Optical/IP Networks

Centrino & the Mac

5:20 PM -- I know a number of analysts have wondered aloud as to why enterprise adoption of wireless LANs has to date been less than expected. After all, wireless LANs are now fairly inexpensive, and performance is on a par with wired Ethernet (and with MIMO and .11n will actually provide about double the throughput of 100-Mbit/s Ethernet). There is no shortage of enterprise-class products, with even Cisco a major player. Perhaps the enterprise is just waiting for .11n before they spend the big bucks on wireless LANs.

No matter -- they will. And there are two elements at work that all but assure wireless LANs will become the default connectivity in most businesses.

The first of these, of course, is Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)'s Centrino silicon -- an 802.11 chipset that has led to WiFi being standard issue in almost every business-class notebook sold today. Too often this is still .11g only. I urge enterprises to invest in a/b/g clients, and infrastructure as well, for that matter. But the mere presence of a wireless client begs the question -- where’s the other end? Once network managers realize that their PCs are wireless out of the box, they’ll install the other side. We call this “Centrino Effect” -- if you’ve got one end, you’ll want the other.

And the clincher here will be demand from the users of those wireless notebooks, who are likely already enjoying the benefits of wireless at home. Residential WLAN have always had advantage over their enterprise counterparts because there’s no IT department at home demanding a technology review, security analysis, or strategic plan, and prices continue to go down as price/performance improves. The fact that most homes are a lot more difficult to wire than most businesses only helps.

This reminds me of the early days of the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) Macintosh. Apple used to run TV commercials about how happy Mac users would bring their computers in to work, to use in place of the crappy MS-DOS-based PCs they were otherwise given. Same thing with WLANs -- it’s hard to go back to wire once you’ve unwired -- such deprivation often results in rogue APs! Anyway, we call this “Macintosh Effect.” Thus the conclusion: User demand plus a provisioned client side equals more infrastructure. It's inevitable.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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