Top Line: October 22, 2001

Road warriors, get ready to cut your Ethernet cables-for good. Indeed, wireless networking gear is emerging as a standard option on most notebook computers.

Notebook Makers Talk Up Wireless

Road warriors, get ready to cut your Ethernet cables—for good.

Indeed, wireless networking gear is emerging as a standard option on most notebook computers.

The trend is particularly important to solutions providers that target the small-business or education market, which are opening their arms to wireless LANs.

To wit, nearly two dozen schools, including Seton Hall University and the University of North Carolina, are embracing wireless IBM ThinkPads across their campuses.

Small businesses also are cutting the cord. "Smaller organizations are discovering that they can use wireless LANs in lower-cost real estate" that often lacks Ethernet-grade network cable, says Leo Suarez, VP of personal systems product marketing at IBM.

Over the next 12 to 18 months, roughly 30 percent of laptops will ship with embedded wireless functionality, according to estimates from International Data Corp. and other market research firms.

Notebook makers are attuned to the forecasts, and are delivering 802.11b (11-Mbps) or 802.11a (54-Mbps) wireless solutions.

IBM recently unveiled several ThinkPad models that include an 802.11b Mini-PCI Card and an antenna that is integrated on the laptops display.

Similarly, Toshibas Tecra 9000 and Portege 4000 Notebooks now come with wireless Mini-PCI Cards from Cisco Systems.

In stark contrast, Compaq evangelizes "MultiPort" technology on its Eva notebooks. This approach places both the antenna and the 802.11b radio in a notebook panel, which allows users to upgrade at their own convenience.

Most notebook makers focus on the 802.11b wireless standard, but some models will shift to the faster 802.11a standard next year.

Proxim, for one, has designed an 802.11a Mini-PCI Card, which includes proprietary technology that doubles performance to 108 Mbps (throughput is about 35 Mbps, according to Proxim).

Some wireless access points will be upgradeable from 11b to 11a, notes Jay Parker, Dell Computers product planning manager for Latitude notebooks.

However, desktop and laptop 802.11b gear does not have an upgrade path to 802.11a, notes Lorena Kubera, director of portable product marketing at Compaq.

As a result, most users who want to migrate from one standard to the other will need to "rip and replace" their gear.

Translation: Somebody call an integrator.

3Com Shows No Fear

After running from Goliath in recent years, 3Com is finally ready to compete head-on against Cisco Systems—again.

3Com has launched a rebate program that rewards partners for deploying 3Com switches instead of alternative gear from Cisco. The rewards range up to $100 per bid.

The push against Cisco represents a subtle but significant shift in marketing strategy for 3Com. In recent years, 3Com mostly pushed small-business networking gear and telephony products that compete outside of Ciscos core enterprise market.

Compaqs Quiet Partner

Compaq is delivering the technology goods to the U.S. Postal Service, but not without IBMs help.

As part of a 5- to 10-year deal with the Postal Service, Compaq says it will provide Wintel-related technologies and services worth up to $1 billion.

The caveat: Compaq says IBM will work as a subcontractor on the deal, providing undisclosed products and services to the customer.

Ironically, Compaqs proposed merger with Hewlett-Packard is an attempt to eliminate the need to partner with IBM in such deals.

However, quarterly financial results reveal that the proposed Compaq/ HP combination would not rival IBM Global Services in size or reach.

In the meantime, Compaq is willing to work with IBM to win business.

Compaq delivered more than 32,000 servers, 50,000 notebooks and 180,000 desktops in a previous Postal Service deal.

Bidding For Scraps

These are troubling times for Stonebridge Technologies, a Dallas-based e-consultancy that recently went bankrupt.

Tomorrow, a judge is expected to declare the winning bidder for the companys assets.

Many of those workers still remaining hope the winner will be Stonebridge founder James Ivy.

Others, mainly from among the hundreds of laid-off Stonebridge employees, wonder how the firm managed to burn through $80 million in financing.

On the plus side, the company recently inked a two-year deal with the State of Kansas to provide project management certification classes for state employees.

Heading for the Border

Cap Gemini Ernst & Young has won the right to enter contract negotiations to supply up to $640 million in outsourcing services to Hydro One Inc., Canadas largest utility.

CGE&Y outbid a number of competitors, including Accenture, which had earlier expressed confidence in winning that business.

Under the 10-year outsourcing deal, CGE&Y would provide a range of services to Hydro, including the management of its IT operations, supply chain, HR, financial and customer care operations.

ASP Finds Rich Uncle

Bain Capital Partners plans to pump $100 million into USinternet-working, which should help the ASP survive long enough to generate positive cash flow.

The deal is contingent upon a number of financial requirements.

USinternetworking delivers software as a hosted service to customers.

Can PwC Fix CRM?

Pricewaterhouse-Coopers and Meta Group next month will release results of a global study, which shows that mutli-channel integration is CRMs Achilles heel.

The report also finds that nearly three-quarters of respondents view front-to-back-end integration as their top priority.

In response, PwC has launched IMPACT, a CRM architecture that uses pre-built components from Sun, Siebel and Crossworlds.

Qwest Throws Voice Over IP

Qwest Communications is deploying Nortel Network switches to route voice calls over IP networks within 14 states.

Qwest says the VoIP system will be more cost efficient that circuit-based voice switches. Nortel hopes the Qwest agreement will jumpstart its telecom sales to other regional and national service providers.

Storage Show Goes On

Brocade Communications and KPMG Consulting have launched an eight-city road show to demonstrate storage-area-network (SAN) solutions. The show kicked off earlier this month. For more information, visit