Intel and Linksys Forget What Wi-Fi Is

Techdirt readers know what 802.11b (Wi-Fi) is, and we pretty much all understand that interoperability is the single driving reason behind WiFi’s success. The term “Wi-Fi” already means interoperability. That’s why it’s irksome when big companies like Intel and Linksys try to co-opt the standard. That’s essentially what Intel has been doing with their “Centrino Certified” hotspot program and signage. Guys, Centrino does not define the standard, it complies with it. Intel is bringing another certification and standard branding layer to a product that already has one thanks to the IEEE and WiFi Alliance. The effect of the Intel layer is to confuse end-users, and create an aura of non-compliant products in one of the few areas where we actually have a dominant standard. Now, two ironies bother me most: 1) Despite recent spending, Intel has hardly been a driving force in WiFi. They initially supported a competing standard, HomeRF, until WiFi beat the pants off it. They only released their first WiFi chip this year. 2) Their first WiFi chip has had more than it’s fair share of problems, with VPN connections, power management, and most ironically poor interoperability with Linksys access points. We can thank Intel for putting millions of dollars behind WiFi, but we could surely live without the incredible hubris.

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