Throughout much of Europe, wireless progress was slowed by the fact that it was illegal to set up a public network in many countries. Commercial Wi-Fi was only legalized last year in the United Kingdom, and there are still queries about exactly who can run a public hotspot in several other European cities. But pragmatism has won; even where it was officially banned, users ignored unenforceable regulations. The result, says Eaton, has been a simple response: Senior corporate executives have fallen in love with the technology, and where IT management has been reluctant, because of security scares, individual employees have taken the initiative. The week of the show, Airespace launched its European subsidiary. Like its rivals, Aruba and Trapeze, this company is targeting security-conscious installers of wireless; the Airespace technology touts its ability to have the access points "listen to each other"thus quickly spotting any rogue access points which might compromise security. Trapeze was promising similar features, and manageability issues suddenly are coming to the fore.The surprise, over here in Europe, seems to be how little extra credibility market leader Cisco has. It still has more corporate network nodes, perhaps, than any other rival; but delegates to the show said they arent sold on the idea of going down a proprietary route. Ciscos CCXsold on the basis of providing Ciscos own LEAP securitywasnt the talk of the show, except amongst those who were warning that it wasnt a free lunch. It comes at a priceof preventing people who use it from using any other wireless access points. The EWT show was a successbut it has to be put in context. It occupied a single floor of the second, smaller hall at Londons Olympia conference center. Put into context: In its heyday, the major summer Network show occupied about 10 to 20 times the floor space and delegates, even though it had to tempt visitors up to the center of Englandto the "second city" of Birmingham, and the National Exhibition Center. (You might compare Olympia 2 with the NEC by going to Las Vegas and comparing the main exhibit halls to the conference center in just one of the Strip hotels. As this years Comdex show proved, giant IT exhibitions were a thing of the 80s and 90s. In todays thinner climate, however, an industry that experiences the sort of sudden jump in spending that Wi-Fi is enjoying on both sides of the Atlantic is big news. Guy Kewney is among Europes best-known IT writers, having covered the PC and communications businesses since the mid-1970s in print, on TV and radio, and latterly on the Web. He has regular columns for Personal Computer World, IT Week and The Register, and is editor of www.NewsWireless.Netand has more portable and mobile bits and pieces than anybody could carry, including his own portable Wi-Fi access point and three different cellular data cards. His objective is to be omnipresent on the Internet.
And that, of course, could mark the crucial difference between a home network with a single access point and a corporate infrastructure where security actually might matter.