Partnership Targets WLANs

Intel Corp. and Linksys last 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 chip set 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." Until now, compatibility assurance has been the domain of the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry consortium that tests products for compliance with IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN standards and labels them with the "Wi-Fi" logo.

Linksys and Intel officials insist that their testing isnt redundant. "The Wi-Fi Alliance does not test for user experience," said Charlie Giancarlo, senior vice president of product development at Cisco Systems Inc., in San Jose, Calif. Cisco bought Linksys earlier this year.

Linksys users said the user experience couldnt be simpler. "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; thats all I care about," Durst said.

The Centrino currently supports only 802.11b. Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., plans to offer an 802.11g version of the Centrino, but there is still the issue of it being embedded in the CPU, meaning that customers who want new Centrino technology must buy a new notebook.