Silicon.com reports on the estimated number of wi-fi spots globally by end of 2005.

"The number of Wi-Fi hot spots looks set to break the six-figure barrier by the end of the year, according to analysts.

A new report from research firm Informa Telecoms and Media is predicting the number of Wi-Fi hotspots will reach 100,000 before the start of 2006."

The article also points to evidence (provided by Gartner) showing the uptake of currently available hotspots by 'mobile workers' is quite low, around 25% (I think this is quite high!).

This past week or so I've been using these hotspots a lot. From airports, hotels to Starbucks of course, it has been great (liberating) to connect on the road without messing with wires (rates are still too expensive for my liking though).

Connecting wirelessly is one of those 'try once, use always' type of experiences, where you wonder how you managed without.  As more and more devices become wi-fi enabled, as more people get used to and expect connected mobility and the providers keep providing a bigger footprint through more hotspots and new technologies (see Viva the Mesh) come to market we'll get closer to the vision of ubiquitous wireless connectivity - everyone connected, everywhere.  Intel and plenty of others will try to see this vision becomes a reality, for everyone:

" "About a billion people are likely to get connected to the Internet using current technologies," said Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Communications Group. "The challenge is the next 5 billion - the current Internet 'have-nots.' That's where the recent broadband wireless technologies are going to play a critical role. There is no way the problems of healthcare and education can be addressed globally without reaching these 5 billion people. The twin technologies of Wi-Fi and WiMAX are going to transform the communications industry over the next decade. They give us a chance of connecting the rest of the planet." "

Update: 28 Sept 2005. Scientific American has publsihed an in depth article on the future of Wi-fi.

"Pyramid Research, a communications industry research firm, predicts the global number of Wi-Fi users could top 271 million by 2008

...With the development of smart Wi-Fi techniques, wireless networks are beginning to behave more like their wired counterparts, and wireless users are starting to notice the difference. More remains to be done in this regard, though, and research to take Wi-Fi further is continuing. Work, for example, is now under way to automatically find a mobile device in a Wi-Fi network. This capability would allow network operators to quickly locate people (say, physicians in a hospital) or objects (products moving through a factory assembly line) as needed.