Wednesday, May 28, 2008

WiFi uber alles

I am playing catch up with Cliffside, an Intel project to put WiFi in the personal area network disclosed at IDF Shanghai. Turns out this work and another effort (stay tuned for a Monday story) has a lot of people excited about WiFi someday becoming the one radio you need to handle everything from mice to linking to the Net.

One of my fave wireless analysts, Craig Mathias, claims the time has come for WiFi PANs. "In a couple years a WiFi PAN business could be very successful," Mathias told me on the phone today. It won't kill Bluetooth--nothing dies in high tech--but it could stunt its long term growth worse than a bad cigarette habit.

Intel claims its technology can connect up to eight WiFi devices to a notebook on a PAN while the computer is on a WiFi LAN. The technology could improve the quality of media streamed between a computer and a TV or other display because it eliminates the latency of going through an access point.

The Cliffside program uses a modified Intel WiFi chip with additional buffers to rapidly switch between PAN and LAN modes and is expected to ship within 12 months, said Gary Martz, a marketing manager for the program. He said use will probably be limited to consumer notebooks for the first year or so.

"Corporate IT managers will probably have a heart attack, perceiving this as enabling notebooks to be a bunch of rouge access points that impact performance of their WiFi networks," Martz said.

Mathias was animated in his enthusiasm for WiFi. "WiFi's success is unquestionable. It will be in everything. Twenty years from now people will still be talking about WiFi."

Good, we tech reporters need the job security ;-)


Anonymous said...

WiFi has been plagued by security and performance issues from the start. Security is further complicated because it relies on people to do the right thing since automation isn't perfect or always enabled appropriately. It is not unreasaonble for at least the corporate world to pause and be concerned. It is also not unreasonable for the government to step in at some point with regulation since there will be a number of concerns of security violations occurring that result in people's information being stolen. Whether this is real or not is an open question.

Bluetooth does not suffer as many of the problems as WiFi. It isn't perfect by any means but it is something easier to control and manage. Also don't forget that volume associated with headsets for all of those cell phones sets a beach head and while WiFi is coming about, that beach head might grow much further than people realize.

Rick Merritt said...

Yes, as is often said in the technology world: nothing ever dies. Bluetooth is big and growing. So is WiFi. The current question is only whether the expansion of WiFi in the PAN will curtail the growth of Bluetooth over the next, say, three to five years.

As for your comment that "Bluetooth does not suffer as many of the problems as WiFi" ...I'd like to hear more specifics.