This week, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel at WiMax World in Chicago. My fellow panelists and I spoke about the advantages and challenges of WiMax, with a particular emphasis on the ecosystem surrounding the technology. In fact, “ecosystem” (as defined by Dr. James Moore) was the key buzzword at the conference, as participants realize the advantages of this technology will only impact the market if a critical mass of companies work together. We did our part, with the Cisco ASN gateway interoperating in the booths of several WiMax radio vendors. Berge Ayvazian of Yankee Group moderated the panel, and he lightened the mood by bringing three foam balls on stage, bearing the Sprint WiMax brand XOHM. He challenged panelist Jeff Thompson, founder and CEO of Towerstream to juggle them, and Jeff rose to the challenge with several deft cycles. Not to be outdone, Atish Gude, another panelist and senior vice president of Sprint Xohm, juggled at least as well. Both earned a round of applause from the audience. Clearly, my conference speaking skills need to move towards circus tricks, perhaps fire eating or sword swallowing. While WiMax still faces a long road ahead, one service provider with whom I spoke has already completed successful multi-vendor interoperability tests. He showed me a USB-based “dongle” used to connect laptop PCs to WiMax service. (USB seems poised to displace PCMCIA as the PC connection of choice, in part because it works with desktop PCs, not just laptops.) Not yet a full WiMax ecosystem, but good first steps.