Wi-Fi's Harbingers of Doom And Promoters of Plenty

Did you see this article in today's New York Times? The title alone will raise the hair on your back; that is if there's any left after the burning siege of anger singes those tiny follicles. “Led by Intel, True Believers in Wi-Fi Say It Will Endure“. Fact is, Intel had been bucking the open Wi-Fi standard in favor of its own primarily proprietary ill-fated Home RF technology. But someone woke up.

Ok. So NOW Intel believes in the Wireless future. Ok, then who and where are the nay sayers? To be fair, the article does a good job pointing out that Intel made a grave mistake. It just doesn't go far enough.

[…] The new Intel bet is remarkable given that the company initially backed the wrong wireless standard, putting its resources behind a competing standard known as Home RF […] But Intel, […] realized the power and potential pervasiveness of the unregulated Wi-Fi wireless networking standard, technically know as the 802.11 standard. […]

Of course, if you followed and bought into the press on Intel's “innovative” Centrino several months back you'd be hook, line and sinker believing that Intel invented Wi-Fi — aka: 802.11(b) or 802.11(g). Little does anyone care or even does it matter that Apple was the first computer company to make Wi-Fi a standard option and even built-in on its computers. Thankfully an Intel exec came clean in an interview with the Times:

[…] The Wi-Fi standard was developed and commercialized at Apple Computer as early as 1999. Ultimately, though, it gained widespread popularity on its own, Mr. Barrett acknowledged in an interview here, as a grass-roots, from-the-bottom-up movement[…]

But that's not he point here. I mean does the future of Wi-Fi have anything to do with Intel or any grass roots movement? I would have to say the answer would be as much as Pets.com and its sock-puppet pokes-thing had anything to do with selling pet food or any other food over the internet. And a grass roots movement? What's he thinking? Grass roots inasmuch as the popularity of fossil fuel over the last 50 years is the result of a grass roots movement. Geeez.

[…] In the three months since Intel introduced its wireless PC chips, the company has come to dominate the Wi-Fi market. It is now putting Wi-Fi circuitry in all of its chip sets for portable computers, investing widely in Wi-Fi industry start-ups and spending almost its entire annual marketing budget in a $300 million advertising campaign trumpeting the virtues of its unwired Centrino brand. […]

Sure, last week while I was sitting listening to former FCC commissioner Reed Hundt compare the broadband evolution necessary to rollout high-speed access to the common communities and people to a bygone era in US History when the national highway system was built the contractors were all lobbying to extoll the benefits of concrete and asphalt. Which will better suit the need of customers? Asphalt or concrete. At the end of the day, and according to Hundt, 50% of the country highway system is asphalt while the other is concrete.

Now that was an interesting and politically correct compromise. Or, were there just not enough special interest dollars to push for a true government-proposed or backed standard? Intel has its plans though. Working with a small Israeli company it plans to adopt a rival Wi-Fi standard known as 802.16. Additionally, it plans on getting into the service/access business. Or at least that's what I read into the following:

[…] Intel plans to start a test in Texas […] that will use a combination of wireless technologies, including Wi-Fi, to bring broadband Internet connections directly to homes […] (Intel will) back a free wireless standard, 802.16, that is intended to send data over distances of as much as 30 miles and at speeds of up to 70 megabits a second […] high enough to comfortably stream (HDTV) […] the range makes it possible to quickly deploy a system in a large urban or suburban area […] current Wi-Fi technology is limited to several hundred feet and speeds of 11 megabits a second. The Intel test, however, will explore using the 802.16 standard, known as WiMax, to distribute the data to Wi-Fi antennas in local neighborhoods. […]

What will be the primary road for broadband? Fiber? Wi-Fi, satellite? And what about the last mile? Twisted pair (affectionally referred to by Clay Shirkey as the dumbell internet)? To be fair, I'm happy that Intel is focused on a wirelesss strategy. And sure, more computers have Intel processors than perhaps any other. And this contribution and its relentless advertising and PR plan will contribute to the inevitable ubiquity of wireless — Wi-Fi or otherwise.

[…] “Intel has raised the level of the water and is floating all the boats,” said Glenn Fleishman, editor of Wi-Fi Networking News, a Web-based daily newsletter. […]

So as I post this article to The Digital Tavern on my Wi-Fi equipped Apple PowerBook sitting in my back yard while streaming my iTunes playlist from the G4 Cube MP3 server to my local iTunes on the PowerBook while watching the butterflies frolic and play and hummingbirds compete for the nectar of the floral fruits in the garden. Ahhh. The Wireless Future. Just wondering how many neighbors are “drafting” on the speed of my Wi-Fi connection. Ahh. It just doesn't matter.