Wi-Fi Product Watch, September 2009

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

September 30, 2009

Wi-Fi Alliance certifies first 802.11n products; Apple iPad likely to debut in May; touch-screen VoIP phone from snom with Wi-Fi; New iPhone/touch app tracks concert dates based on playlist, location; FON's 802.11n router can tweet; Aruba announces new low-priced 802.11n AP; Skype most popular mobile VoIP app; and more.

The Wi-Fi Alliance announced this morning that it has begun product testing for its new Wi-Fi CERTIFIED n program. It comes on the heels of the ratification of a final 802.11n standard by the IEEE, and it replaces the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 802.11n draft 2.0 program, which began in 2007.  

The current program adds testing for some optional features, which are now more widely available in Wi-Fi equipment, such as multi-stream n. 80211n.jpg

To go along with the new certifications, the Wi-Fi Certified logo consumers see on their Wi-Fi-enabled devices and routers/access points will get a new face. The Wi-Fi Alliance has introduced some new branding, including an updated logo, taglines, and "product labeling matrix," all intended to help consumers make informed choices about Wi-Fi products. 

The first seven devices to become Wi-Fi CERTIFIED n in the new testing program are as follows:

  • Atheros XSPAN® Dual-band, Dual-concurrent 2.4/5GHz, Gigabit Reference Platform for AP/Routers, Full MIMO configuration
  • Broadcom Intensifi XLR Dual-Band 802.11n Router Reference Design
  • Intel Ultimate N WiFi Link 5300
  • Marvell Smart Wi-Fi 802.11n 3x3 450 Mbps Dual-Band Access Point
  • Ralink 3x3 AP
  • Broadcom Intensifi Dual-Band 802.11n Client Reference Design
  • Atheros XSPAN® Dual-band 2.4/5GHz PCIe MiniCard for Computing Designs, Full MIMO Configuration

In anticipation of demand for Wi-Fi Certifications, TÜVRheinland of North America, one of only two Wi-Fi Alliance-authorized testing laboratories in the U.S., issued a press release today stating that it has added resources.

“The exponential growth of wireless products is only going to continue,” said Sarb Shelopal, Telecom Division Manager for TUVRheinland in the release. “Because we were one of the first labs qualified by the Wi-Fi Alliance to perform this testing and have two strategically located testing facilities right here in the Silicon Valley, we are fully prepared to meet the needs of Wi-Fi Alliance members when they come to us for debugging, pre-testing, and certification.”

Among the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED test bed products are the Broadcom BCM94718 and BCM943224 dual band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) router and client reference designs. These (and the other products listed above) are the products against which other 802.11n products will be tested to guarantee their interoperability.

“Now that the standard has been ratified, and the final certification is in place, we expect that 802.11n deployments will grow significantly across all segments, and Broadcom is in an ideal position to lead the industry and drive the transition to the new Wi-Fi standard,” said Rahul Patel, Sr. Director of Broadcom's WLAN Connectivity Business in a press release today. “Our Intensi-fi platform has emerged as the industry’s premier 802.11n technology, delivering superior performance at a lower cost, while enabling whole-home distribution of multimedia content.”

The Wi-Fi Alliance plans to announce the full details of the standard on Oct. 1 at an organizational meeting in Seoul, Korea.

We'll be running more in-depth coverage of the new certification programs later this week. In the meantime, learn more about 802.11n with these stories:

September 29, 2009

On Monday, Jeremy Horowitz, Editor-in-Chief of iLounge, reported that a reliable anonymous source had forked over ten new details about the rumored-to-exist "iPad" tablet device. First on the list? Confirmation of the rumored name, "iPad."

An early version was apparently designed with a 7" screen, but it turend out to be too small. The latest version has a 10.7” screen. Much better. It will, according to Horowitz's source--who he says was right about iPhone 3GS, among other things--run on iPhone OS.

If these rumors are true, then the iPad will look like an iPhone 3G. It will come in two different variations: one with 3G networking capabilities, and one without 3G networking capabilities. Think of the 3G version as a bigscreen iPhone 3GS, and the non-3G version as a bigscreen iPod touch, says Horowitz.

There was no mention of Wi-Fi, but how could it not have Wi-Fi? What would be the point of a tablet that only uses 3G, we wonder? Especially since, according to Horowitz's source, "It is designed to expand the iPhone and iPod touch media concept to its next potential level: as a slate-like replacement for books and magazines, plus all of the media, gaming, app, and Web functionality of the iPhone and iPod touch."

Horowitz reports that the iPad is not meant to compete with netbooks. Could this be the first exampled wave of the "smartbooks" we've heard so much about? Says, Horowitz, "It’s an iPhone OS media player and light communication device."

Projected announce date is specific, January 19, 2010, with street date in May or June.

Pending a final green light from Steve Jobs, there appears to be an 80% chance Apple iPad will come to fruition.

September 28, 2009

VoIP handset maker snom technology AG introduced a new model (870) for the enterprise this summer, which has caught our eye.

The Berlin-based SIP phone developer sees the 870 "as the platform of the future, because of the intuitive touch screen technology and Wi-Fi capabilities," says Mike Storella, snom director of business development.

Introduced July 16, the 870 features a touch-screen "dashboard" for a number of enterprise applications, along with a Wi-Fi connection and G.722 wideband HD voice.

The 4x3-inch color touch-screen will let companies use a drag-and-drop interface to create conference calls or transfer calls.

An integrated XML browser also permits add-on applications, ranging from a camera monitor to viewing online business data.

More details at our sister site, EnterpriseVoIPPlanet.com.

September 24, 2009

Music-loving iPhone and iPod touch owners may be pleased to learn of a new app released this week at the Apple App Store, which makes it harder to miss concerts. The app, Concertimatic, scans a user's playlist and checks it against a series of Web-based concert listings to alert users when bands are playing nearby.

It apparently delivers a chronological list of concerts, "tailored specifically for you."

The app's default is your home location, but this setting can be changed--handy if you are traveling and want to see who's playing while you're in another city. The search radius can also be set from one mile--in case you really only want to see bands down the block--up to 200 miles for the diehard fan (or the rural among us).

"I'm very excited about this new app. After six months of developing and testing, this new tool will mean that you will never again say, 'If I had known that they were coming through town, I'd have gone!'" said Duncan King, founder of Concertimatic in a press release Tuesday. "This simple tool, made possible by the new 3.0 OS, allows you to worry about one less thing. Up until now, there hasn't been an app like this that reads your playlist and tells you in a matter of seconds when those bands are coming--all for less than a dollar." 

Concertimatic was developed by InfoBridge.

**

Aruba Networks's new AP-105 may be just the ticket for enterprises and even small businesses that have been waiting for 802.11n ratification and equipment price drops. Read our news story here.

**

Those wacky European free Wi-Fi proponents at FON announced today the latest version of their La Fonera router (not free). In keeping with its populist mentality, FON’s Fonera 2.0n ($99) is built with an eye toward utilizing social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. Read the full news here.

September 22, 2009

Kineto Wireless today announced what it says is "the industry’s first mobile VoIP application specifically developed for mobile operators, enabling them to leverage their existing voice network infrastructure to offer a customizable and competitive mobile VoIP service."

“Kineto’s Mobile VoIP Application is the first designed specifically for mobile operators, which uses their existing voice infrastructure to address the growing threat of over-the-top competitive telecom services, such as Skype, Google Voice, Truphone, and others,” said Mark Powell, vice president and general manager of Kineto’s Client Business Unit and co-founder in a press release September 22nd. “This new product helps operators create and brand their own Wi-Fi calling service to meet subscriber demands for mobile VoIP.”

Kineto’s Mobile VoIP Application is designed to run on major mobile OSs, including iPhone, Android, Symbian, and Windows Mobile. The application can be branded by mobile operators and distributed to their subscribers through ‘application stores.’

A YouGov survey conducted in late August/early September 2009 commissioned by Kineto of 2,255 adults in the UK showed that 39 percent who have downloaded a mobile VoIP application use it for low-cost international calling; 19 percent use it to bypass international roaming charges when traveling. 84 percent of survey respondents who have downloaded a mobile VoIP application have selected Skype.

More details are available at the Kineto Web site.

**

A new company launching today aims to help mobile developers create smartphone widgets that bridge the gap between Web and native applications.

Developers can use the WidgetPad platform to create hybrid Web-based mobile applications using standard Web technologies such as HTML 5, CSS3, and JavaScript and distribute them as stand-alone applications to smartphone app stores.

The new platform is offered in a collaborative, open source environment that will allow developers to freely share source code and ideas.

By taking advantage of emerging new standards, such as HTML 5, WidgetPad takes the complexity out of creating native applications and eliminates the need to learn platform-specific APIs. Read the full story at InternetNews.com.

September 21, 2009

The HP Mini 5101 is an impressive little machine, even if Wi-Fi is not its strongest suit. It’s by no means a desktop replacement, but that’s not what netbooks are meant to be. Read our full review here.

**

At long last, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has ratified the 802.11n standard. In a press release quietly issued late in the day on Friday, September 11th, the IEEE announced that its Standards Board had ratified the IEEE 802.11n-2009 amendment, “defining mechanisms that provide significantly improved data rates and ranges for wireless local area networks (WLANs).”


The news came as no surprise to vendors and industry watchers, as the IEEE had been open about its September timetable for ratification.


The finalized standard, which includes a 560-page 802.11n amendment, makes good on its promise of backwards-compatibility with earlier drafts and also adds some new capabilities.

Read the full news story here.

**

Motivated largely by the sizable demand for wireless connectivity in netbooks, Atheros today announced that it has developed the industry’s first 1-stream 802.11n and Bluetooth combo solution on a Half MiniCard for the PC market. The AR9002WB-1NGB features Atheros Align 11n 1-stream technology and Atheros ROCm Bluetooth for PCs.

“When we look at the netbook market, and 802.11n and Bluetooth attach rates, they are fairly significant. Netbooks are all about Internet connectivity. There’s a 100% attach rate on Wi-Fi for netbooks,” Teresa Liou, senior product marketing manager at Atheros told Wi-Fi Planet. “If you look at the Bluetooth attach rate, the rate today is around 40% for 2009. If you look at the next couple of years, that will grow significantly.”

The AR9002WB-1NGB includes the AR9285 single-chip 1-stresam 11n PCIe solution, already shipping in millions of PCs worldwide. Atheros reports that currently, seven of the top ten PC OEMs are shipping notebooks, netbooks, and all-in-one desktops featuring Atheros Align technology.

Read the full news story here.

**

At the Broadband World Forum Europe 2009 in Paris last week, Broadcom Corporation announced another in its expanding lineup of combo chips. The BCM6362 is the first chip to combine Broadcom’s ADSL2+ and 802.11n Wi-Fi technologies, as well as Gigabit Ethernet switching, Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT), and voice over IP (VoIP) for IADs and high-end residential gateways.

Demand for wireless gateways is expected to represent 73 percent of the ADSL market by 2013, according to Dell’Oro Group.

Read the full news story here.

**

Our own Wi-Fi Guru, Aaron Weiss, reviewed an all-in-one printer with Wi-Fi capabilities for SmallBusinessComputing.com back in April. Read the full review of the Lexmark X7675 All-in-One Inkjet Printer here.

September 10, 2009

Popular subscription music service, Rhapsody, has been approved for use on iPhones and iPod touches. This is the first time Apple has allowed an on-demand music streaming program on its devices in the United States.

The initial download will be free for seven days, after which point new subscribers will be charged $14.99 per month. Current Rhapsody To Go subscribers will be able to use the new app right away without an extra charge.

An improvement on Rhapsody To Go, which allows users to load songs onto their Windows Media Player-enabled phones and digital music players when connected to a computer for later playback, the new app also enables subscribers to buy songs from the iTunes store; Rhapsody maker, RealNetworks, will get a share of the revenue from these sales.

With the new app, users can queue up any of the eight million songs in Rhapsody's catalog and create custom playlists that will stream to their iPod touch or iPhone, as long as the user is receiving a cellular signal or is in a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Music files will be streamed at 64 kbps, which is not as high as the 256 kbps for songs offered on iTunes; however, using less bandwidth should create smoother transfer.

An AP story in The New York Times Thursday has a few more details.

**

The Epson Stylus NX515 ($109.99 with instant rebate) is a multifunction device (MFD) that prints, scans, and copies. It features built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet, a 2.5-inch tilt LCD screen, image enhancement tools, and uses the same standard ink for both documents and photos. It supports printing and scanning over a wireless network, and lets users share the printer among multiple computers.

Wi-Fi capabilityEpson Stylus NX515 Front_sm.jpg

The Stylus NX515 has built-in 802.11b/g, and is compatible with 802.11n. Users can also connect a standard Ethernet cable for wired networking. To test its Wi-Fi capability, wee located the printer about 15 feet away in another room across from our office, and printed and scanned with no problems. We also found that the NX515 printed just as fast over a wireless connection as it did with the wired connection.

Our verdict

Overall, we liked the Epson Stylus NX515. We were impressed with its print quality and performance. It produced nice-looking, quality photos and documents at a fast speed. One minor negative is that unlike the Artisan’s limited two-year warranty, the NX515 only comes with a limited one-year warranty, which includes telephone and e-mail support. But for its current price tag of $109.99 (after a $40 rebate) and its Wi-Fi capability, we found that the Epson Stylus NX515 is an excellent buy for the price.

Read our full review here.

**

Sometimes you come to the realization that the equipment you have isn't quite up to the task at hand. A good example (albeit fictional) is in "Jaws," when Chief Brody tells shark-hunting fisherman Quint, "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Similarly, when you want to access a distant Wi-Fi network or one with an otherwise feeble footprint, you can't always count on a notebook’s internal wireless adapter and antenna to find it or pull in enough of a signal to make for a usable connection.

The Wi-Fire Wi-Fi adapter from hField Technologies can greatly improve the ability of a notebook--or a desktop, for that matter--to find and make use of evanescent Wi-Fi signals. We first reviewed the Wi-Fire over a year ago, but there’s now a new iteration (the third generation, model HFWFG200)--a more refined version of the previous design, which it replaces. Considerably more compact than its slab-sided predecessor--hField says the new model is 40% smaller and 30% lighter--at $59, the new Wi-Fire also rings up $20 less expensive. 

The Wi-Fire is a USB-based 802.11b/g adapter (alas, the Wi-Fire's Atheros AR5007UG chipset doesn't do 802.11n) paired with a high-gain directional antenna and compatible with Windows, Mac, or Linux systems. (Windows and Mac OS X drivers are included in the box, while Linux software can be downloaded here.)

Read our full review here.

**

Network management software falls into the “must-have” category for medium-to-large firms, but for smaller ones, it’s typically in the “nice to have, but can’t afford” category. Spiceworks 4 is network management software that any size firm can afford, mainly because it’s free.

The advertising-supported software gives resource-constrained smaller firms the capability to inventory and manage network devices like PCs, servers, printers and the like. (Don’t be turned off by the ads, because it’s not as bad as it sounds— more details on this later.) Read our full review here.

**

The makeover of Google's mobile app store, Android Market, continues as the search giant is expected to expand payment options beyond its own online transaction service called "Checkout."

Google is planning several updates for the Android Market to coincide with the imminent release of Android 1.6, though a company spokesman declined to comment on when that will happen.

Still, the search giant is working to address some recent gripes from developers, the most recent being that sales are hampered by requiring a Checkout account to buy an app.

"We announced several Android Market updates that will be coming with Android 1.6," said a Google spokesperson. "The main focus is to provide more tools for developers to showcase their apps. We've also made significant changes to the user interface to make it easier for users to find both paid and free applications. We are currently exploring additional payment options to make it easier for users to purchase applications."

For the full story at InternetNews.com, click here.

**

Microsoft plans to give broadcasters a peek at the next version of its Silverlight streaming media technology this week as company executives show their wares at a major global media show.

Silverlight 4 will add native multicast support, as well as offline digital rights management (DRM), Microsoft said in a statement Tuesday. The glimpse of Silverlight 4 will come at the International Broadcasting Conference (IBC), which starts Friday in Amsterdam. The DRM support will come via Microsoft's PlayReady technology.

Also on the list of show and tell technologies at the conference will be Internet Information Services (IIS) Media Services 3.0, which is due to ship within 30 days, the statement said. Media Services 3.0 will provide interactive HD-quality Live Smooth Streaming video (up to 1080p) to Silverlight-based media players.

Microsoft launched Silverlight 3, the company's response to Adobe's Flash and AIR technologies, as well as JavaFX from Sun Microsystems, in mid-July at a gala, invitation-only bash in San Francisco.

More details at InternetNews.com. 

**

Enterprise social networking firm Socialtext decided to release a mobile version of its services because "work is increasingly mobile." Socialtext Mobile, out Wednesday, offers similar functionality to the desktop version, including Twitter-like microblogging, Activity Streams, and Workplaces for collaboration.

Rather than develop for specific platforms, the browser-based Socialtext Mobile is accessible across different mobile devices. BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android devices are all supported in this week's beta release.

"Not doing multiple platform versions is less of a burden on IT," said Socialtext Chairman and co-founder Ross Mayfield. "I look at this as a new way of accessing our tools, not necessarily new functionality. We have architected to develop these types of things, like mobile, relatively quickly and part of the value here should be broader accessibility."

More details at InternetNews.com.

September 9, 2009

Steve Jobs made a definitive return today as he presented news of iPod upgrades from Apple at the company's "It's only rock and roll" event today. Looking somewhat gaunt in his signature black turtelneck, the CEO, who underwent a liver transplant five months ago, announced Apple's news--and made an appeal to listeners to become organ donors.

"I now have the liver of a mid-20s person who died in a car crash and was generous enough to donate their organs," Jobs added. "I wouldn't be here without such generosity, so I hope all of us can be as generous and elect to be organ donors."

Of particular interest to us, of course, is the new iPod touch ($199, 8GB), which is now both faster and lower cost than its most recent predecessor.

The latest iPod touch enjoys a processor upgrade, and offers OpenGL support, as well as iPhone OS 3.1. Still no camera or mic for this iPod, though. 

Apple's lowered the price to $199 for the 8GB model, $299 for 32GB, and $399 at 54GB. Existing iPod touch users can update to the latest iPhone OS 3.1 software for $4.95. iPod touch owners who already have the 3.0 software get the 3.1 software update for free, however.

"At just $199 the iPod touch is the most affordable gateway to Apple's revolutionary App Store with more than 75,000 applications that you can wirelessly download right into your iPod touch," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing in a press release Wednesday. "You get a great iPod, a great pocket computer with the industry's best mobile Web browser, and a great game player, all in this super-thin beautiful enclosure."

More details from Apple here and here.

Other, non-Wi-Fi-related iPod news is covered by our sister site, iPhoneGuide.com here.

**

Palm today introduced the Pixi, the second handset powered by the company's webOS mobile software, as an entry-level QWERTY smartphone that will run on Sprint's network.

While the Pixi is slated to go on sale in the fourth quarter, Palm did not disclose further details of when the unit will ship, nor its price.

The diminutive follow-up to the Pre measures a bit more than two inches wide and four inches long, and is less than a half-inch thick. The 3.5-ounce Pixi boasts a full keyboard, 8GB of internal storage, a 2-megapixel camera, 2.63-inch multitouch screen with 320x400 resolution, GPS, Bluetooth, and accelerometer.

The model runs on Qualcomm's MSM7627 chipset, and, sadly, lacks Wi-Fi.

For more details, visit InternetNews.com.

September 8, 2009

Thanks to Ruckus Wireless and Consolidated Communications, home users in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Illinois now have the option of IPTV over their Wi-Fi networks. 

Ruckus announced today that Consolidated Communications, a U.S. incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC), is deploying the Ruckus “Smart Wi-Fi” multimedia system as its in-home connectivity standard, enabling wireless IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) for its subscribers. Consolidated Communications includes the Ruckus MediaFlex™ gear at no additional charge as part of its Digital Video Service.

“Smarter Wi-Fi solutions deliver three important benefits: it [sic] accelerates new service and revenue opportunities, cuts in half the time and cost associated with traditional cabling required to enable television services, and gives our customers the freedom, flexibility, and control they’ve always wanted,” said J.J. Hollie, product manager for Digital Video Services at Consolidated Communications in a Ruckus press release. “Historically, because of range and reliability issues, using Wi-Fi wasn’t even really considered a valid alternative. But that’s all changed.”

According to market research firm, iSuppli, IPTV is on track to grow 56 percent in 2009 to reach 33.3 million subscribers worldwide, up from 21.3 million in 2008. By 2010, iSuppli estimates that IPTV will be in use by 52 million subscribers growing to more than 115 million by 2013. Most of those IPTV subscribers remain outside the U.S., however.

“When it comes to IPTV, there’s no question that the U.S. has lagged. It is getting here, bit by bit, but in order for it to really take off not only does it have to be innovative, it must come with a lower opex for carriers and service providers to deliver and install it,” said Jeff Heynen, senior research analyst at Infonetics in a Ruckus release. “The MediaFlex products provide both. IPTV subscribers have the flexibility to view HD video anywhere throughout their homes while suppliers benefit from shorter installation times and fewer truck rolls.”

Consolidated Communications delivers its Basic, Select, and Expanded IPTV services over its ADSL 2+ network using MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 compression. It offers Broadband speeds up to 35 Mbps to support standard definition streams, delivered at data rates of 3 Mbps, and high definition streams, delivered at 7 Mbps. 

For more on IPTV over Wi-Fi, read:

September 3, 2009

Netbooks are beginning to really eat away at the notebook market and are showing their greatest strength outside the U.S., according to a new report by market researcher DisplaySearch, a subsidiary of NPD Group.

Read the full story here.

September 1, 2009

HiveOS 3.4 Performance Sentinel and Airtime Boost to help admins track and ensure WLAN compliance based on per-user throughput targets.

Read the full story here.


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