Microsoft puts wireless cards on the table

SEATTLE – The wireless market is poised for rapid growth – and Microsoft’s Windows XP plans to grow along with it, the Redmond, Wash.-based company said here Wednesday.

“There needs to be simplicity in wireless LAN and WAN,” said Pradeep Bahl, product unit manager for Microsoft. Bahl noted the goal for wireless should be “ubiquitous, hassle-free connectivity for the user.”

Bahl made the comments in a conference session at Microsoft’s Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), where the software company annually updates hardware developers on future plans for the Windows OS and related products.

Microsoft earlier in the conference announced that the successor to Windows XP (code-named Longhorn) is slated for release in late 2004. Bahl revealed that Microsoft is also developing PC technology that would extend wireless networks, adding the current Windows XP’s zero-configuration model is awaiting vendor support.

Wireless technologies such as LAN, WAN, and PAN are emerging, Bahl said, noting that as prices drop, there has been rapid LAN Wi-Fi (802.11) adoption in the enterprise space.

“The price points for access points and cards is dropping, Bahl said, adding that Microsoft recently deployed more than 31,000 clients over 3,000 access points.

“The industry momentum is with Wi-Fi…most PC OEMs are embedding 802.11,” Bahl said. Faster .11g and .11a technologies are on the horizon and will allow backward compatibility and dual mode for easy roaming, he added.

In the wireless PAN market, Bahl recognized that Bluetooth adoption has been “shaky” but noted the cable replacement technology and migration towards IP has allowed new devices to appear.

Future scenarios for wireless include OS power optimizations, improved Windows control over network adaptors, and inter-enterprise roaming agreements, he added.

Bahl admitted that it would be awhile before “seamless” connectivity between wireless protocols becomes a reality. Applications will need to be able to adapt in order to enhance the user experience, he noted.

Design requirements for wireless include zero-configuration, tight security, and “always connected” capabilities, Bahl said, adding that future applications hardware designers will need to focus on creating products that feature a standardized security model and support strong authentication schemes, including single backend authentication for WLANs and WWANs.

IT departments demand easier management and diagnostics regardless of which network, Bahl added.

The conference ends Thursday.