Tiny Transformer

Curtis Franklin Jr., Executive Editor | 4/30/2013 | 27 comments

Curtis Franklin Jr.
Transformers are a great concept for cartoons and movies, with robots hiding inside vehicles. What if OEMs could make the concept come to life?

One clever OEM has worked with Microsoft to hide, not a robot inside a truck, but a 3G WiFi router inside a magazine ad. The tiny router, which must be charged before first use, comes with a 15-day free pass on Tmobile's 3G network for those who subscribe to Microsoft Office 365.

According to an article on Mashable, a Microsoft rep confirmed that the ad is real, but was shipped to a limited number of Forbes subscribers who work in the IT and high-tech fields. Those readers being the people they are, it didn't take long for someone to rip the cover off the ad (much like in the video above), take a close look at the router, and discover that the router is based on a chipset designed and contracted for by MediaTek, a "fabless semiconductor company" in the communcations industry. The project raises any number of interesting possibilities and questions for OEM and manufacturing partners worldwide.

The first great possibility comes courtesy of the opportunities in radical pricing. Small cellular routers are typically sold in North America for between $50 and $100 with cellular provider lock-in. A small router inexpensive enough to include in even a very pricey ad campaign shows that manufacturing costs have come down -- and retail costs are almost certain to follow. Where can communications gear be placed if it is almost free? We're going to be learning about that in coming months, I'll wager.

Another possibility comes in the very compact package that slipped a wireless router into a thick magazine insert. Imagine one of the greeting cards now sold with digital voice recorders or simple tone generators -- only now, it has a wireless router that connects the recipient to a cloud service. It could make the annual corporate holiday card a much different experience, couldn't it?

A third possibility doesn't come through the manufacturing or sales of the devices, but in handling them after their wireless account ends. Recycling electronics to capture rare minerals is already a huge industry, and the spread of low-cost electronics in new packages is likely to make the industry even larger. Comments on other articles about the Microsoft ads indicate that consumers care about such issues: Those who manufacture and distribute these new devices will be required by the market to care, too.

Finally there are the possibilities in providing security for ads, greeting cards, and the like. We know that smartphones are vulnerable and it's not hard to imagine "junk mail" with wireless routers embedded as part of a spear-phishing attack. Companies will need to establish policies to deal with such possibilities, and the opportunities for verified, secure, throwaway routers (perhaps with throwaway firewalls and VPN terminators included) will be huge.

It's true that a real-world Optimus Prime would be incredibly cool. Until that happens, the day of the cheap, tiny, embedded wireless router has arrived -- and that's pretty cool, too.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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KeithGrinsted   Tiny Transformer   5/27/2013 4:05:00 AM
Re: cool, but scary
@curtis haha! Micro web servers now! Would it not just be easier for us to have an upgradeable chip implanted at birth? We could have it upgraded at each birthday with data relevant to our age. Possibly even do away with schooling and cut the government's deficit!,
Gigi   Tiny Transformer   5/21/2013 12:22:49 AM
Re: Various mode of advertisements
"So you can proudly say that you are one of the chosen ones. The lucky ones, most probably. From where did you buy the magazine?"

Nasimson, nothing great in that. That's one i used to get by post/courier from Automobile association.
SaneIT   Tiny Transformer   5/20/2013 7:20:41 AM
Re: Ads
I just heard a little blurb about the direction of these "embedded tech" advertisement.  The last one that got attention was a Microsoft ad in Forbes.  http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57581882-71/microsoft-turns-forbes-magazines-into-wi-fi-hot-spots/

I know it's not great hardware but the techie in me wants to have these just to play with them.
nasimson   Tiny Transformer   5/17/2013 1:20:52 PM
Re: Various mode of advertisements
@Gigi: So you can proudly say that you are one of the chosen ones. The lucky ones, most probably. From where did you buy the magazine?
nasimson   Tiny Transformer   5/17/2013 1:15:00 PM
Re: Ads
@SaneIT: I wish I was one of the people who got hold of the special magazine. Woud surely be looking forward to something innovative from any other company as well.
nasimson   Tiny Transformer   5/17/2013 1:11:58 PM
Well, this is interesting. Yes, optimus prime is most welcome to our world but I hope there is no villian in real life as well. Would be ironic, wouldn't it?
Gigi   Tiny Transformer   5/7/2013 10:00:30 AM
Re: Various mode of advertisements
"Interesting, what magazine was that @Gigi? The way you describe it, it kind of reminds me of one of those musical greeting cards that play a simple tune when you open it, and stop when you close it."

Stotheco, it's an automobile magazine. Recently also I had got similar one with Volkswagen advertisement.
tinym   Tiny Transformer   5/6/2013 10:47:34 PM
Re: Really Neat
@Dave I know! I know!

They sent out these special editions to a curious crowd who would tell others and make videos so we could discuss it all here on E2. P-R-E-S-S

I'm a little worried about Curt's idea of scary junk mail gaining access to my wireless network.
SaneIT   Tiny Transformer   5/6/2013 7:19:53 AM
Re: Ads
I think they only did 1000 of the special magazines with the cellular phone embedded in the page and people were rushing out to find them in the markets that they know whey were released.  I think they made their money on that advertisement because the press they go was incredible
stotheco   Tiny Transformer   5/4/2013 10:22:03 AM
Re: Various mode of advertisements
Interesting, what magazine was that @Gigi? The way you describe it, it kind of reminds me of one of those musical greeting cards that play a simple tune when you open it, and stop when you close it.
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