Unstrung called a gaggle of analysts, spokespeople, and rival companies such as Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and tried to sneak a peek at Intel's plans, but to no avail. Nobody seems to know exactly what the chipmaker is scheming, although the suggestions we heard ranged from new silicon to home networking kit.
For the record, we think that Intel might announce its home-grown, dual-mode 802.11a/b chipset soon. The company has already told Unstrung it intends to have that silicon on the market before the end of the year (see Intel Plots Home-Grown 802.11). The company currently sources WLAN chips for its cards from Atheros Communications and Intersil Corp. (Nasdaq: ISIL).
Certainly the company is very gung-ho about 802.11, even if that bullishness hasn't yet translated into silicon market share. "In the next year, 802.11 will become pretty much ubiquitous," Christensen told Unstrung in an interview in London this morning. "We're going to see a hockey stick [in terms of 802.11 deployment and use]," he added.
Christensen thinks the history of Ethernet is about to repeat itself. Laptops and notebooks will soon come with 802.11 connectivity built in. As a result, individuals will take the initiative and begin using the technology to access enterprise information systems. Corporate IT departments will lose control, just as they did when workgroups started doing their own thing with LANs when Ethernet cards arrived 20 years ago.
Intel is planning to grease the wheels of this revolution in various ways. For a kickoff, it's a "big believer" in 802.11a/b cards -- ones that work with legacy 802.11b access points, as well as higher-capacity 802.11a access points, according to Christensen. He likens this to Intel's introduction of Ethernet cards capable of operating at 10 or 100 Mbit/s, which helped users migrate to higher speeds.
"We aren't big believers in 3G," Christensen adds. Users will need high bandwidths in places where they're stationary for a while, but GPRS speeds are good enough for people on the move. "My personal view is that 3G will be used for voice rather than data," Christensen says.
Christensen also thinks mobile VPNs are about to take off in a big way. "The deployment of that software is in the middle of that hockey stick," he says. Just about every major company is looking at deploying mobile VPNs to solve security issues and to simplify logging on to corporate applications for people on the road.
Intel has invested in a number of startups with developments that complement its vision of a wireless world. The ones singled out by Christensen for special mention include: