Dell Puts New Wireless Setup into Laptops

 
 
By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2006-07-07
 
 
 
Dell is replacing Microsofts wireless setup wizard in its laptops and mobile workstations with one from a smaller vendor that officials say offers improved functionality and troubleshooting support.

The product from SingleClick Systems provides a sophisticated application for sensing the characteristics of a wireless network, setting up connections to the network, and managing a variety of network profiles for users who move their laptops from one location to another.

The product, which is also available directly from SingleClick, of Toms River, N.J., is shipping under the name of Dell Network Assistant on Dells consumer laptops, notebooks for SMBs (small and midsize businesses) and its mobile workstations.

According to Dell spokesperson Anne Camden, those systems include Inspiron notebooks, Dimension desktops, XPS laptop and desktop systems, and the Dell Precision mobile workstations. Camden told eWEEK that Dell customers can try out the new software by visiting www.dell.com/networkassistant.

The product is also available at SingleClicks Web site as SingleClick HomeNet Manager.

In an interview with eWEEK, SingleClick CEO Scot Zarkiewicz said that while the product shipping with the current Dell products is suitable for SMBs, his company is working on a new version of the software for larger corporate and enterprise customers that will work with bigger networks and domain controllers and fit into a larger IT environment. He said he hopes the product would also be available through Dell, of Round Rock, Texas.

Zarkiewicz declined to say when the enterprise version of the software would be available.

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In addition to vastly easing the setup and management of wireless connections, SingleClicks software manages profiles for multiple locations, such as an office wireless network and a home network, he said. The product also provides wireless security that manages the network gateway router and can prevent unknown users from attaching to a network without permission.

Zarkiewicz said the HomeNet Manager product effectively offloads some management functions so that the network router, including wireless routers such as those available from Netgear or Linksys, will query its client before allowing a connection to the network. However, according to Dell, this security function is currently disabled in its version of the software until the company makes some additional improvements.

The SingleClick software is designed to keep track of a network map by reading every device on the network and presenting it for approval by the user or network manager. This works with any device on the network, without regard to the operating system that may be running on the device.

Rounding out the feature set, Dell and SingleClick are including a PC and network troubleshooter as part of the SingleClick suite. This software can diagnose and fix problems on the computer on which its installed, and it can also diagnose problems on the local network or on the WAN to which the computer is attached. Camden said that would ease the workload for Dells support staff.

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According to Marc Padovani, manager of Dells support tools marketing team, the new SingleClick software was developed by both companies. "We developed this product out of a necessity to improve our customer experience in setting up and managing their home networks and small offices," he said.

Padovani said most of those networks are wireless, which is why the wireless setup capability was critical.

The troubleshooting capabilities were also important to Dell, he said. "We combed our data on support calls, and looked at the trends that were going on in the consumer space, and determined the information and troubleshooting that were needed," Padovani said.

He said that prior to this release, SingleClicks product was actually three stand-alone items. "We worked with them to merge the functionality of the three products," he said.

Padovani also said that Dell added a more basic top-level view, and a wireless FAQ feature to the product that aids users in setting up their wireless networks and keeping them running.

Zarkiewicz said the new software started shipping on Dell computers the week of July 3. He also said that as of July 7, the company has about 30,000 registered users though Dell, and that the company got about 5,000 new customers on that day. He said the rate of increase is about 500 a day.

Padovani said he hopes Dells installed customer base will also download the product and use it, which is why its being made available to the companys customers on its Web site.

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