Toshiba Inc.s Computer Systems Group is prepping new technologies and services to support its effort to make wireless LAN access in public spaces ubiquitous through so-called hot spot access points.
"If you want to make it simple for people you have to have a lot more spaces," said Oscar Koenders, vice president of worldwide global planning at Toshiba.
To that end, the company this week will informally introduce the Wireless Broadband Hot Spot, a public access point that will cost $199 to deploy. Currently there are about 1,200 public access points sprinkled throughout the country, mostly in airports. Toshiba officials said theyd like to see that number rise to 10,000.
"We will be hosting the back office, basically," Koenders said. "You give Toshiba a call, tell them youve installed it, and we do everything else from there."
The solution is still in the testing phase, but Toshiba plans to partner with resellers throughout the year to work toward a widespread deployment of the public access points, Koenders said.
To encourage the use of public hot spots, Toshiba at PC Expo in New York next week will be demonstrating how customers can print documents from their e-mail to a Hotspot printer.
"Right now, if youre in a hotel the only way to get a printout is to send a fax to yourself," Koenders said.
Also at the show, Toshiba will be introducing the "Seamless Office," a combination of hardware and software that enables users to roam between access points without losing their IP address.
"Were also building a secure IPSEC tunnel around it," Koenders said.
The company also plans to introduce technology that supports voice over IP on 802.11b wireless LAN as well as third generation cellular networks.
"Well show you how to go between wireless LAN and GPRS," Koenders said.
The solution is code-named "Itsumo," which means "every time" in Japanese, and will eventually be known as Mobile Communication Server. The idea is that customers will be able to make calls using voice over IP whenever a public WLAN "hot spot" is available. Customers of such a service would be able to use WLANs to make phone calls, but if the WLAN was not available the service would switch over to the cellular network.
Officials said that it will be a while before such services are actually available, and that details wont be released before 2003.
"We need a lot more partners in order to do that," Koenders said. "Toshiba is not going to be able to do that on its own…Well need carriers and other infrastructure providers."
At a minimum, such services will require a device that supports both 3G and 802.11b technology.
On Monday, Toshiba, of Irvine, Calif., introduced a PDA that supports 802.11b, but not voice.
Besides integrated wireless LAN support, the Toshiba Pocket PC e740 features a color display and the new Intel Corp. PXA250 processor, as well as integrated CompactFlash II and Secure Digital expansion slots, which as designed to support additional memory, Bluetooth wireless connections and various hardware peripherals.
The Toshiba Pocket PC e740 costs $599.
Toshiba officials said that the company has plans for a device that supports both voice and 802.11b, but it has not been publicly announced yet.
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