I had a quick chat with a friend who lives in the United States regarding the future of HSPA Data Cards. By chance I also listened to a commercial this morning while I was driving to the office. The commercial was one from FujitsuSiemens and they were talking about a laptop with an embedded HSPA card.
I think that from different point of views the HSPA market is similar to the the early days of WiFi data cards.
PCMCIA came first, a few ExpressCards model a little bit later and then a huge number of USB adapters.
The dynamic I see is quite similar even if the evolution is faster. It took three, four years to go from PCMCIA form factor to USB in WiFi data cards while it seems that the very same evolution has taken less than 18 months.
Nowadays embedded WiFi is almost a standard in any PC and the market is starting to approach in the very same way the HSPA connectivity.
Probably HSPA will become a commodity in the future just it happened with WiFi.
There are some differences that may leave space for external data cards for a long time.
The first thing is about standards. WiFi has evolved over years form 802.11b (Direct Sequence or Frequency Hooping), 802.11g, 802.11a, 802.11n. These standards were adopted worldwide even if with some differences on frequencies utilization and the technology has become quite pervasive.
On the HSPA side there is much more fragmentation than there is in the WiFi arena. UMTS networks are not as wide available as WiFi Access Points and also HSPA is moving its first steps in these months.
United States are still a big market for computer manufacturer and i do not think they will add HSPA to current configurations even if it may be offered as an option.
Anyway the trend seems to be already set and some big companies are planning these kind of device in their portfolio.
Even chipset manufacturer are going to add support to personal computers via dedicated chipsets. As an example have a look at the Gobi announcement from Qualcomm.