Is 802.11a The Betamax To 802.11g?

Someone has asked the “wireless wizards” (a panel of folks in the industry) at Network World Fusion if 802.11a is destined to be the “betamax” of wireless networking – technically better, but a market failure. First, the response should have been that the idea that Betamax was “better” than VHS is a myth. It may have been better in some ways, but in others (especially length) it was worse – and that’s part of what killed it. Back to the story at hand, however, the experts all agree that 802.11a is unlikely to face the same fate as the Betamax, mainly because it faces fewer interference problems, and is gaining traction in the enterprise market. Also, and perhaps most importantly, it’s not that difficult to build devices that can work across 802.11a/b/g all at once. Still, it seems that for consumer applications, 802.11g is where things are pretty much stuck. 802.11a systems seem much more focused on specific enterprise applications, rather than general computer connectivity. In some ways, this might actually be more like Betamax than people realize. Despite the known “failure” of Betamax, it was still quite popular for many years in niche applications and industries. The real question is just how big those niche applications and industries are for 802.11a applications.

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