Toshiba to Deliver Hot Spot Access Points

Will demonstrate technology at PC Expo; also unveils 'Itsumo,' PDA.

Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.s Computer Systems Group is readying new technologies and services to support its effort to make WLAN access in public spaces ubiquitous through 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 last week informally introduced the Wireless Broadband Hot Spot, a public access point that will cost $199 to deploy. Now, there are about 1,200 public access points throughout the country, mostly in airports. Toshiba officials said theyd like to see 10,000.

"We will be hosting the back office, basically," Koenders said. "You give Toshiba a call, tell them you have installed [an access point] and we do everything else."

"This seems a lot like their attempt to get into the server business," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in San Jose, Calif. "Lots of people [such as Hewlett-Packard Co.] are doing what they are doing—a hot spot in a box."

To encourage use of public hot spots, Toshiba at PC Expo in New York this week will show how customers can send e-mail documents to a printer via a hot spot. "Right now, if youre in a hotel, the only way to get a printout is to send a fax to yourself," Toshibas Koenders said.

Also at the show, Toshiba will introduce the Seamless Office, a combination of hardware and software that lets users roam between access points without losing IP addresses.

"Were also building a secure [IP Security protocol] tunnel around it," Koenders said.

In addition, the company plans to introduce technology that supports VOIP (voice over IP) on 802.11b WLANs (wireless LANs) as well as third-generation cellular networks.

"Well show you how to go between [WLAN] and [General Packet Radio Service]," Koenders said.

The solution is code-named Itsumo, which means "every time" in Japanese, and will be known as Mobile Communication Server. With it, customers will be able to make calls using VOIP 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 to the cellular network.

Officials said it will be a while before such services are available and that details wont be released before next year. At a minimum, such services will require a device that supports both 3G and 802.11b technology.

Last week, Toshiba, of Irvine, Calif., unveiled a personal digital assistant that supports 802.11b but not voice. In addition to integrated WLAN 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 are designed to support added memory, Bluetooth wireless connections and various hardware peripherals. The e740 costs $599.

Toshiba officials said the company plans a device that supports voice and 802.11b, but it has not been publicly announced yet.