Microsoft Wi-Fi, We Hardly Knew Ye

David Coursey reflects on Microsoft's now-terminated adventure in the 802.11 hardware business. While the company did some good in the market, he says he's not sorry to see it go.

Its easy enough to say good riddance to Microsofts wireless hardware business. When they first came around—ahead of the September 2002 release of the gear—to show me their "easiest to install" Wi-Fi devices, I told them in no uncertain terms that it was a mistake to get into the business at all.

Why? The world didnt need Microsoft as a Wi-Fi vendor. There were—and remain—a number of good Wi-Fi vendors. Microsoft was not a hardware innovator, though their 802.11g gear is nice. Microsoft also didnt set a new low price point, although its prices were certainly competitive.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about Microsoft discontinuing its Wi-Fi products.

Microsoft said its goals were to improve ease of use and security, not to put other vendors out of business. They seem to have succeeded in both. The MS installation routine was simpler than other vendors, and they did have security "on" by default—something that was uncommon among existing vendors when Microsoft entered the wireless market.

But the first Microsoft products were 802.11b, released just before 802.11g became widely available. The company was then slow getting into the "g" market.

Still, Microsoft was competing unfairly. If Microsoft knows of an easier or better way to install and manage wireless hardware, that technology belongs in the operating system—not in a proprietary Microsoft installation or management package. Thats something else I told them before they entered the market (actually, "lectured them about" is more accurate).

/zimages/3/28571.gifMicrosofts Wi-Fi efforts were out of place, Carol Ellison writes. Click here to read more.

Microsoft was in a market where it wasnt needed, doing something that conflicted with its responsibilities as the operating-system vendor—something I thought could eventually result in more legal problems.

Redmond apparently agrees with me, at least if the Wi-Fi improvements in XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) are any indication. The service pack makes XP more wireless-friendly than it has been and improves security as well. Those are good things. And despite all of this, I liked the Microsoft hardware and, as promised, Microsoft didnt put anyone else out of business.

So, while I welcome Microsoft getting out of the wireless hardware business, its not really necessary at this point. And I will even miss some of Microsofts hardware products.

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