's as excellent time as any to think about what could be headed to the next generation of the company's notebook lineup.

Apple has also griped the wireless technology in its iPad, having jumped it from the iPhone to the original iPad on AT&T's GSM network, then later, on Verizon's CDMA network with the iPad 2. So what's the holdup in bringing that same technology to Macs? Is Apple waiting for something?

Of particular interest is embedded mobile broadband, a notable omission to the Mac laptop range that's now stretched into a waiting game of its own. This is the technology that lets your computer tap into cellular networks and use broadband data while on the go, sans a dopey USB adapter or wireless puck.

At the moment is that the timing has been off on the network side of the equation: 3G as we know it is on the road to being replaced by 4G, which offers a big speed improvement. Speed becomes especially important on computers versus phones because of the things people tend to do on them, like download files and e-mail attachments and run multiple applications that can slurp up data at a faster clip than smartphone apps.

Providers have placed gamble on the competing parts of the range, creating a situation where there's no easy way to buy hardware that will work with them all though technology is the one way that can do that. But the carriers and service providers have not made it so easy to get to that promised land of fast, wireless data. 4G as it's been marketed in the States is not truly 4G by the strict definition. There are different flavors of that "4G," like WiMax, HSPA+, and Long Term Evolution (LTE).

4G-chip producer Beceem, which was acquired by Broadcom back in October, has a chip in development that does both WiMax and LTE. Apple uses Broadcom's wireless chips in the iPad as well as the iPhone, and for Wi-Fi on its Macs. A similar dual-mode chip initiative was put forth by Sequans at Mobile World Congress last month. Intel, which supplies chips for Apple's notebooks and desktops is also said to be working on a similar solution of its own. In the interim that leaves device makers like Apple, as well as consumers, having to pick a standard and stick to it.

To the company's credit, it has provided a product that gives its own laptops wireless 3G service, though it's nowhere as seamless as a built-in modem. Since iOS 3.0, users with iPhones and a carrier data plan that supports tethering, can share their phone's connection with their computer over a USB connection or Bluetooth. In the Verizon version of the iPhone 4, Apple introduced a slightly more elegant feature that would let users turn the phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot, something that was later brought to GSM iPhone users in iOS 4.3.
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