Novatel Wireless 2352 hits UK; we talk MiFi future with VP Rob Hadley

Carrier T-Mobile will be the first in the UK to offer Novatel Wireless' "Intelligent Mobile Hotspot", the MiFi 2352, which SlashGear reviewed back in June.  Available through retailer The Carphone Warehouse in early October, the Novatel Wireless 2352 will be priced from free, assuming you're willing to sign an 18 month contract (at £20 ($33) per month for 3GB data).  We sat down with Rob Hadley, Novatel Wireless' senior VP of sales and marketing earlier this week to talk trademarks, software and the next step for personal hotspots.

There's some confusion in the UK, where carrier 3 has launched the Huawei E583X under the name "MiFi", a term more commonly associated with Novatel Wireless' range.  Like the 2352, the 3 MiFi shares a single 3G data connection with up to five WiFi clients and runs from its own rechargeable battery; unlike the 2352, the 3 MiFi lacks the secondary applications processor and memory.  According to Hadley, the nomenclature issue has come about because 3 hold the "MiFi" telecom services trademark, while everywhere else Novatel hold the "MiFi" product trademark.  To get around that, in the UK the 2352 will be marketed under the Novatel Wireless name, rather than as the MiFi.

Rob also had a few words to say on the recently opened Novatel Developer Program, the first stage in bringing coders in to get third-party apps running on the MiFi 2352's processor.  This is apparently only in its early stages, though we're told there'll be a significant consumer announcement coming soon, rather than merely the enterprise-friendly VPN and similar software that has been discussed previously.  While we're not allowed to mention much of what Hadley told us is in the pipeline, we can say that Novatel are focusing heavily on the "personal" aspect of the MiFi, and leveraging the always-on webserver element of the device.

We suggested one of our own dream apps: a photo processing tool that would take shots from an Eye-Fi or a WiFi connected device, create multiple sizes on the MiFi itself, watermark them as appropriate, and then upload the web-sized versions to an online gallery (such as an Apple liveblog) while storing the full-sized images on the hotspot's microSD card.  Giving nothing away, Hadley agreed that that sort of functionality was ideally-suited to the MiFi.

We also pressed him on the possibility of Android on the MiFi, something he had previously confirmed to SlashGear that was technically feasible.  While it's not something Novatel Wireless are currently working on, he admitted that the Linux-based device certainly could be used with Google's open-source distro, assuming the mobile platform's dependency on having a screen and buttons could be reworked to suit the MiFi.  Android, we can't help but think, could easily push the MiFi concept to its tipping point for third-party developers, and the device is crying out for some under-the-table hacking.  Similarly, when we tried to press Hadley for news on the rumored LTE MiFi he refused to be drawn; however, we'd be very surprised if Novatel didn't have at least plans for personal LTE-sharing devices somewhere on an internal roadmap.

We'll be keeping an eye on Novatel Wireless' software announcements (and keep pestering them on Android); until then, check out our review of the MiFi 2352 and our unboxing video of the device below.

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