IBM Rolls out Wireless Bundles

IBM this week introduced several prepackaged kits for small and medium businesses that want to build a wireless infrastructure.

NEW YORK – IBM this week introduced several prepackaged kits for small and medium businesses that want to build a wireless infrastructure.

Wireless bundles include:

  • A starter kit that includes two ThinkPad notebooks with integrated 802.11b wireless LAN support and a wireless gateway
  • An intermediate kit that includes two notebooks, two wireless adapter cards and a WLAN access point
  • An advanced kit that includes three wireless-ready ThinkPads, two access points and four wireless adapter cards.

For now, the integrated WLAN support from IBM is exclusively 802.11b, or WiFi, which offers data download speeds of up to 11Mb/second.

The majority of future ThinkPad models will include a miniPCI card from Cisco Systems Inc. that features Ciscos proprietary LEAP security protocol, officials said.

The company has plans for notebooks that integrate both 802.11b and the faster 802.11a, officials said, but that wont happen before the end of the year and isnt likely before the beginning of 2003.

"The bulk of the business is still focused on [802.11]b," said Thomas Grimes, worldwide segment manager for small and medium business solutions at IBMs personal computing division in Research Triangle Park, NC.

The company also is developing ThinkPads that make it easier to enable the wireless equivalent protocol security on notebooks, as small business users are often frustrated by how complicated it is to enable WEP.

"They need some handholding," Grimes said.

Beyond WLAN support the company is looking at ThinkPads that have both integrated wireless LAN and integrated WAN support.

"We are talking to carriers on the WAN side," Grimes said, because notebooks are an ideal way to show off the capabilities of a high-speed 3G networks. "But [carrier] sales forces are used to selling a $100 to $200 phone. Its kind of apples and oranges."

Grimes said the company likely will have 3G PC card offerings in the coming year, but that integrated WAN support in ThinkPads wont happen before next year.

He added that the company has no immediate plans to sell its own handheld devices; IBM stopped selling its WordPad brand of Palm OS devices earlier this year. The company does plan, however, to increase reseller agreements with other handheld computing companies. The personal computing group has plans to sell a package deal of a RIM Blackberry pager and one month of service through a deal with GoAmerica, officials said.

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