Intel, Linksys Team on Wireless LAN Connections

Duo aims to make WLAN configuration easier for small office and home office customers.

Intel Corp. and Linksys this week announced a partnership designed to make WLAN configuration easier for small office and home office customers.

Initially, Intel is simply conducting tests that ensure that notebook computers with Intels Centrino mobile chipset will work well with LinkSys access points.

LinkSys products that have undergone such testing will be identified with a packaging label that reads "Verified with Intel Centrino Mobile Technology."

Up until now compatibility ensurance has been the domain of the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry consortium that tests products for compliance with IEEE 802.11WLAN standards and labels them with the "Wi-Fi" logo.

LinkSys and Intel officials insist that their testing isnt redundant.

"We go beyond the spec," said Charlie Giancarlo, senior vice president of product development at Cisco Systems Inc. in San Jose, Calif. Cisco bought LinkSys earlier this year. "The Wi-Fi alliance does not test for user experience."

In the future, the two companies also plan to develop products designed specifically to detect and work with each other with each other, officials said.

"The initial set-up procedure is going to be easier," Giancarlo said.

But existing LinkSys customers say that the user experience really couldnt be much simpler, especially for a home user who doesnt have to worry about more than one access point.

"You plug it in!" said Steve Durst, research director at Skaion Corp., a small security company in Chelmsford, Mass. Durst uses a LinkSys access point and a WLAN PC Card from D-Link Systems Inc. "Theyre both 802.11b compliant, and thats all I care about. Thats the whole point of standards."

Durst added that he plans to upgrade his wireless equipment to either 802.11a or 802.11g in the near future because they both offer higher data rates than 802.11b. Centrino currently supports only 802.11b. Intel has plans to offer an 802.11g version of Centrino, but there is still the issue of its being embedded in the CPU.

"Upgrading the CPU means you have to buy a new laptop," Durst said.