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3 Views of Wi-Fi: The Skeptic The Visionary The Historian

3 Views of Wi-Fi: The Skeptic The Visionary The Historian

Introduction by Bill Ray, editor-in-chief

Wi-Fi has never been in the news as much as it is now, far beyond the few techies and hobbyists who first showed what was possible. Wi-Fi is hitting the headlines now, more than ever before, mainly because it's starting to attract real money.

At the time we first started covering wireless Ethernet in WBT there was already a marked divide in the industry based on widely differing opnions about the future of this unregulated technology, ranging from evangelical belief to complete dismissal, and everything in between.

We were already reporting on the first Wi-Fi devices way back, but it was when we started talking to companies actually deploying the technology that we began to realize this was going to be something big. The ease of deployment, and the fanaticism of the supporters, suggested that Wi-Fi was going to be big in the enterprise.

As smaller companies deployed Wi-Fi indiscriminately, we concentrated on the security details, noting the problems and showing how they could be addressed, while big companies were preparing their strategies to exploit the newly wireless. Only a few months ago we interviewed IBM about their Wi-Fi plans, as Intel and friends launched the Centrino logo for Wi-Fi-ready hardware, and it's pretty clear by now that Wi-Fi has found a home in most companies.

With success comes money. Witness the recent announcements from Vivato, a wireless networking infrastructure company, that it had raised $44.5 million in a Series C funding round, and from 802.11 fixed-wireless specialists Broadband Central that it has raised $17.5 million. It's clear that someone thinks there's a lot of money to be made from Wi-Fi.

But while few would argue the obvious value of losing the cables in the office, it's outside where things are more contentious. Wi-Fi hotspots and home networking are both coming into the picture, but it remains to be seen if either of these areas proves fertile ground for actual wireless profits.

Given the difference in opinion in the industry, we thought we would kick off the debate by sharing a selection of conflicting views and perspectives with you. On the following pages you'll hear from "The Skeptic," "The Visionary," and "The Technology Historian," but what we'd really like is to hear what WBT readers think. Do you find yourself siding with The Skeptic, or trusting The Visionary? Or do you have another view entirely? Make sure you let us know - after all it will be users, not commentators, who will ultimately be deciding which one of us is right!

More Stories By Bill Ray

Bill Ray, former editor-in-chief (and continuing distinguished contributor to) Wireless Business & Technology magazine, has been developing wireless applications for over 20 ears on just about every platform available. Heavily involved in Java since its release, he developed some of the first cryptography applications for Java and was a founder of JCP Computer Services, a company later sold to Sun Microsystems. At Swisscom he was responsible for the first Java-capable DTV set-top box, and currently holds the position of head of Enabling Software at 02, a UK network operator.

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